Have you ever tried that delicious little bite-sized Indian wonder called pani puri? It’s a popular street food in India, but you’ll often find it in authentic Indian restaurants like DOSA in San Francisco. It gets its name from ‘puri’ which is the crisp, round, hollow shell into which the other ingredients are placed, and ‘pani’ which is the flavored water that becomes the sauce.
Like most Indian dishes, each home and every chef seem to have their own variations on the dish, and each can be known for the greatness of his or her pani. I was lucky enough recently to have a friend of mine at work overhear me talking about how much I like these fantastic little morsels of deliciousness. She generously offered to have her mom (who was visiting from India) make me her pani, and bring me the other ingredients to make the dish at home. I was so incredibly touched — I can honestly say it felt like Menaka was inviting me into her family!
Sure enough, one day she brought in a shopping bag filled with the puri shells, her mom’s pani, some freshly prepared sprouts, and boondi (small round balls of crisp-fried chickpea flour). I could hardly wait to make the pani puri!
That next weekend, I pulled all the ingredients Menaka gave me together, cooked up some potato, and put all the ingredients out for us to have some fun. The trick is to chip a hole in the top of the puri without breaking it into bits. once you have a good-sized hole in the top, you spoon in the ingredients, and then the real fun begins. You can either do the traditional dunk of the whole thing into the pani water or pour in the sauce until the puri is almost full, then quickly get the whole thing into your mouth. And then WOW you get that huge burst of flavor from the combined ingredients. Absolutely delicious.
My most sincere thanks to Menaka and her mother for sharing their family’s version of this wonderful dish and for being so generous as to make it especially for me!