India is an amazing country filled with sights, colors, sounds, food, diversity and history. As my husband is from Kolkata in the Indian State of West Bengal it goes without saying I have been there a few times since we have been together. We usually stay at his parents home which is about 1 hour from downtown Kolkata. It did not take long for me to realize that if you want to see the real India and not a bit of culture thrown in to five star comfort you have to get out and walk around. But believe you me that is quite the daunting task.
Avoiding the swerving symphony of cars, rickshaws, bikes, and buses while photographing on the street takes some skills to put it mildly. But out there is where you see life happening in all of it’s loveliness. Plus as a cookbook author and photographer I get to visually take in all of the street food. Things you just don’t appreciate when you are flying back and forth between popular tourist sites here and a hotel.
As a photographer the real magic happens on the streets in India. Don’t get me wrong..the Taj Mahal is a bucket list moment if ever there was one. But after marrying my Indian husband and staying in an actual neighboorhood instead of a hotel I quickly discovered the streets of India. Shop fronts selling outfits in turquoise, red, gold, green, purple, and more. Children laughing and running about in their school uniforms. Rickshaw drivers stopping and laughing because I want to take their photograph.
Currently I am in India working for a bit and exploring the unseen and real life here in India. Naturally that includes lots of delicious and interesting food. My husband long ago introduced me to a popular street food dish called Pani Puri which roughly translated is water in a shell. It is a delicious crispy shell that you fill with a homemade potato and onion mixture along with a spiced water. It makes a nice light appetizer.
24 puris from an Indian grocery store
1 small container of chutney
2 tablespoons of chopped coriander
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 small green chili with the seeds removed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablesppon tamarind
1 teaspoon masala powder
3 cups of water
Peel the potatoes.
Cook the potatoes until they are completely soft for roughly 45 to 50 minutes. Once cooked chop all three potatoes. Chop onion finely. Mix the cooked potatoes, onions, coriander, masala, and salt and pepper. Mix and set aside.
For the pani (or water)
Soak the tamarind in ½ cup of water for approximately 1 hour. Strain the pulp and save the remaining mixture.
Combine the mixture with the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper in a blender and grind to a fine paste using a little water roughly 2 tablespoons.
Transfer the paste into a large bowl and combine with 1 cup of water at a time then taste. Add up to 1 to 2 cups of water to adjust taste if needed. Season with salt and pepper.
Chill for several hours so that the flavors incorporate.
How to assemble:
Crack a small hole in the centre of each puri shell.
Fill with a little of the potato mixture, then a bit of the water or pani mixture. Add chutney if desired.