I’m getting bolder in my culinary adventures. (Indian cheesecake anyone? Hahaha!) Those I typically eat with tend to order food for me so that I can try new things, or they will prevent me from eating something they do not think will suit me well. The later can sometimes be frustrating, but I take it as a display of kindness and their caring nature.
Last night I was cautiously presented with a new opportunity to take it a step further: street food. Not only was it street food, but it was street food that allegedly can topple the native Indian’s digestive system. Yes, we went right for the big guns. Meha, Kriti and I had planned to wander Gandhi Road in search of gifts and running errands as well as experiencing “true India.” As we checked each thing off the list, Meha grew more and more excited about THE ITEM: "Introduce Emily to pani puri." This was the item on the list that would have been circled, underlined, bolded and maybe even clouded for good measure.
Both girls were excitedly dubious about this task, as they knew the risks and voiced their concern if I fell ill. In the end they decided I would be allowed to enjoy one (and only one) pani puri from the street vendor and would then have to experience more from a “hygienic” establishment. You see, the street vendor serves a morsel that no hygienic place can match. I NEEDED to have a street pani puri.
Looking back on this, I feel it was cruel. Not because they were knowingly risking my well-being, but because they only allowed me to eat one, solitary street pani puri. It was worth the hype that Meha and Kriti gave it. Later that evening, I was able to satiate my craving for more with a stop a “hygienic” restaurant for more traditional Northern Indian foods including: pav bhaji and chana samosa.
The photos will provide more details, but I will try to describe the pani puri. Each bite is about the size of a cream puff and serves as the “vehicle” for an epic potatoe and chickpea filling. The “puff” is made of thin, crispy pastry-like bread and is broken open with the thumb to receive a scoop of the filling. Then the whole thing is dipped into a broth (which is where the “unhygienic” part comes in) that is tart, salty, and wholesome. After it is dipped, the entire pani puri is to be placed in the mouth and consumed; a greater challenge then you think. The taste is mildly salty and reminiscent of limes and cilantro. The texture is simultaneously crunchy, soft, and creamy. It is a little explosion of culinary delight pocketed in a small little puff of magic. That is all. And I survived the street food; all the better for trying it as well.