Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Great Paani Puri Party: Throw your own!

The date: Monday, September 19, 2011 The venue: Our home
The participants: The Lonely Planet Magazine India Team
’Participants’ because
a) The party was only made possible by lots of contributions from different people.
b) It was truly an assemble-as-you-go affair.
So it all began with the memory of how paani puri parties used to be in the Femina office of old. Back when we were not even Worldwide Media. Anil Gohil (shockingly no longer with us, God bless his soul) would bring the concentrated paani and the chutney, and the rest of us would pitch in with puris, boiled potato, boondi and onions (if there was to be bhel puri as well). Then, we would beg the canteen staff for vessels, and reconstitute the paani concentrate to cold bliss in a huge one, and pour the thick tamarind-date chutney into a smaller one. And then the next half-hour would be happy, somewhat silent and messy; we each filled puri after puri with potato or boondi (or both), drizzled on a little chutney and then dunked each into the paani before shoving it whole into the mouth. Mmm.
It’s something you can never get enough of. We’ve tried it with family often enough – and I will never forget the sight of my father-in-law (a lovely man but not usually given to such reckless spontaneity) really enjoying the whole experience.
The problem is, of course, that I’ve grown up eating paani puri on the streets, and then I’ve grown up. Which means, I’m reluctant now to eat off the street. (Grown up? Or grown old? Hmm...) So a paani puri party for which the paani and chutney is made in the home of someone I trust is invaluable.
So, at this party, we had
From left: the paani, chutney, vodka, boondi,
contribution of apples (uneaten!), mashed potato,
pepper rasam,
and puris... chicken mince still
in microwave at this point!
paani puri the traditional way (paani and chutney courtesy Mrs Panchal, mother of Hardika from LPMI),
paani with vodka (courtesy Jagan, who was also the only taker – that combination needs some working on!),
and the surprise filling: chicken mince in pepper rasam! The chicken mince was the Venky’s heat-and-serve version and the pepper rasam was made in five minutes by Lalitha (recipes for the paani and rasam below).
• Chicken quiche and spinach quiche from Friyan’s house
• A chocolate mousse whipped up (literally!) by Sharmeen at home; the recipe is a family secret so all I can reveal is that it was awesome!
We split the costs for the food and the damages per head: just Rs 100!
It was a great evening around the paani puri bar, and definitely one we plan to do again.
Sweet Corn and Prawn stuffed Pani Puris
courtesy Antoine Lewis
Also, while we are on unusual paani puri variations: you’ll be very tempted to try this recipe for Sweet Corn and Prawn stuffed Pani Puris by Antoine Lewis, food dude par excellence. Thank you, Antoine, for letting me link this! And the photographs on your blog are great!

Paani (courtesy Mrs Panchal)
(Makes enough for 15 people, about 300 to 350 puris
2 bunches mint (pudina)
1 bunch coriander (the mint should always be more than the coriander)
6 green chillies
1 tsp pepper powder (or to taste)
2½ tsp roasted jeera powder
1 tsp rock salt
1 tbsp amchur powder
2 tbsp deseeded tamarind paste
½ tbsp salt (or to taste)
15 cups water
Grind all the ingredients (except water) to form a paste.
Dilute with the water.
Chill before serving.
Note: Modify the spice measurements depending on how spicy or tangy you want the paani to be.

Sweet chutney (courtesy Mrs Panchal)
100g dates, deseeded
200g tamarind, deseeded
A ping-pong ball-sized chunk of jaggery
Salt to taste
1½ tsp red chilli powder
1½ tsp dhaniya powder
Grind all the ingredients to form a paste.
Add water to get a chutney-like consistency.

Pepper Rasam (courtesy Lalitha)
4 cups water
Tamarind pulp (made with a lemon-sized ball of tamarind soaked in ½ cup water)
2 sprigs curry leaves
½ onion, sliced
½ tsp asafoetida
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp sambhar powder
Salt to taste
To be ground to a paste:
¼ onion, chopped
8 to 10 cloves of garlic
1 ½ tsp peppercorns
Pinch mustard seeds
Pinch cumin seeds
2 fenugreek seeds
For the tempering (tadka)
1 tsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ onion, chopped fine
5 curry leaves
3 red chillies, broken into pieces
Place four cups of water with the tamarind pulp on heat in a pan.
Add the curry leaves, sliced onion, asafoetida, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder, sambhar powder and salt to taste.
Add the ground garlic paste and bring to a boil. Check the seasoning.
For the tempering, heat oil in a small kadai. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard starts crackling, add the finely-chopped onion, curry leaves and broken red chillies. Fry till the onions are brown. Add the tempering to the rasam.
And finally, a reminder to get in with a chance to win this month’s giveaway: the 900-page Hercule Poirot omnibus by Agatha Christie. Click here to Follow!
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  1. Let's make the Pani Puris of Awesomeness a montly affair. Yay or nay?

  2. Prima, looks like this was fun! Wonder if you get puris made of soji (suji) here in Bombay. Tasted them at a Delhi chaat place some years ago and found them really good!

  3. Anita, I think you do get them. I will ask the Gujjus - many of them - in my life. And then, do you want to do one? Paani puri party, I mean?

  4. Usually, I find the paani of the paani puri too spicy so I tend to have the other chaat! But the paani puri variations sound really good to me! I'm game whenever you are! Can host it too.

  5. Yummy and such fun... I miss the Mumbai chaats! Love how you and the team organized it all!!! Hugs, viv

  6. Lets have the sweet corn and prawn stuffed.... the picture looks so yummy.... also need to find an vegetarian alternative for our one and only vegetarian - Hardhika Panchal... sorry forgot about Seju Moju.... so that makes two

  7. Helloooooooooo,

    I am jealous!

    The one from Delhi


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