Pani Puri, Delhi, and summer go hand in hand.
I don’t know that pani puri needs an introduction. It’s crispy, sour, spicy, sweet, and you can’t just have one. The puris are crunchy and have the slight taste of the semolina flour. The potatoes and chickpeas absorb all the yummy flavors added to them. The tamarind and mint chutneys add the right amount of sweet and spicy. Lastly, the pani, is omg amazing! It’s a combination of mint, cilantro, black salt, chili peppers, ginger, and so much more. An absolute flavor explosion.
Doesn’t matter where you are in India, you can find pani puri on every corner. Which really makes being alive worth while. As kids we would always try and talk the driver into stopping at our favorite chaat spots so we could sneak in a few of these amazing treats before heading home for a dull afternoon of tutoring and homework.
No matter how many times you went it was always an exciting experience. You’re standing on an insanely busy street, at a roadside cart along with 5-15 other people. The chaat-wala was better than any bartender you’ve ever seen. In the din of noise you’d yell how you wanted your pani puri, and there is no menu so it’s always custom. With chutney, without chutney, extra spicy, no spice, half onion, extra cilantro, and so on, and somehow the guy would ALWAYS remember your exact order. It’s a one-man show, so it’s not like he has time to write it down. Then you’d wait patiently, and he would mix up the necessaries for your request, quickly poke a hole in the top of a puri, stuff in potatoes, garbanzo beans, pour in chutneys, quickly dip the filled puri into the pani, filling the puri to the brim, and then hand it to you at the speed of light. You’d pop the whole thing in your mouth and just enjoy the flavors coming together in all of their grandness. And one by one he would repeat this, as fast as humanly possible. When you’d eaten as many as you could without making yourself sick or having your mouth burn off, you’d pay and jump back into the car.
Like I said, it was an amazing experience. You’d standing with people of all walks of life, unified by the greatness of the cuisine. Everyone is excited, chatting away about their day, about how tasty the chaat is, or what’s next on their agenda. Coupled with the noises and smells of the city, it always seemed that for those few minutes life always seems wholly perfect. Plus as high school girls it was a great way to see all the cute boys. Especially since most of the time parents were too busy trying to keep us nun-like.