There is something comfortingly familiar about eating a humble pani puri – a crispy hollow ball made of semolina or wheat, filled with spicy potatoes and topped with tangy, spicy tamarind water made fragrant by mint leaves and black salt.
It may sound like culinary chaos, but that this spicy, crunchy wonder is absolutely delicious.
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There is legend associated with the origin of pani puris. This is how it goes:
In the epic Mahabharata, a newly-wedded Draupadi returns home to be given a task by her mother-in-law Kunti. The Pandavas were in exile and Kunti wanted to test if her new daughter-in-law would be able to manage with the scarce resources.
So she gave Draupadi some leftover potato sabzi and just enough wheat dough to make one puri, instructing her to make food that would satisfy the hunger of all five of her sons. It is believed that this was when the new bride invented pani puri. Impressed with her daughter-in-law’s ingenuity, Kunti blessed the dish with immortality.
While the origins of this delicious snack are yet to be pinpointed with historical accuracy, the one thing that is clear is that pani puri traveled across India and made the country fall head over heels in love with it. Over the years, the combinations underwent many changes as each region developed its own version according to its preferences.
As a result, pani puri today has almost a dozen different names that change from region to region. In most parts of central and southern India, it is called pani puri but the recipes have subtle variations. While in Maharashtra, hot ragda (white peas curry) is added to the potato mash, in Gujarat, it is boiled moong and in Karnataka, it is chopped onions.
In north India, Pani puri is called gol gappe, gup chup, pani ke pataashe or phulkis. The signature element of this recipe is a spicy stuffing made out of a potato-chickpea mash and really tangy water, liberally infused with mint leaves. Interestingly, in Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, Pani puri is called Tikki, which is usually used to denote crispy potato patties in north India!
In West Bengal, Pani puri is called phuchka, probably due to the ‘phuch’ sound it makes when you take a bite. The unique feature of the phuchka lies in the fact that it’s made of whole wheat, unlike the other that are usually made of flour or semolina. The phuchka water is also a little spicier and tangier than that used in the rest of the country.
Source: the better India