Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Back on the Indian food trail - Pani Puri

I love how this country is becoming so much more diverse and open to trying different foods. We have so many foods here that are deemed as being 'Westernised' - dishes from cuisines which have been adapted to suit more western taste buds. Sweet and Sour Pork is a prime example. Theses dishes aren't a bad thing at all (depending on who you talk to), but I really like that I'm seeing more authentic dishes from various cultures. Having grown up scoffing Chinese foods all my life, it's nice to see a bit of pak choi and choi sum available at mainstream supermarkets these days, for example.

I love exploring different cuisines and I'm partial to Indian foods. The spices, aromas, sauces, breads and dips - mmmmm! When I was in Delhi, India a few months ago, we went to a place called Haldarim's which is a popular chain there. We had Indian snacks which I'd never heard of, seen or tried before. One of those was the pani puri. It's so different to any Indian food I've tried before and I really loved it. I was told by the local tour guide that it's a very popular snack in India and you can get this at so many places. It's basically a mixture of potato, onion, chickpeas, chutney and spices (pani) inside a crisp fried sphere (puri) and it comes with a wonderful mint and tamarind spicy water. It's a complete explosion of flavours and texture.

Pani Puri at Haldarim's
Delhi, India

So the other day, wandering about Westfields in Stratford and getting a bit peckish, we came across Indi-Go in the main food court. As we glanced over the menu, I was telling my cousin about the food the other half and I had in India. Noticing the round crisp hollow puri's, I very quickly got excited. It was something I'd never seen being served in the UK before, and my younger cousin was intrigued with my culinary experiences.

We decided to get a couple of dishes and I encouraged her to try an Indian Chai too. She, thankfully, loved them all! In fact, the whole weekend seemed to be a good foodie experience for her which I'm very pleased about. There was a lot she hadn't tried before, and I'm glad that she seemed to really enjoy it!

Pani Puri (Poori) at Indi-Go
Westfields Stratford City, Greater London

Anyway, back to these pani puri's - or poori's as they are called at Indi-Go. They tasted very similar to what I remember in Delhi, although a little less messy! As you can see from the first picture, everything is separated and it's a bit of a do-it-yourself job. But it does mean that you can put as much or as little of each item as you like into the puri. The ones at Indi-Go are pre-filled with the mixture and only serves the mint and tamarind water separately. This water has quite a kick, so for my chilli-adverse cousin, this was nothing but a good thing.

Looking back to my short trip to India, I remember having this little wonder pictured below which I blogged about in this post about the Indian Accent restaurant. At the time, I had forgotten what this was, as it was served ahead of anything on the menu we chose and I'd forgotten the name. Now, I realise that it's a pani puri - or at least an adaption of! I remember the pomegranate on the top and it also had some yoghurt inside which offered a fresh contrast to the spice and other flavours.

Puri at Indian Accent restaurant
Delhi, India
For the love of pani puri, I will certainly be heading back to Westfields for this. I'm thinking that I can probably get these from places like Wembley and Tooting. Anyone have any pointers?

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