Pani puri! I am sure the very mention of it would make you drool, just as I do. It is an evening snack falling under the chaat category, which originated from Uttar pradesh. But, it has now touched every part of India and most Indians would have relished the snack.
The crisp puris are filled with a potato or sprouts filling, dipped in a pot of spicy/sweet pani(water) and gulped, all at once. That instant, you get transported to heaven.
My association with pani puris started when I was six. My brother and me used to have a plate of pani puris frequently, near Secunderabad station, on our way back home from school. There used to be lot of pani puri walahs selling in carts on the roadside. The taste till lingers on my taste buds and I have not tasted better ones, till date. After moving to Chennai, I didn't have much chance to try this, till my school final. Pani puris were not very common in Chennai, those times. Pani puris sold in street side shops are the best; but now a days, we can't risk to have it there due to hygiene reasons.
In the recent years, I used to frequent the chaat stall outside nilgiris super market, Velachery, while returning from work. The one outside krishna collection in Pondy Bazaar also serves excellent chaats. However, Gangotri is my favourite hangout.
I do not like to have it in restaurants where they are served together as a plate. In a typical chaat stall, each customer would be given a plate or bowl, the chaat walah would fill the puri with paani from a clay pot and serve it to the customers in a round-robin fashion. We need to be really quick in gobbling the puris to keep the pace. I am amazed on how the server keeps the count of puris. He also remembers the client requirements/ customization and serves according to that. There are 2 kinds of paani; one sweet and another spicy.
I have given the recipe for the spicy paani as it is my choice of taste. I am not sure how the authentic paani is made but I like it this way.
I have used the ready made puris purchased from the Indian groceries and didn't wanna make it as the puris were really fresh. I will post the recipe for puris, once I try it.
For the pani:
Cilantro - half a bunch
Mint leaves - a handful
Tamarind Paste - 1.5 tsp
Green Chillies - 2 medium
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Black salt - 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp
Jal Jeera - 1/2 tsp
Chaat masala - a pinch
Pepper powder - 1/4 tsp
Jaggery - 1/2 tsp
A dash of lime juice
2 to 3 cups water
Grind cilantro, mint, tamarind paste and green chillies into a smooth paste. Add rest of the ingredients, water and refrigerate for 3 hrs. Alternately, add ice water. Adjust salt.
For the filling:
Boiled and mashed potatoes 2 medium
Soaked and cooked black channa (You can use kabuli channa, as well. I like it with kala channa)
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Chopped green chillies - 1 medium
Garam masala - 1/2 to 1 tsp
Salt to taste
(You can also fill the puri with whole moong dhall sprouts.)
Mix everything well. I microwaved for 30 seconds to get rid of the raw smell of chilli powder and garam masala. You can also break 2 puris and mix, as they do in the street shops.
Break the top of the puri using your thumb, fill with the potato mixture, dip it in the paani and enjoy!