A famous British chef, Tom Aikens, during a visit to Mumbai was asked which Indian dish he had liked the most. His baffling answer was “Round pastry cases with spicy sauce”. It took the journalist a few minutes to decode what he meant. The dish was Gol-gappe or pani-puri! The proof of the popularity and status of any street food is not only in reach, but in its adoption and reinvention. No other Indian street food scores higher on this scale than this little pop-into-mouth watery snack that is much-loved in almost all parts of the country, albeit in different avtaars. The origin of the gol gappa or pani puri is a matter of much discussion among street food enthusiasts from different parts of the country, each of them claiming that their state invented it. However, history and folklore point to the likelihood of this street food favourite having its origin around Delhi or Uttar Pradesh in North India. Here is a deep-dive into the various avtaars of the humble pani puri depending on which state of India you are in!
Gol Gappe The puri is filled with a mixture of potato, chickpeas and the sweet chutney before it’s dunked into the spicy water. The water is tangy with spices and a dash of mint. The puris are made of sooji (semolina) or atta (wheat). Famous in Delhi, and most states of North India.
Paani puri This version made with hot ragda curry (white chickpeas), meethi imli (tamarind) chutney and tangy water, is eaten in Maharashtra. In Gujarat, finely diced potatoes and boiled moong are added to the stuffing mixture. In Madhya Pradesh, there is potato mash but no boondi in the water. In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, onions are mixed too.
Puchkas Found all over Eastern India, the filling is a mix of boiled gram and mashed potatoes with a tangy chutney and spicy water. These puris are slightly bigger in size and also darker in colour. Popular in West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and even Bangladesh.
Patashi Another name for the variety eaten in parts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana. The filling is potatoes and chickpeas, the water is made of dry mangoes and spices. Hazaratganj, Lucknow, is renowned for ‘Paanch Swaad ke Batashe’ which refers to the five types of water.
Gup chup The filling for this fun snack is only boiled chickpeas and spicy water, without the potatoes. Onions are usually not added but could be mixed if desired. These is a much lighter version and found in Odisha, South Jharkhand, Hyderabad and Telangana.
Pakodi Called so in some interior parts of Gujarat where the sev, sweet chutney, onions, mint and green chillies are some of the additions to the mixture. The water is spicy but the overall taste is sweeter than most varieties.
Phulki Called so in eastern parts of UP and some parts of Nepal though the preparation and taste is very similar to gol gappe in the north.
Tikkis Not the aloo-tikki snack but a name for the snack found in MP. The tikkis are very much the same puris with potatoes and chickpeas.
Paani ke Patashi The ingredients are same as Patashi but named so in Haryana.
Padaka The Patashi or gol gappe, with a different name in Aligarh, UP.
For the best Pani Puri vendors and joints in Bangalore, check out this list on Talking Street or this blog post.