What are Golgappas or Paani Puris?
Known as golgappa in North India, puchka in Bengal and other names in different parts of the country, the paani-puri is essentially a very light and crisp sphere of fried dough filled with sweet/spicy water that sends people to gastronomical heaven. This delectable mouthful, which features a light filling, herbs and spices, is as diverse as the country itself.
Like all Indian food, spices are essential for the perfect golgappas!
Every region in India has its own favorite recipe for the perfect paani puri, but they share a similar essence. If you enjoy the beloved snack that has become a symbol of Indian street food, here are some links for basic recipes:
- This recipe includes instructions for making the flour spheres if you prefer to start from scratch.
- Try this one for making the ‘paani’ when you’re in a hurry, or this version that details different fillings.
Variations of Paani Puri across the Country
If you travel across the country, you’ll find paani-puri that is made the same way, but with small variations that make it mind-blowingly different. Most variants follow the basics - the ‘puri’ has two types: ‘Atta’- wheat ones which are usually crispier and ‘suji’- semolina ones that are softer.
Ragda- the paani-puri filling in Maharashtra and neighboring areas
They can be stuffed with boiled potatoes, sprouts, chick peas, green peas, and more. The spices could be mixed in the water, the filling, or added as powdered seasoning on top of the puri. Then you have ‘khatta paani’- the hot one with tamarind and mint, or ‘meetha paani’- the sweet one with ginger and spices.
In India, paani-puri can be found almost anywhere you go. From tiny wheeled stalls to five-star restaurants and bars, this humble snack has grown beyond street food and achieved near-stardom. Here are a few ways variants you may like to try:
- Packaged Gol-Gappas: You can buy these with the puri or just as a premix for the water. Even stall-vendors will pack water, dahi, sauces and puris in separate packets to carry home. You can make them at home with the recipes listed above and experiment with the ingredients.
- Get your paani-puri ‘parcelled’ to enjoy it at home later!
- Meetha-Puri: A puri filled with a sweet chutney that is made with ginger powder, herbs, tamarind and lighter spices. Loved by kids and adults alike, it can be served as a dessert snack or as an alternative for people who prefer to avoid chillies and the spicier versions of the paani-puri.
- Dahi-Puri: Puris filled with curd, thick sauces and powdered spices. They’re more wholesome and the curd cuts through the heat of the chillies. The dahi-puri has layers of flavor that pop through separately. Most vendors serve one at the end of the paani puri order to cool your palate.
- Curd balances the heat of the chilli in dahi-puris
- Golgappa Shots/Vodka-Puri: Though this alcohol-imbued version is just becoming popular at pubs, bars and restaurants, it has been a favorite at home-parties for a long time. The vodka-puri is a great way to enjoy a slight buzz while sending your tastebuds on a trip of their own!
There’s a Perfect Fit for Everyone
If you start asking around for the ‘best’ gol-gappas, it’s going to be a really long list. Flavor is a touchy topic, which often ends in arguments over the best ones, pacts made to sample favorites and pick a winner, which of course rarely works. I’m not exaggerating - everyone has a favorite and there are thousands of varieties available
A paani-puri binge? Yes, please!
Every vendor has his own blend of spices for the filling and paani, which is usually a closely-guarded secret. The best way to decide which one you like best is to go on a street food binge and find the one that makes your taste buds leap with joy. A little warning though - golgappas are so good, they’re almost addictive. Get ready to skip entire meals because you got a little carried away with your ‘snack’!