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  • Pani Puri or Gol Gappa

    YIELD: 22–25 (2-INCH / 5-CM) PURIS
    TOOLS: You’ll need a small mixing bowl; a damp cloth; a lightly oiled rolling pin; a 2¼-inch-wide / 6-cm-wide round metal lid or cookie cutter; 2 baking sheets; a small kadhai, wok, or saucepan; a slotted spoon; a plate lined with dry paper towels; a blender; 2 large mixing bowls; and a pitcher.
    NOTE: To store cooked puris, place them in an airtight container for up to 1½ weeks. They tend to go stale after that. Most Indian grocery stores sell premade puris—a real time saver.
    TRY THIS! Got a little leftover pani? For a fun twist on an adult beverage, add a few ounces of vodka to it and make pani puri-tinis.

    There’s no way I can convey how much pani puris (also called gol gappas) mean to me. Gol means round and gappa refers to chatting or talking, while pani means water and puris are fried round crisps. All over northern India, you’ll find carts surrounded by people stuffing these mini puris into their mouths, one after another. When I’d visit India as a little girl, it was the one snack I would wail about for hours until my grandfather would finally give in. Be warned: Once you eat one, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop.

    For the PURIS:
    • 1 cup /170 g fine sooji (semolina or cream of wheat)
    • 2 teaspoons whole-wheat chapati flour or all-purpose flour
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 3–4 / 45–60 mL tablespoons club soda
    • 2 cups /470 mL vegetable oil, for frying
    For the PANI (SPICY WATER):
    • 2 cups /50 g packed fresh mint leaves
    • ½ cup /10 g fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1 (2-inch / 5-cm) piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 1–3 fresh Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed
    • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste
    • 2 teaspoons amchur (dried mango powder)
    • 1 tablespoon kala namak (black salt)
    • 1 tablespoon roasted cumin, ground
    • 1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
    • 6 cups /1.4 L cold water
    For the FILLING:
    • 1 boiled russet potato, peeled and diced
    • 1 cup /160 g cooked chickpeas or black chickpeas
    • 1 medium yellow or red onion, minced
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 teaspoon Chaat Masala
    For the PURIS:
    1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the sooji, chapati flour, salt, and club soda and stir the ingredients together with your hands until they clump together into a ball of dough. Cover with a damp cloth or paper towel and set aside for at least 15 minutes. Letting the dough sit is key—helping it harden slightly and making it easier to roll out.
    3. Divide the dough in half. Return the other half to the bowl and keep the bowl covered with the damp cloth. Roll the half you are working with between your hands until it is as smooth as possible. Flatten out the ball of dough with the palms of your hands.
    4. On a clean, dry, and flat work surface, use a lightly oiled rolling pin to roll out the ball into a very thin 8½- to 9-inch-wide / 22- to 23-cm round. Using a round metal lid or cookie cutter 2¼ inches / 6 cm wide, cut out as many rounds as you can from the dough. Try to work as close to the edge of the dough as possible to make as many rounds as you can. Place the rounds on a baking sheet in a single layer and cover them with a damp cloth or paper towel until they are ready to be fried.
    5. Gather the remaining scraps of dough and roll them into a ball. Flatten the ball and roll the dough out again to the same thickness as before. Continue to make more rounds until you have as many as you can make, and discard any leftover dough.
    6. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 with the other half of the dough, placing the rounds on a second baking sheet covered with a damp cloth or paper towel.
    7. In a kadhai, wok, or saucepan over medium–high heat, warm the oil. I use a small kadhai because I don’t like to use too much oil, and cooking the puris 3 to 4 at a time ensures they cook more evenly. The oil should be about 1 inch / 3 cm deep in the deepest part of the kadhai. You’ll know the oil is hot enough if you drop in a tiny ball of dough and it rises to the top immediately. The key to successfully frying these up is to ensure that the oil is not too hot. As soon as you see that the oil is ready, reduce the heat slightly. If it starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Just pull the kadhai away from the heat to let the oil cool down a bit.
    8. Carefully place 3 to 4 uncooked puri rounds into the oil, 1 at a time, and cook for 20 to 30 seconds on 1 side, until each has puffed up and is slightly browned. Use a slotted spoon to press down on each puri as it rises to the top of the oil; it will puff up beautifully. Turn over each of the puris and cook for 10 to 20 seconds more. Remove from the heat.
    9. Remove the cooked puris from the oil and transfer to a plate lined with dry paper towels.
    10. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 until you have finished frying all the puris. Set aside the puris to cool for at least 20 minutes before stuffing. This is essential for them to crisp.
    For the PANI (SPICY WATER):
    1. Combine all the ingredients, except the water, in a blender and grind into a paste. Take your time, as it takes a few minutes for them all to blend to a smooth texture. I sometimes add 1 tablespoon of water to help the process, but the moisture from the mint, cilantro, and tamarind paste is usually enough to do the trick.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the paste with the water. Stir well until the paste has completely dissolved into the water. Transfer to a pitcher. Instead of wasting the paste that gets stuck in the blades of the blender after transferring it, I typically pour 1 cup /240 mL of water over the blades and run the blender on low. Then, I pour that spicy water into the pitcher containing the rest of the pani.
    For the FILLING:
    1. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine the potato, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro and sprinkle with the Chaat Masala.
    2. TO SERVE:
    3. Place the puris on a serving tray. Transfer the pani into individual serving bowls.
    4. To eat, pop your thumb gently into 1 puri, making a tiny hole. Fill the hole with a few tablespoons of the filling. Dip the filled puri into the pani, filling each one with the water. The art is in getting the filled puri into your mouth before the water has a chance to soak through! Ready, set, go!

Indian For Everyone by Anupy Singla. Copyright © 2014 Anupy Singla. Published by Agate Publishing. All rights reserved.

© 2016 Alta Editions LLC.