Panipuri is the lightest dish in terms of the exterior of the puri. It is hollow and light and crisp at the same time. The hollow structure allows it to accrue all flavors that are placed inside it. Panipuri can be modified to such an extent that even the permutations will baffle you. Each time the taste is slightly different from what was before. It is mainly due to the rough portion of fillings that go into the puri. No two puris are identical and neither is the amount of filling inside them. If the vendor tries to measure each and every component that goes inside the Panipuri, its originality is lost.
Panipuri is not that old as many researchers/food connoisseur claim it to be. A known story that circulates around is the story of Mahabharata and its relationship to the dish. It is described as a challenge for creating a dish with minimum possible resources. While it is not possible to create the dish and its elements without multiple ingredients, hearing out the story is important.
The queen Kunti wanted to test if her daughter-in-law Kunti could make do with even the smallest collection of resources. She gave her a portion of a vegetable concoction made with potatoes as the primary ingredient. For bread, she gave her pre-kneaded dough just enough to make one puri. Draupadi was baffled by the gesture but took on the challenge reluctantly. The Thought of the distribution of the dough into smaller fragments came into her mind. Instead of rolling one big and thick Puri, she made paper-thin tiny Puri and fried them to achieve little dough spheres. She punctured each puri by making a tiny crevice into them and then filled small portions of the potato vegetable inside them. The queen appreciated her wit and realized that she would indeed serve her kingdom, no matter the availability of resources.
The story is very encouraging but unfortunately cannot be substantiated with its mention in the scriptures. It is a dish that has many stories but little evidence to corroborate them. According to food specialists, the dish is not that old and was in existence in one of the 16 Sanskrit Kingdoms located in the Magadh region of Bihar. It is a known fact that Bihar's cuisine is extensively influenced by using multiple items made from rice such as chiwda, puffed rice, etc to name a few. Only in Bihar you will find the street vendors serving puffed rice with chat, chickpeas, and even non-vegetarian items.
Magadha region has an abundance of rice production from time immemorial. Using that grain to generate different forms of delicacies is ingenious. Another popular chat influence can be observed in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi has streets filled with the aroma of chat of different varieties where you will find surprising chats such as tamatar chat, palakpatta chat, etc. These chat items are not available at normal vendors as it takes a precise balance of flavors and experience to create one.
Moving further East into the Indian terrain you will find Kolkata as a bustling place for phuchkas that is another name for panipuri. The Kolkata style phuchka uses boiled horse gram, boiled potatoes and a mixture of masalas that go into it. The pani is the backbone of any phuchka, panipuri, or batasha (whatever you call it). The concoction of fresh ground coriander, cumin, black pepper, mint leaves, and salt leaves its mark on the tongue. A taste worthy of repetitive consumption and infused with digestion aiding properties does not harm your stomach. Unlike other fried snacks, the customizability options in PaniPuri are endless and the selection is not limited to just one type of paani.
In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh you may find up to 6-7 types of pani that will include the basic one, a cumin one, an asafetida one, curd and sweet chutney one, a garlic one, etc. These are just personal iterations and can vary with each outlet and vendor.
We're sure that you must be drooling and craving for PaniPuri. Don't worry, you can visit dosa and chat located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. We have an executive chef that only handles the chat section. Hailing from Magadha, Bihar, the authenticity is unmatched when you relish a dish like panipuri created by him. The whole chat section is filled with surprises that include the PaniPuri. The Pani itself is so tasty that you will want to just gulp it itself. The filling that we serve is a blend of crunchy and plain textures that will jolt your tastebuds. We request you to visit your nearest Dosa and Chat outlet, and taste our versatile and lip-smacking snacks and main course.