Pani Puri: can’t have one without the other.
By Mahmood Hossain
You can call it nostalgia, tradition, or a cultural obligation, pani puri has been at the top of the desi street food pyramid for decades. The origin of pani puri, puschka, gol gappa, gup chup, or whatever your region affectionately calls it in different presentations, can be traced back to over three centuries ago – a descendent of ‘phulkari’, originating in the Magadha Kingdom (part of modern-day Bihar). This was around the same time that salty snacks became a fad throughout the subcontinent.
Crispy, mouth-watering, and an explosion of flavours make pani puri a spiritual experience. Who would have thought the combination of spiced mashed potatoes, chopped onions with mint, and fried mushy peas slathered in either tamarind chutney, chilli powder, or chaat masala could be so sinfully delicious? Some of us can devour plates of these deep-fried breaded spheres, bracing ourselves for the digestive consequences that follow. It’s worth it.
We at Masala adore this street snack wonder so much that we took the opportunity to discover some of the more distinct and delicious pani puris around Bangkok. The results may have varied but it left us drooling for more.
The flavours of the Konkan, Malabar, Chettinad, Pondicherry, and the Bay of Bengal regions never tasted so good outside India’s coasts. Jhol has always been on the top list of must-visit restaurants in Bangkok for various reasons. One of them happens to be a unique take on pani puri. Filled with fresh avocado, jicama, and spiced passion fruit water, this rendition of pani puri brilliantly maintained the essence of our favourite street snack. We could never imagine such a simple and contemporary take on pani puri could tickle our fancy. In this case, innovation wins.
Facebook and Instagram: @jholbkk
Serving Mughlai-style cuisine since 2005, Indus has been listed on the Michelin Guide for five consecutive years (2018-2022). Its dining area, with a view of its tropical garden, becomes ideal seating to enjoy a serving of pani puri. Indus takes a more traditional take on the street snack, providing a similar experience you might have had at a street stall selling plates of scrumptious, bite-sized crispy treats. Minus the streets and the stalls, of course. From the ingredients to the pani (water) itself, Indus delivers a solid snacking experience with a balance of spices.
Facebook and Instagram: @indusbkk
A usual suspect of dependable Indian food, and quite well-known to many throughout Bangkok, Bawarchi provided us with a pleasant and refreshing surprise. Their pani puri comes in three different varieties, accompanied by either watermelon, orange, or avocado pani. The watermelon goes down smoothly, the orange delivers a citrusy kick, and last not but least our favourite, the avocado water is the closest to delivering that tangy and spicy pani we’re all used to. Depending on the choice of flavours, Bawarchi’s offerings can become a go-to palate cleanser before you dig into the restaurant’s main dishes and desserts.
If you were to look for a more communal experience, with a floor layout and seating that can easily handle droves of guests coming in and out for a quick bite, look no further than Chowpati, providing simple, fresh, and made-from-scratch plates of pani puri. The folks at Chowpati take pride in putting together authentic flavours and fillings that transport you to Mumbai street-side snack stalls. With homemade spices, mint, coriander, green chillis, cumin powder, chaat masala, and what have you, Chowpati delivers consistent doses of these crispy balls filled with potatoes, chickpeas, and tamarind chutney.
Facebook and Instagram: @chowpatibkk
And now, a few options that deliver to your doorstep.
Marigold by Gaa
Marigold by Gaa happens to be a delicious extension of the highly-ranked Gaa restaurant, and it is incredibly rewarding when you have a Michelin-starred chef at the helm, with Chef Garima Arora calling the shots. With that said, Marigold’s approach to pani puri can be compared to high-end fashion labels incorporating street-style looks onto their latest runway collections. Marigold’s pani puri, as my colleague eloquently put it, is a blend of sophistication and jhakaas! Their balance of flavours is flawless, from the firm yet easily breakable deep-fried vessels, to the exquisitely spiced mint, tangy tamarind liquid gold, and everything in between, it’s a must-try!
Available on foodpanda, Grab, or LINE (@marigold.delights)
Namkeenz & More
There are many ways to enjoy pani puri, and one of them happens to be in the comfort of your own home, as proven by Namkeenz & More, which delivers a delicious homemade version of the snack. Sometimes it’s the simplicity of combining aata and suji puris with boiled potatoes and kala chana, with the selection of sweet and sour pani that gets the job done. Their packaging is up to standard to complement the flavours expected from the scrumptious mouthfuls, and at THB 100 per plate (10 puris), the quality and amount served hit the sweet spot. Or in this case, even the sour one.
Tel: 081 658 8180
Facebook and Instagram: @namkeenzandmore
House of Chaats by Madhu Pawa
Yet another delivery of tasty pani puri under your own roof, House of Chaats by Madhu Pawa is just a call away. Alongside the kitchen’s traditional Indian food and snacks, the homemade labour of love goes for THB 60 a plate, packed with 10 wonderfully crispy puris and traditional fillings, making this delivery a worthwhile cause. This is literally a taste of home. Not to mention, a perfect excuse to share a plate of goodies with your family and friends, while avoiding the traffic and queue at a bustling street stall.
Tel: 085 133 5308