Panipuri : The mouthwatering, spice water based street snack that the female species of India just can not live without. It would be safe to say that men like it too, but you won’t find a group of men hanging out to have pani puri. They do however join in if we, the women ask them to have a couple or two of these wonder globes of spice water.
For us, the women, it’s a different story altogether. Its a thing over which we bond, gossip, forget a weary day, energize, laugh and then do it all over again. Add to this, the amazing counting system of the Indian ‘gol gappe wala’ ( The vendor who sells gol gappe ). Imagine a scene with a few of your girl friends, all chatty and happy and talking at the same time. Now add another group of women in the same frame of mind and then may be one more such group. And the vendor lines up everyone around his cart, hands over stainless steel bowls or Eco friendly bowls made from tree leaves. Now he asks everyone for their spice preference and starts filling the puri with the fillings and then the water and hands them out. Somehow he remembers everyone’s spice/filling preference and he also remembers to let us know when he has dished out the requisite number of gol gappe to us. And then he most graciously will let us drink some spice water or give a dry puri filled with spice. That is the signing off sign. You pay and leave with happy feelings in the belly and admiring how he does it so well amidst a noisy marketplace with varied customers.
For those of you who have not had it before ; tasting this hot, spicy, tangy water filled crunchy shell should be on your “to savor” list. To satisfy my own cravings for pani puri, I tried various combinations to get the right spice water. Its not something I made at home in India. And a search on internet yielded results that I personally did not care much for, after I tried them. Recipe after recipe ! They were not bad! They were just not the right taste for me. So my So’s sister in law came to my rescue and shared her recipe with me.
This post will not have the recipe to make the puris. You may buy the puri from a local Indian grocery store, microwave them for 45 seconds to get them crunchy again and enjoy. I do the same thing on most days!
Recipe Courtesy: Surangi
Half of this recipe serves 5
- 2C Mint (leaves only, not the stem parts)
- 1C cilantro leaves ( leaves and soft, top stems only)
- 1/3 C Chopped Ginger
- 6 -7 Thai green chilies
- Juice of 2 Lemons
- 3 Tbs roasted Cumin
- 1 Tbs fennel seeds
- 1 ½ tsp Black salt
- Salt as per taste
- 1 tsp black pepper powder
- 2 tsp Amchoor powder
- 1/4 tsp roasted ajwain/carom
- 2 Tbs Tamarind paste
- Take a big bowl and fill it with water
- Put the mint and cilantro in it and let it soak for a couple of minutes
- Take out the herbs, rinse the bowl, repeat the process
- This process ensures that we rinse off all the soil and other particles from the mint and cilantro
- Grind the mint, cilantro, ginger and green chilies into a very fine paste
- To enable smooth grinding you may need to add a Tbs of the juice of lemon as and when necessary
- Dry grind the cumin, fennel, carom,black pepper powder to a fine powdery consistency
- Put this mixture through a sieve once or twice, to get the fine powder separated from the coarse
- Run the coarse powder through the grinder once or twice more, until you get most of it ground into a fine powder
- Mix the paste and the powder that you obtained through such labor intensive process
- Add the black salt, amchoor powder, Tamarind paste and some more lemon juice
- Divide the mixture into half
- Put one half in a zip lock bag and freeze for future use
- To the other half, add 8 cups of water and mix
- Now taste a spoonful of this water because this is when you would be balancing the saltiness and the tanginess of the herb & spice water
- Add salt gradually, until it suits to your taste [half a tsp of kosher salt is usually enough]
- Add the remaining juice of the lemon gradually, until you reach the desired tartness.
- Since the tartness and the saltiness are very personal choices, you will have to add these little by little and taste often
- Pour into a non reactive container, usually a glass jug or a reusable juice bottle and refrigerate for at least 12 hours
- Strain using a sieve just before serving. This helps get rid of any spice residues which are not needed now.
- A C of sprouted mung beans, steamed for a couple of minutes
- 1/2 tsp roasted coriander cumin powder, some cayenne pwdr, a dash of amchur pwdr – sprinkled on top of the sprouts
- 1/2 C of Tamarind chutney thinned down
- 1/2 C Boondi [ Available at Indian grocers]
- Pour some spice water after stirring in individual bowls
- Add a tsp of boondi
- Make a hole on one side in the puri
- put in some mung sprouts & chutney
- Dip the puri in water.. lift up.. open your mouth wide and pop the puri in.
- Close your mouth and let the taste blow you away!
- You may reduce the recipe in half or quarter. I make more of it and freeze.
- If using the frozen mix for making water, drop in a peppermint into the water. It instantly freshens up the color.
- You can always vary the recipe as per your taste. Use less or more of any ingredient. This is a personal choice dish and so you should customize it. Do let me know if you change the spices or add some new ones and how that tasted. Feedback is deeply appreciated.