Of American zillionaires and panipuriwallahs!

“One more plate” and then

“One more plate”and then

“One more plate”…

Repeat twenty times and you have a picture of the one-sided conversation that happened every single evening between the panipuri wallah and his best customer – my brother Arvind!  Come rain or shine or exams or even dog bites and consequently painful injections in the tummy – nothing deterred him from visiting the golgappa wallah at the corner. At five paisa a puri, most people would be happy with five or six or maybe a dozen but not my brother. If he fell below twenty on any day, the panipuriwallah would be very concerned  -“Arvind miya, sab theek tho hai?” (All okay?) All would definitely be okay except probably for the state of his finances! But then, who can blame the vendor? After all, he must have been busy building a nest egg to send his daughter or son off to Amreeka and needed a cash cow of a customer! He was only taking care of his market!

Have been thinking of this five pips a puri business and how much it costs today. The itinerant street vendor at the beach today charges about 25 bucks a plate – that’s five puris (not that I’ve ever dared to eat there!). Five rupees a puri? Exactly a 100 times! Inflation of a hundred thousand percent!!! Bet the pani puri guy’s offspring is actually hiding under an alias – like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or Cheryl Sandberg or sumpin’!

My cousin Devi and I ventured to go with Arvind once to try out this thing he was so fond of. Not realising that the thing inside was “pani”, we picked up the rather attractive looking things and carefully – bit into them – with the inevitable consequences. It being some festival day, our new dresses were quite ruined by the brownish green water that ran down our chins all over the new paavadais!

It took me a long while to try paani puris again but then, once i learnt how to eat them – popping them whole into the mouth and managing, without even trying- to give an impression of a frog that has swallowed a snake (quite against nature, i assure you!), slowly finding the space to masticate and then swallow in a burst of coughing  as you turn bright red and then choosing to repeat the whole process while the vendor gleefully looks on as he builds his progeny’s future in the land of milk and honey – sigh… if only they didn’t taste soooo… good!

And here they are, designed to make you choke with pleasure…


  • Puris – ready made – 1 packet – contains about 40 or so. (of course, if have masochistic genes or have forgotten that you live in the 21st century, you might choose to make them yourself !)


  • Aloo – potatoes – boiled, peeled and sliced – 2 large
  • Green gram sprouts – steamed for 3 minutes only and cooled – 1 cup
  • Onion  – chopped  – 1 small
  • Roasted cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Chaat masala – 1 tsp
  • Salt 
  • Minced green chili  – 1

Mix all of this together and set aside.

MITHI PANI (sweet sauce)

  •  1/2 cup tamarind – soak in hot water for ten minutes and extract juice. Repeat. Set aside extract
  • Dates -seedless – 1/2 cup 
  • Jaggery – 1/2 cup

Pressure cook all together for one whistle along with 2-3 cups of water. Mash well or blitz in the mixer for  a few seconds till smooth.

  • 1/2 tsp jeera – cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp dhania powder
  • 1/2 tsp saunf (aniseed) powder – optional
  • 1 tsp  red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry ginger powder – saunth
  • Salt
  • Pink Himalayan salt – kala namak – 1/4 tsp

Mix all the powders into the tamarind-date juice and set aside

TEEKHA PANI (hot sauce)

  • Mint leaves – 1 cup
  • Coriander leaves – one cup
  • Green chilies – 1 or 2
  • Ginger – 1/2 ” piece
  • Kala namak – 1/2 tsp
  • Juice of two lemons
  • Salt
  • Roasted cumin powder – 1 tsp

Grind everything togther and dilute with 3 cups water. Set aside.


Wash hands first! Like the vendor in our colony, we want you to stay “sab theek hai!” and unlike him, we know that washing hands is crucial to this! 

Make a hole at the top of the puri with your thumb. Insert a little of the potato-sprout mixture. add a tbsp of each of the sauces and imitate a frog eating a snake. The trick is to let the eyes bulge out so that the liquid doesn’t ooze out of the sides of the mouth! 

Repeat till your mom has earned a thousand bucks!

The easiest way to serve these is to fill up glasses with half and half of each glass with the sauces and place one at each plate. Then make the puris with fillings and pass them around. That way, everyone pours their own pani into their own sauce and reduce teh chances of spilling it on the neighbour! 

One other way is to serve it as shots. 

The very best is to serve it is to spike the pani with vodka and serve it as shots in puris! Then after one plate of puris, who cares if the paavadai is ruined?!

 (Pic courtesy: Internet)