Indian

Pani Puri

June 28, 2021
2 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food stylist: Yossy Arefi. Prop stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.
Author Notes

If chaat is the king of street food, then pani puri is the empress of chaat. It's got many names—"pani puri" in west and south India, "puchka" or "gupchup" in Eastern India, golgappa and pani ke battashe in Northern India. But what is pani puri, exactly? "Pani" means water and "puri" roughly translates to "cracker" or "wafer," and in this case refers to a crunchy semolina shell that acts as the base of the snack.

The puri is filled with potatoes, beans, then topped with sweet chutney and a showstopper spicy, herby, tangy, face-puckering "water." This is pani puri. The metaphorical way to describe pani puri is a rave party of flavors and textures. The mouth, tongue and taste buds have so many things to do, feel, taste and enjoy that eating becomes an even more dynamic experience.

The noblest way to eat pani puri is on the street. Do that once in your lifetime! Hit up a chaat stand amidst the suffocating tropical heat of India. The chatwalla (maker/seller of the chat) sizes you up without a direct look and upon your stating your preference—"teekha ya meetha" (spicy or sweet)—prepares each puri individually. No matter how many patrons, he knows what number puri each person is on.

But whether or not you're able to try this from a chatwalla on the streets of Mumbai, you can enjoy pani puri at home. I recommend that you buy the puri from any Indian or Asian grocery store—and the rest, we’ve got you! —Annada Rathi

  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • Tamarind Chutney
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) dry tamarind pulp
  • 1/2 teaspoon black salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • Pani
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves and delicate stems (discard the bottom-most part of the stem)
  • 1 Thai chile pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed mint leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ½ teaspoon tamarind concentrate or ¼ cup tamarind extract (obtained from heating tamarind pulp in water)
  • 3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon black salt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Cooked Beans
  • 1/4 cup mung beans, soaked overnight (or at least 6 hours) in 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons black garbanzo beans, soaked overnight (or at least 6 hours) in 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons standard garbanzo beans, soaked overnight (or at least 6 hours) in 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Potatoes
  • 3 medium boiled yellow or red potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • To serve
  • 1 packet of 50 pani puris (bought from Indian grocery store or online; you'll have enough filling for at least 10 puris per person)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Tamarind chutney

    1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine tamarind pulp with 2 cups water (2 1/2 cups water if you plan to use tamarind extract in the pani).

    2. Boil for 10 minutes and remove from the heat to let cool.

    3. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl such that it sits comfortably over the bowl.

    3. Pour the boiled tamarind pulp through the strainer. Move the pulp in circles with a large spoon and press the back of the spoon against the pulp in the strainer; it should take 7 to 10 min to sieve all of the tamarind extract and end up with fibrous remains. The tamarind extract that comes out will become thicker the more you press and rotate. (Please make sure to wipe the outside bottom of the strainer bowl. That’s where all the extract sticks. Set aside ¼ cup of tamarind extract for the Pani at this stage, if using tamarind extract for this purpose.

    4. Transfer the tamarind extract back to the medium-size pot you were using before and place over medium heat. Add the black salt, cumin, kosher salt, and sugar and mix well. Once the chutney starts boiling, turn the heat off and let cool.

    5. Once cool, store in a glass jar; it will last in the refrigerator for about four weeks.
  2. To make the pani

    1. In a mortar and pestle or small food processor, blend cilantro, mint leaves, and chile until it becomes a fine paste.
    2. To a large mixing bowl, add 5 cups water. Add cilantro-mint mixture, tamarind, black salt, and kosher salt.

    3. Place a big bowl below the strainer and pour the pani through the strainer to remove the coarse bits and pieces. Add ice cubes in summer.
  3. For the beans

    1. Drain the water from all the beans and rinse them once again.

    2. In a medium skillet with a lid over medium heat, add vegetable oil and let heat until shimmering. Add the turmeric and stir, then add in all the beans. Add salt, mix well, and cover, stirring only occasionally to prevent beans from sticking to the skillet. Turn off the heat after 10 minutes or until the beans have reached your desired crunchiness.
  4. To make the potatoes

    1. In a medium bowl, add the potatoes, cumin, red chile powder, oil, salt, and cilantro and stir to combine. If you have time, prepare the potato mixture at least 30 minutes before eating for all the flavors to meld.
  5. Serving & eating

    1. Take a puri in your hand. Break the center part of the top layer gently with thumb of the same hand holding the puri, or break it gently with index finger.

    2. Add ½ a teaspoon or so of potatoes, bean mixture and tamarind chutney each.

    3. Now add chilled pani enough to fill the puri. If the bean mixture is warm, you can enjoy the contrast of the warm beans and chilled pani.

    4. Enjoy all in one bite.
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  • abbas_muna
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