Monday, December 19, 2005


The little grenade explodes as soon as I shut my mouth. My teeth dig into its crispy outer cover, out flow the cold juices and my mouth is full. The juices tickle my taste buds; a mixture of sweet, sour, tangy and hot! I try to swallow the juices, careful, so they don’t end up in my wind-pipe and all I can do is shut my eyes and nod in approval of these wonderfully blended flavors. The juices disappear quickly into my stomach and I then discover that there is more to it; soft mashed potatoes, warm chick peas, crunchy sev and the crispy remnants of the grenade.

If you are an Indian foodie, I am sure that you’ve figured out by now what grenade I am talking about. Sounds explosively appetizing right? Okay no more suspense for those unfortunate souls who haven’t experienced the little grenade yet. I am talking about “Paani Puri” (PP) aka “Golgappa”, one of India’s favorite snacks. Be it the chowpati of Mumbai or the cool locales of Manali; the crowded khau gallis of any Indian city or the food courts in the slick malls; PP seems to be there ALL.

Best enjoyed at your local “Sawaliya PP” stall, eating the PP does require some skill (ignore the garbage around you, any passing canines hoping to catch a bite from the leftovers, the not so clean appearing PP server). The PP server gently cracks the puri (a small, fried ball of flour) from one side, mechanically fills it with some stuffing (ingredients mentioned above) followed by a quick dip in the paani (the flavor is customized as per your desire – sweet, spicy, best of both) before handing it to you (about 5-6 at a time) in a plate. Now comes the time that will test your skills. The idea is to eat the puris one by one, quickly enough so they don’t become soggy and puri minus paani, yet careful enough so the juices and other stuffing end up in your mouth and not on your shirt.

This is what the renowned Marathi author Ganghadar Gadgil has to say about the after effects of eating the zesty PP. (An excerpt from his memoir about Mumbai)

"In that state of beatitude the Maharashtrians stop being surly, the Marwaris look at the millions of stars without being reminded of their own millions, the Sindhis admire the horizon without any intention of selling it, the Gujaratis speculate on the moon instead of the scrips they should have sold, the North Indians dream of things other than Hindi as the official language of the United Nations, and even the Parsi ladies stop nagging their husbands."

Like the repetitive and irritating commercials urging you to buy some book/CD-DVD/ - “Go get your PP NOW!”