July 14, 2009
For any of you that have been to India you know how amazing the food is on the streets. Granted you eat at your own peril, but it is so worth it. You can read all about my favorites in a piece that I wrote which will be published in the food section of the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday, July 15. What I wanted to do was take well known street foods like chana chaat (garbanzo beans) and aloo ki tikki (potato pattie) and show you how you can make them very easily at home.
We didn't have room in the piece to include my absolute favorite: Gol gappa or pani-puri, so I wanted to include it here. Literally translated, this street food refers to round savory puffed pastries filled with spicy water..well, to die for spicy water. Go anywhere in India - mention this food - and you'll automatically be rewarded with a smile and knowing nod. The vendors are easy to spot - with carts like popcorn machines filled with delicate puris about the size of half dollars.
The puris themselves are time consuming to make. They are made from a combination of whole-wheat flour and semolina, which is rolled out until thin and then fried until it puffs out and gets crispy. (I promise one of my coming post will be to describe the process as I attempt to make these myself).
Vendors take a few puris, pop a hole into them withe their thumb, stuff a few pieces of spiced potatoes in the gaping hole and then hand you a plate with the filled concoction and a bowl with the spicy water. It's up to you then to fill the puris with the spice water and pop them into your mouth before the bottoms get soggy and the filling falls out. There is no other taste or experience like it!
So, for now, head to Devon or your nearest Indian grocery store and BUY the puris. Normally you have to ask for them as they are tucked away in a box where they're less likely to get crushed. Like I said, eventually I promise I'll make them and give you the play-by-play.
The water - though - is amazingly easy to make. I've grown up thinking it was so complicated. To learn I called my bua - or aunt - in England. She's an amazing cook and loves making all of these chaats and authentic dishes. Here's her recipe for the water. I tried it - gave it to my girls and got a huge huge huge thumbs up. They actually now request it sometimes for breakfast. Unbelievably crazy.
Gol Gappa Pani
2 bunches fresh mint (about 4 cups packed)
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped coriander
2 green Thai or serrano chiles
2 inches peeled garlic
2 heaping Tablespoons tamarind paste
1 teaspoon mango powder
2 heaping Tablespoons black salt
1 heaping Tablespoon dry, roasted ground cumin
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon red chili powder
Strip the mint stalks of their leaves and place the leaves and remining ingredients in a blender or food processor. You can add a tiny bit of water to help the process but if you are patient the mint and coriander should offer enough water. You will end up with about a cup of puree. Transfer to a jug and add six to seven cups of water. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving. If you don't want to use the blended concentrate immediately just freeze it up to two months and take it out to use in small portions.
[figstart]1 large potato (russet or Yukon Gold) boiled, peeled and mashed
1 teaspoon white salt
1 teaspoon black salt
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 green Thai or serrano chili
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon roasted powdered cumin
Mix all ingredients and set aside. Use to fill your puris with before adding a bit of the spicy water.[figend]
The first time I made this for my girls, Neha (6) gave me a thumbs up and said, "Mom, you get an A+ for this one." Seriously, I'm a journalist - I wrote down every word. The water is delicious on its own as a drink. It also quells nausea. When I was pregnant it was one of the only things that helped with the morning sickness!