Pani Puri: Chaat 101

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Tired of the same old tired orange chicken and California rolls? Want to venture beyond the standard suburban-stale take-out? Here comes Chop PHX, with the Valley's rarer Asian offerings.

This Week:Pani Puri from Little India (1813 E Baseline Rd.Tempe)

The Basics: Pani puri is one dish from a larger grouping of Indian snack food known as chaat. Calling chaat "Indian tapas" would not be wholly inaccurate, they're smaller dishes that can be eaten individually as a tasty snack or eaten with other chaat dishes as a meal. Roughly translated, pani means water and puri refers to the crunchy semolina based shell. Pani puri is one of those rare dishes that is both filling and refreshing. The puri is filled with a mixture of potatoes, yellow peas and spices. Then it is dipped in the spicy puri and eaten at once.

Do the potatoes teleport into the puri? How do I eat this?

Little India's Pani Puri:
Little India's owner, Anita Kedia, said that the pani puri she serves is originally from northern India and traditionally served as both in chaat houses (cafe's that serve chaat and the omnipresent chai) and as street food.

According to her, pani puri is, "tasty on a hot summer day." This is because the pani is flavored with refreshing spices like tamarind, mint, cumin, black salt, pepper and a bit of lemon. When mangoes are in season, pani puri can be prepared with them to give each bite and even cooler rush of flavor.

The draw of pani puri is that is refreshing, tasty and fun to eat.

How do I eat this?

1.Tap a hole in that puri (the crunchy bit).

​2. Put your filling in that puri.

​3. Dunk the whole thing in the flavored water.

4. Consume it in one bite! Do not nibble at it or the puri will breakdown and you'll end up with spicy potatoes and sauce everywhere.

Should I be scared? Unless you find potatoes or spicy food scary, this is a safe dish for anyone to try.

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