Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The art of eating Pani-puris

Stautory warning: Panipuri consumption does not enhance one's physique nor does it help in increasing one's I.Q. Panipuri consumption is just about having fun eating junk. In better words, Panipuri delaaye sirf mazaa baaki sab bakhwaas.

As a kid, I hated Panipuris ( Gol-gappas or water balls or what ever you call them). The water always seemed murky and the taste just about ok. After having it for the first time, I felt I would do well avoiding it. But being the "chat" lover that I am, it was impossible for me to stay away from this kind of junk food. As the years passed, I explored and now finally I have come to the conclusion that Panipuri eating is a one of the most delightful activities that one can ever engage oneself in. Of course Panipuri consumption is not just about having a Ping pong size Puri with a mix of salty water. On the contrary it is an art. This post goes to all those who still haven't discovered its taste and for those who hesitate before having a gulp of this delicacy.

The place:

First things first. It is important that you choose the right place. As per my experience, the place has to be slightly above the standards of the normal road side chats.Just a bit bigger and cleaner.( I am talking about the standards in Hyderabad. It might be otherwise in Nagpur or Mumbai).There are lot of such stalls coming up in Hyderabad these days. If you are in a fix to decide the place, I suggest you go by the price. A good Panipuri usually costs something like Rs 5 for 8/10 pieces ( or more). Don't opt for places where you get 3 Panipuris for Re.1. They usually don't taste good.

The company:

Hmmm.. I am not going to talk about the kind of company that you need to have while having a Pani-puri instead let me tell you the fact that "Panipuri" should be accompanied by "Onions" ( In fact my first line before I start eating would be "Thoda Pyaaz (onions) dallo Bhayya"). These onions should be sliced into small pieces and should be present even before you gulp the first Pani puri. Munching the onions after each gulp of Pani-puri is real fun.

The Size of the Puri:

The bigger the better. Ideally the Pani-puri size( fully filled with the Pani) should make you open your mouth to the maximum possible extent. Once you have it in your mouth, it should give you the "I have done it" feeling. This happens in the maximum mouth stretch case.

The turn-around time:

Turn-around time, ( not the Opearating Systems one :D ) is the difference in time that an individiual takes between the consumption of two panipuris. Ideally, when you finish one Pani-puri, the next should be ready to land in your mouth. This means that gulp time( time taken to gulp a pani-Puri) should be equal to the turn-around time.

There are many places where about 10 Pani-puris are served on the plate along the Pani( in a cup). This really takes the charm away from the Pani-puri-eating. ( Pani-puris served in plate look good only in pictures like the one above)Trying to stuff the Panipuri ( while you eat them) will increase the turn-around time and as the TAT( turn-around time) increases, the fun is lost. So let the pani-puris be served by a professional. In case the place doesnt serve you that way, look around for other eatables . Home made Pani puris might be good but it takes time to achieve the professional efficiency.

Count per cycle:

The count per cycle is the number of people who are served Panipuri in a sequential order. I have seen places where the count is 6-8 . This again results in a lag of TAT. The ideal count-per cycle is 3-4.(certainly not more than 4 and you also need to ensure that the Pani-puri wallah does it fast). If one is alone, the TAT might be too short and this might result in one concentrating on the pace rather thn relishing the taste which is not desirable. ( Now you need "company" when you eat Panipuri)

The chat temperature:

By chat temperature, I mean the degree of hotness or coldness of the chat or whatever that is stuffed into the Panipuri. If this is hot,( as hot as the other dishes like samosa chat that are on the menu), then nothing to beat that. However a good Pani-puri tastes fine irrespective of the chat temperature. In other words, an optimum temperature is just an add on and not a necessity. Don't let the "hot' factor fool you.( Tasteless things are sometimes made "hot" just to make the "sale" happen.)

The Pani:

The water used in the Puri may be sweet( meetha) or sour(khatta). One needs to ensure that water is meetha or khatta to the right extent. It might not be a great idea of mix both the flavours( it doesn't leave a distinct taste in the mouth). Have just the flavour you prefer and in case you want have both, have 5 Puris of one flavour and then 5 of the other.(Don't alternate).

So then,I guess this is lots of Gyan for folks who are yet to start/or about to start as far as Panipuris are concerned. Members of the farier sex usually love Pani-puris( I mean.. if they are junkies) because it perfectly suits their diet and appetite. The best thing about "Pani-puris" is you can have them anytime ( before/in between/after the main meal). After all it is just about making that small space in your tummy. Happy eating!!! Just make sure you don't do the Don'ts.

The Don'ts:

* Don't eat Panipuri at a place where it is served in a plate.
* Don't exceed the ideal count per cycle.(4)
* Never forget the onions.
* Don't eat Pani-puris when the stall is just about to close shop (the size of the left over Pani-puris is usually small).
* Don't take health and diet freaks along for a Pani-puri snack. (Drink mineral water with them :D)

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