Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Indian Cooking Challenge - Pani Puri/ Gol Gappa/ Phuchka

I'm a huge CHAAT fan and can skip many a meals for any chaat item, though pani puri happens to be by far my most favorite!! Pani Puri also known as 'Gol Gappa' in Northern India or 'Phuchka' in West Bengal is a very popular street snack from India. It comprises of a crisp hollow semolina puri filled with sprouts or hot ragda, boiled potato stuffing, tamarind chutney and chilled mint flavored water.

I have 2 favorite 'panipuriwallah's' in Mumbai, one very close to where my parents live and another one in Central Matunga. Every time I go to India, I make sure I indulge in these panipuris every opportunity I get at both these locations. The standard serving in 1 plate is about 5-6 puris but I easily finish 2-3 plates and crave for yet some more! When the chaat wallah bhaiya is serving me these sweet, spicy and tangy puris one after the other, I just go on eating and the only thing I say as I'm eating my pani puri is "Pet bhar gaya par ji nahi bhara" :-)

My parents didn’t quite approve of us eating from the street vendors when we were kids and so my mom made pani puri quite often at home to satisfy our cravings. She usually bought puris from the 'ChaneWallah' and made the other preparations at home. I have also been making pani puri for the last several years since I got married but I have never tried making puris at home. I always buy them from the local Indian stores. So I was really excited when Srivalli chose Pani Puri for this months ICC Challenge as this would be an excellent opportunity to try making puris from scratch at home. I followed my regular recipe for the mint water which tasted great. For the puris and the sweet chutney, I followed the recipe provided to us with minimal changes. I made puris with a cup of semolina and had about 65- 70% success at perfect puffed puris. We had enough puffed puris for the 2 of us, so no complaints. The ones that didn’t puff will make excellent Sev Batata Puri. I think the extra efforts put into making these puris at home is well worth the trouble. These  Gol Gappas were truly divine with fresh home made puris!!

Ingredients -
For Puris
1 cup rava/ sooji/ semolina
1 tbsp all purpose flour/ maida
Salt to taste
Oil for Frying

For Spicy Mint Water
1 bunch cilantro/ coriander leaves
1 cup mint/ pudina leaves
5 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
4 green chillies/ to taste
1 tbsp black salt/ kala namak
1/2 tsp freshly roasted cumin powder
1 pinch salt
juice of 1 lime
6 cups water

For Potato Filling
Boiled potatoes - finely chopped/ mashed and mixed with a pinch each of salt, red chilli powder and cumin powder

For Lentil Filling
White peas/ vatana
Green gram/ whole moong
Soak the lentils in water overnight and cook in pressure cooker. Drain any excess water and add a pinch each of salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and cumin powder

For Red Tamarind Chutney
1 cup brown tamarind
1/2 cup jaggery
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp dry roasted cumin powder
1 tsp dry roasted coriander powder
2 cloves
2 cups warm water
Salt to taste

Method -
For Puris
1. In a bowl take semolina, salt and add some water and mix together. The semolina will absorb all the water
2. Now add all purpose flour and knead well to form a stiff dough like regular puri dough.
3. Add a tsp of oil and knead some more. Cover the dough either with a wet muslin cloth or cling wrap and let it rest for 15-20 mins.
4. Then take a medium sized ball, apply some oil on the rolling surface and roll into a very thin chapati. Using some round cutter (I used small pickle katori)cut into several small round puris.
5. In the meantime, heat oil in a deep pan for deep frying the puris. Once oil is hot, deep fry puris until crisp and golden brown color. Remove the puris with the help of a slotted spoon on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
6. Allow the puris to completely cool and store them in an airtight container.

For Spicy Mint Water
1. Clean the cilantro by discarding all the large stems and only using the tender leaves and stem.
2. Grind the cilantro, mint leaves, garlic, ginger and green chillies into a fine paste adding some water.
3. Transfer this to a bowl and add 6 cups for water to this. Also add lime juice, salt, cumin powder, black salt and mix well.
4. Refrigerate the water for few hours and strain the water through a fine siever before use.

For Red Tamarind Chutney
1. Extract the pulp from tamarind.
2. Dry roast the cumin seeds and the cloves in a pan and pound them into coarse powder.
3. Add jaggery, sugar, red chilli powder, black pepper powder, roasted cumin powder, roasted coriander powder, cloves and salt to the tamarind pulp. Also add some water.
4. Heat this mixture for a few minutes and let it cool down. Add some more warm water if the chutney thickens up.

Assembling the Pani Puri / Gol Gappa
1. Assemble few puris in a plate. Poke a small hole in the center of the puris
2. Add some potato filling and lentil filling inside the puri.
3. Add some red tamarind Chutney and pour some spicy mint water in the puri. Stuff the whole puri in your mouth.