All of us know that Pune is a haven of good food, especially street food. And the flag bearers of street food being chaat, we take pride in our SPDPs and Bhel. Of course, the peeps from Delhi would (reluctantly) want to disagree (I understand, loyalty and all!). But Pune sure does serve some out of the world chaat, that is proudly headlined by paani puri.
I have had paani puri from almost all parts of India; and hell, I am Bengali. So, ‘puchka’ is supposed to be like a gospel. But, for me the paani puri of Pune is always on the top of the charts. You could devour these little bursts of joy at Ganesh Bhel or Kalyan Bhel or a roadside vendor opposite Fergusson college or one in any of the galli bolas of Pune; the spicy, sweet, tangy and crunchy pools of flavour will never let you down. And that taste of Pune, you will never find in any other paani puri all over India.
I don’t know where the secret lies. Maybe, it is the air, or the fervour of people of Pune that makes all the difference, but THIS paani puri is one you can never get enough of.
On multiple occasions, most of us will have tried to create the same taste at home, but nothing seems to work. Don’t be disheartened, so did I. And after multiple attempts I thought I would ditch the traditional recipe and give it a twist of my own. This worked! So while we keep the concept of the paani puri intact, here are a few variations to wow you and your unsuspecting guests.
Butter Chicken Paani Puri
Come on now, who doesn’t like butter chicken? Even the most stringent diet freak will want to cheat with butter chicken on any given day, and that in those little puris can be a source of sheer joy. Shred or chop the pieces of chicken into tiny bits and add about a quarter of a teaspoon to each puri. Add a generous tablespoon of the curry on that. Now add a dollop of beaten curd on to it and top it with lasun sev and a sprinkling of chopped coriander leaves. It’s delicious. (The pieces of chicken in a butter chicken curry, or pieces of tandoori chicken if you’re making the curry on your own. Chop them or shred them to bits. Basically, small pieces but not kheema).
Chocolate and salted caramel paani puri
Melt some cooking chocolate on a double boiler. Make some salted caramel by melting sugar with a little bit of water (until brown) add cream and salt, mix well. Let it bubble and take the mixture off the flame. Make a praline with any nut of your choice and sugar. To make a praline melt some white sugar, add some chopped nuts to it, stir it and then pour it into a baking tray in a thin layer and let it cool. Once cool, crush them with a rolling pin. Good stress busting exercise, but make sure you cover it with butter paper before bashing it up. Now take the puri, add a layer of melted chocolate, then the salted caramel and top with the praline. This one little bubble of divinity will show you the stairway to heaven!
Cream of Mushroom Paani Puri
Make a regular cream of mushroom soup (out of a packet, or the way you make it). Chop button-mushrooms real fine and saute them in some butter with a hint of garlic and parsley.
In the puri, first add the sauted mushrooms, top with the soup, add a tablespoon of cream and top with crushed croutons. The creaminess with the crunchiness will be a super hit.
Idli Wada Paani Puri
Simple but packs a punch. Crush some idli and some medu wada. Add it to the puri. Now pour on some steaming sambhar. Top with coconut chutney and generously sprinkle the Gunpowder mixture on it. Add a sprinkling of coriander and serve. This one sure is healthy, wealthy and wise!
The Bloody Mary Paani Puri
We’ve all had our share of vodka paani puri, but this one takes it a couple of notches higher. Make a mix of finely chopped onions, tomatoes, corn and chillies. Add a good hit of rock salt and lime to it. Set aside. Make the Bloody Mary the way you would, with the amount of alcohol you want to add and chill. Now take the puris, add the onion tomato mix, add the Bloody Mary and top with a slightly sweetish mint chutney. Crush some potato wafers and sprinkle over the chutney. High and mighty!
So pop some, crunch some and munch on some puddles of deliciousness!