When you are in the southern parts of India on a mini-vacation, do not experiment with your taste buds by feeding on quintessentially North Indian cuisine. “What on earth is this? I had placed an order for panipuri for heavens sake, please get this changed… someone”, panicked a little voice inside my head, half hoping that the guy was sincerely mistaken. Sadly, he wasn’t.
This was the famous Bengaluru panipuri served without any pani, as I realised to my absolute horror one evening in Bengaluru. Only partially puffed because someone was in a hurry, the puris stuffed with boiled green peas were accompanied by some lentil curry instead along with a cup of some strange liquid concoction. The thing not only was overpriced at Rs. 17 but it also caused a permanent damage to my taste buds. Welcome to Bengaluru panipuri!
Panipuris, also called lovingly as puchkas or golgappas in the eastern parts of India are pure heaven to the discerning foodie. A burst of gustatory delight when puris stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes, raw onions, boiled moong dal, boondi, curd and what have you are washed down with the juices of tangy tamarinds blended with some hot spices and salt. In one word, it’s ‘awesomelicious’. You have to pop one to experience the burst of flavours in your mouth. But, not in Bengaluru, I warn you!
Every state of India has its own version but these are prepared within the rules of the divine recipe. But, some Bengaluru hooligans have broken these to serve you corrupted versions in your naive exploration of authentic panipuris in the southern city. For sake of the babus, please understand that curries are not part of snacks; curries are meant to be had with rice! These guys cannot and should not mess up with the recipe, else they should be punished with a lifetime ban on their eatery and be force-fed that gooey thing all their life. And that’s fair enough.
For starters, the puri has to be super puffed mind you. Oval, flat puris are not meant to be put into the mouth; they are best used as flying discs. And please, don’t make mini-UFOs out of them. The mixture however can vary but strictly between potatoes, chickpeas, moong dal and other edible stuff. You are allowed to use salt, jaggery, black salt, spices, as per your taste preferences and not ingredients meant for a full meal. Remember panipuri is an easy snack meant to be light on your tummy while lightening up your senses.
Having learnt survivals skills in Mumbai, I was no stranger to the variety of panipuris lining the streets of this hungry city. Sometimes the puris were stuffed with a mixture of only mashed potatoes but at times the potatoes found company of moong dal and boondi as well. The pani is sometimes made with mint leaves if not tamarind. But, not even once did I come across a lentil curry-puri; the South Indian eateries in Mumbai would also hang their head in shame.
In fact, another friend was horrified to see curry leaves floating in his pani in another part of Bengaluru!