Pani Puri (Puchka) – An Indian Snack Drowned in Flavor

By Mark Wiens 29 Comments
My pani puri vendor in Kolkata, India
My pani puri vendor in Kolkata, India

Does a wet chip sound good to you?

I’m guessing not.

But in Kolkata, India, they seriously know what they are doing when it comes to street food, and many vendors literally serve chips filled with water.

And they are incredibly delicious!

An easy to recognize vendor selling pani puri (puchka)
An easy to recognize vendor selling pani puri (puchka)

Pani puri (which is also known as a golgappa and is most commonly referred to as a puchka in Kolkata) is widely available as a street snack in India, and in other countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

It’s virtually impossible to miss a vendor selling puchka (pani puri) in Kolkata.

Their road-side stands are piled high with a mountain of deep fried dumpling looking things that are often set up in an upside down cone shaped sculpture (still not as cool looking as ghugni chaat).

At first I thought it might be a mobile toy store, selling little plastic toy bouncy balls, but when I saw people standing around the stall eating and smiling, I was delighted.

The crunchy puris
The crunchy puris

What is a Pani Puri (Puchka)?

The popular street snack all begins with something known as a puri – a deep fried crunchy piece of dough that’s hollow on the inside. It’s about the size of a golf ball and thin like a potato chip on all sides.

Pani is the Hindi word for water.

Together pani puri is the agglomeration of a hollow chip filled with water, and though it sounds bizarre (chips dipped in water), it’s such a marvelous combination, like so many Indian foods.

There are a number of different flavors of water that make a pani puri, but in the Indian state of West Bengal, the water for a puchka often includes tamarind juice.

The man who served me my first bite of Pani Puri!
The man who served me my first bite of Pani Puri!

Though it’s questionable as to the sanitary conditions and the source of water used at some pani puri stalls, I couldn’t resist such a prominently represented Kolkata street food snack while roaming around.

As soon as you walk up to a pani puri vendor you’re handed a tiny leaf bowl, a bowl that’s just big enough to hold a single puchka.

Filling the puri (hollow chip) with tamarind water
Filling the puri (hollow chip) with spiced tamarind water

The vendor then grabs a puri from his stockpile, pokes out a hole in the top with his thumb, pushes in a little dab of spiced potatoes and spices, dunks it into the container of room temperature tamarind water, and places it on your little leaf bowl.

This all happens in a mere second.

Kolkata style Pani Puri
Kolkata style Pani Puri (Puchka)

To eat a pani puri you simply plop the entire bite sized chip combination into your mouth.

Since the puri has only been in contact with the tamarind water for a few seconds before consumption, it remains crunchy, and not at all soggy.

As soon as you bite down, the puri immediately crushes and then liquid tamarind water gushes out with a burst of sourness and contrast of texture and flavor. Finally the smooth spicy and salty mashed potatoes mingle into the watery crunch to complete a mouthful of pani puri.

Literally as soon as you’ve chomped down on your first one, the vendor is ready to serve you another round.

In Kolkata, pani puris cost just 10 INR ($0.18) per 4 pieces.

Pani puri (puchka) is a street food snack unlike anything I’ve ever had anywhere else. Only in India is it such a wonderful idea to mix such contrasting ingredients (chips and water?) to form such a delicious snack.

One last thing about Pani Puri:

As I was scarfing down my fourth or fifth round of pani puri, an elderly Indian lady walked passed me politely saying, “don’t eat too many, you’ll get a tummy ache.”

Luckily, my food blogger bowels and tummy survived without any unusual symptoms. However, since street water is potentially a main ingredient in street side pani puri, they do have a reputation for causing stomach issues.

That being said, I loved eating pani puri in India!

If you missed the pani puri video, here it is…

Look good to you?

29 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Soumya Kanti Sar

    3 years ago

    Well its good that you appreciate Pani Puri, but let me tell you the price which you gave for them is too high. Especially in Kolkata. In the video at the last part, that is just at(2:00) the male customer who just comes in-front of you and the camera asks what is the price and is shocked to hear that (4 pieces go for Rs.10) and in anger asks From when has the price change and argues with the customer for quite a while.

    Well the customer is actually right. In many parts of WestBengal the price is Re.1 for a single piece. And in Kolkata the maximum i have ever given is Rs.10 for 8 pieces. Even today the price hasn’t changed. And at the date of the shooting of your video the price of it in my locality was Rs.10 for 14 pieces…

    So its not JUST as you have stated in you blog! Its too much….

    And by the way i have seen people going on and on munching for almost 35-40 pieces too. Infact my highest record was 30 rounds and i didn’t had a Stomach ache….

  • shilpa

    4 years ago

    Was reading your post and my mouth started watering..its the most yummylicious dish in india..dil always maange more..next time you can try more without the fear of geting stomach ache….

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hi Shilpa, thank you very much, I think it’s my favorite snack in India as well!

      • Ray

        4 years ago

        Reminds me of my childhood, when I use to gorge minimum 10 in a row after a game of soccer in the eve. Tamarind water was then considered to be good for digestion and actually it worked.

        During my last visit to the city, saw some vendors using mineral water and wearing gloves…guess that takes care of hygiene and stomach issues.

  • Ritika

    5 years ago

    Hello

    May I use a few pics from this site for a Japanese TV show?

    Waiting for ur reply..
    Thanks
    Ritika

  • Arup

    6 years ago

    hi Mark
    I am going to open branded pani puri stall chain in india.Do u have any suggestion.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Great to hear that Arup, just make it delicious and in a great location!

  • CJ

    6 years ago

    I love Delhi’s ‘golguppes’ the most! 24 is the maximum i’ve eaten at a time!

  • Lee

    6 years ago

    near territi bazar there is a puchka wala who sells pretty good puchka, its different from other puchkas in kolkata, next time if u go there and ask for prem ka puchka, go around 4pm

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Great, thank you so much for the advice Lee, would love to try that sometime!

  • Chowder Singh

    6 years ago

    Nice post. The Kolkata Puchka is indeed heavenly.

  • Michael

    6 years ago

    Hi Mark,
    Great post.
    Sadly, I wasn’t as lucky as you and Mike and had to take a 36 hour break from my vacation after eating half a dozen pani puri!
    No lasting damage, though.
    Michael

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Michael, sorry to hear that, but glad it didn’t last too long!

  • Mike

    6 years ago

    Pani Puri was one of the first Indian street foods I tried when arriving in Delhi. I was also a little bit leery of getting Delhi Belly from it but that didn’t happen, and I liked it so much that I went back a few times. That version was mint as opposed to tamarind. Tamarind is so good that I’d love to try the Kolkata version.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Mike, glad you liked it too. I was a little scared as well, but luckily I was fine too!

  • Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    6 years ago

    How interesting! Sounds weird, but you make me want to try it.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Stephanie, I thought it was a strange combo at first too, but after my first time, I couldn’t believe how sensationally great it was!

  • jo

    6 years ago

    hi mark,
    i really like your website! i get hungry surfing it….
    i noticed, that u choose to offer your ebook on your website all alone instead of doing it with amazon (or other websites).

    so it´s more work programming the site with this function, but no percentage goes to amazon…
    why did u choose to do so? are there any specific reasons?

    i’m currently finishing my book and i’m not sure to offer it by myself
    or do it “with” amazon…
    thx for your reply or advices on the topic.

    greetinx
    jo
    ps: 4 more month and i´m on the road again…

  • Arti

    6 years ago

    One of my favorite Indian chaat!! When I read you had 4 rounds I thought it meant you had 4*4 pani puri but when I saw the video it was just 4!! I think Indians, on an average, easily eat 10-15 of these in one go!! Beautiful captures and a lovely video 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Arti, glad you love it too! Yah, I wanted to eat more… and then a lady walked past me and said “don’t get a tummy ache,” and that’s when I started having second thoughts… so I didn’t eat too many. They are addicted though and would be easy to stand there and eat many in a row!