Sunday 21 October 2012

SOAM : A beginner's guide to Pani Puri

Pani Puri is possibly the most famous of Mumbai's street foods and Soam is my new favourite place for eating it - safely.

Build your own Pani Puri (pillowy puris, sprouting beans, potato, pani (minted water) and chutney

Pani Puri (otherwise known as golgappa in Northern India) varies from street stall to restaurant to cafe but generally consists of the Puri, a round, hollow, fried crispy semolina pastry, filled with a mixture of minted spiced water ('Pani'), tamarind chutney, potato, onion and chickpeas/yellow peas and sprouts. It is small enough to fit completely into your mouth.  They are so moreish that you end up eating one after the other until you're fit to burst.  In a restaurant, all the components will be served separately and you build your own.  Firstly by gently making a hole in the Puri with your finger, and then filling it up with each of the ingredients in turn, finally spooning the minty chilled water over the filled pastry.  The Puri is pretty fragile, I normally end up breaking it before I've completed the process with the result of everything landing on my chin rather than in my mouth.  This is definitely another Indian gastronomic artform!  Note, due to water being one of the ingredients, us Westerners normally stick to eating this at places where Bisleri or other bottled water is used - it is NOT advisable to brave this delicacy at an unrecognised street stall!  Hence why I recommend Soam as a good place to get stuck into Pani Puri.

Step by step instructions for creating your perfect Pani Puri mouthful (left to right, top to bottom)
1.  Gently make a hole in the top of your Puri with handle of spoon or your finger. 2. Line with yellow pea mixture. 3. Spoon in a morsel of potato 4. Add a few sprouted beans.  5. Mid creation. 6. Drip in some tamarind chutney.  7. Make sure you've filled your Puri adequately.  8.  Chilled minted water, Pani.  9.  Carefully spoon in the Pani. 10 Get it into your mouth before it leaks all over the place (not photographed!)
Soam is a mostly Gujurati pure vegetarian restaurant in South Mumbai near Chowpatty Beach.  There are also elements of Rajasthani Cuisine on the menu.  I am not expert enough to tell you whether the cooking is up to exacting Indian standards but I have had two very nice dining out experiences there.  Inside the restaurant is modern and clean and Soam is always busy.  Sometimes you may have to wait to be seated.  The service is excellent and the manager tries to take personal care of diners by explaining how to eat various street foods (including Pani Puri) to novices like me.  I have also tried the Farsan Platter  (snacks) which included tiny samosas stuffed with paneer and methi leaves (fenugreek) and dhokla (a soft bread-like food made with gram flour) and I have tried the delicious Sev Puri, another popular Mumbai Street food.  Sev Puri consists of crispy panis or papads, topped with finely chopped potatoes, onions and topped with chutneys and the sev - a crisp vermicelli made out of gram flour.  This is what gives the Sevi Puri its lovely crunch and again, you should be able to fit one piece in your mouth. (Errr not always succesful!).  The time before last, we also had lovely soft and light masala dosas - large potato pancakes filled with a spicy potato mixture.  Surely the next most popular street food in Mumbai! 

Here are a few more close ups of the food at Soam:

Enormous Mysore Masala Dosa - prior to being demolished, a perfect triangular envelope.
Sambar and coconut chutney in the background- these are the usual accompaniments to Dosas.
The contents - a delicious spicy potato mixture

Soam : very buzzy
Divine, crunchy, tangy Sev Puri (available at Masala Zone in London folks!)

Most of the items are 100-200 rupees - a meal for two or three with lassis or sweet lime sodas comes in at around 6-700 rupees.

There is a link to the menu here although the prices seem to be out of date:

Sadguru Sadan
Ground Floor
Chowpatty, Girgaon
(opposite Babulnath Temple and not far before you turn left on to Marine Drive)

With thanks to the various hand models used in this blog!

1 comment:

  1. I always wanted to be a hand model - my dream has finally been realised. Just wish I'd been for a manicure!!



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