Is the panipuri getting better in Mumbai, or have I just lived here too long?
This Sunday’s random cycling took me to to the sylvan surroundings of Khar Station West where, right across the road from the station, a largish cart piled high with sev and other sundries caught my attention. Hungry and hot, I stopped by the bhel stall, met Rakesh from UP and had a round of pani puri
And then I had another round.
After a third flaming spicy round signalled the end of my endurance, I finally looked up teary eyed – not from the spice, but from the incredible good fortune to have discovered golgappa in this sea of panipuri they call Mumbai. Delhi-style puris (large wheat ones, not the small suji ones) and – wonder of wonders – spice tamarind water.
Now any purist knows that the reason Mumbai suffers in the panipuri scale is that coriander and mango makes for insipid, tasteless water. Tamarind, with its ability to grab the spices, attack the palate, steam vengeance out of the nostril is what makes panipuri worth having. And here Rakesh was, serving this holy grail of holy waters. It was still green in colour (lets not get too far ahead here and award the world’s best or any such thing yet) but it was nevertheless distinctly tangy and tamarind. Rakesh is also infected by that other Mumbai ill – filling the puri up with ragda – but he does have boiled potato on hand if you want it.
Puchka is still some distance away, but let us celebrate the first small step for pani puri. Rakesh has an indentical-looking neighbour – maybe I’ll try him next Sunday and see if he’s any good.