Paani Puri from scratch for ICC May & My authentic ‘Paani’ (recipe from a street vendor)
‘Paani Puri’ – the name itself makes a lot of Indians drool!! The crispy puri stuffed with all possible wonderful things, dipped in the spicy paani (water), delivered on the plate in a hurry, so you can pop it into your mouth immediately – this is the scene you can see at probably every street corner in India, at the street carts. And these carts or bandi as we call them, will always be crowded and the vendors are experts at serving more than one customer at any given time. When we go to eat paani puri, V always wants meetha or the sweet chutney in his puri and I don’t. But the vendor rhythmically dips in meetha and remembers to not dip mine. I’m always amazed at his skill!!! So by now you all must have understood that Paani Puri is a famous street food in India and we love it! So this month when Srivalli of Spice Your Life announced this as May’s Indian Cooking Challenge, I was thrilled. More so because I had a special little secret to share with you all!
I was in India two months ago for a vacation and yes, we went to eat Paani Puri (how could we not!!). You see, in India, nobody makes Paani Puri at home for two reasons. One, they are available pretty much everywhere and are pretty inexpensive. Two, there is something about the dirty hands of the street vendor, that makes the Paani Puri taste divine. So, when we went to eat this time, we were very desperate!! And with that first bite, we were in bliss. I was determined to recreate that taste at home, as I’m not a big fan of Paani Puri Masala sold at the Indian store. They make your life easier and are good enough for a craving, but nah! they are nowhere close to the original taste. So I asked the Paani Puri vendor (a young boy, probably 13 or 14 years old) for his paani recipe and crossed my fingers hoping he would tell me!! After a minute’s silence, he bent down into his cart and came up and said ‘ok, see these are the five things you need’. And I thought, what??? only five ingredients to make that elixir? We always thought it was made up of so many secret ingredients. So when he told me what the five ingredients were, I was dumbfounded!! Those were the simplest, most common ingredients that any Indian family will always have on hand (except for one maybe). And my better half mocked me saying ‘see I told you, not all good food is made of fancy ingredients’. And I had to agree with him.. Would you believe me if I say the street vendors do not use lemon juice/tamarind for the signature tartness in the paani. Of course, how can they afford it if 5 lemons cost Rs. 10. The secret is citric acid! So the five ingredients he told me were: Salt, Black Salt, Cumin powder, Green Chilies and Citric Acid. No coriander leaves, no mint leaves!!
Actually, to say the truth, I was a little disappointed that maybe he left out an ingredient or two. But imagine my surprise, when I came home and tried his recipe!!!! It tasted the same, exactly. V is so happy, his love for me has multiplied manyfolds now, hehe..So here I am, with the secret recipe for you. I used the ICC recipe to make the Puri and used my recipe for the paani. I was very busy moving my blog to my new domain, had no time to make tamarind chutney, so I cheated a bit and used store bought instead. I made peas and potato filling. Thanks Valli for such an awesome challenge. I enjoyed it very very much.
For the ‘Puri’
Makes about 20 puris
Sooji (Rava, Fine Semolina) – 1/2 cup
All purpose flour(Maida) – 1/2 Tbsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Oil – 1 tbsp plus for deep frying
Water – about 1/4 cup or less for kneading the dough
- Mix together Sooji, all purpose flour, oil and salt and mix till it looks crumbly. Add water slowly, to make a firm yet soft dough. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for at least 20 mins.
- Heat oil for deep frying.
- Make very small balls of the dough and roll them out or press them to make a small thin (not too thin) circle. I used my roti maker for this job. Keep the dough circles covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying.
- The oil must be pretty hot when you put in the dough circles 3-4 at a time. Fry them till they are golden brown on both sides and the bubbles surrounding the puris disappear. Drain on a paper towel.
For the Paani (Spicy Water)
Green Chilies – 6-7 (reduce the spice to suit your taste)
Salt – to taste
Kala Namak (Black salt) – 2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1 1/2 tsp (preferable freshly roasted and ground)
Citric Acid – 1 tsp
Water – 4-5 cups
Fresh Mint leaves (chopped) – 1 tsp (Optional)
OR dried Mint powder – 1/8 tsp (Optional)
- Blend the green chilies with some water in a blender into a smooth paste (its ok if it is not a thick paste and is watery, we will add it to a lot of liquid anyways) and reserve this in a bowl separately.
- Mix the citric acid in 1/2 a cup of water.
- In a large bowl, take 4 cups of water and mix in the citric acid mixture from step 2, cumin powder, salt and black salt. Spoon in the green chili paste little by little, so you do not overdo the spice.
- Play with all the ingredients, increase/decrease the quantities and adjust the ‘paani’ to your liking.
- We like to keep the filling simple, to enjoy the flavor of the Paani.
Dried Yellow/Green Peas – 1/2 cup
Salt – 1 tsp
Soak the peas in some water overnight or at least 6 hours. Boil them in pressure cooked until soft. We like them mushy. Drain excess water.
Potatoes – 2 medium
Salt- to taste
Red Chili powder – to taste
Boil the potatoes with some salt and dice them. Mix in the red chili powder.
Eating the Paani Puri
Have the following things handy before you sit down to relish paani puri:
Paani in a large bowl (big enough for you to dip the puri)
Tamarind Chutney (Optional)
Peas and Potato fillings
Chopped raw onions (these are essential! No, you cannot eat paani puri without onions)
Make a small hole on one side of the puri (the thin side). Stuff it with peas, potato & onions. Maybe a little bit of tamarind chutney. Dip it in the paani and immediately pop it into your mouth and savor the goodness!!