Pani Puri

Nidhi Jalan, the owner of Masala Mama, makes these fun little bites every year for Holi -- the Indian festival of spring. Fragile, puffed wafers are popped and stuffed with a spiced chickpea-and-potato mixture and then filled with a flavored water (the most important part). Nidhi shares her mother's green mango water, which is flavored with cilantro, mint and chilies.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 30 shells
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Ingredients

Green Mango Water:

1 cup peeled, cubed green mango (see Cook's Note)

2 Thai green or serrano chilies, roughly chopped (seeds removed for less heat)

1 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped (about 2 cups)

1/2 bunch mint, leaves picked (about 1/2 cup)

Juice from 3 limes (about 1/3 cup)

1 1/2 teaspoons roasted ground cumin (see Cook's Note)

1 tablespoon fine Indian black salt (kala namak) (see Cook's Note)

Fine sea salt

Sugar or jaggery, to taste (see Cook's Note)

Potato Filling:

2 tablespoons dried black chickpeas (kala chana), soaked in water overnight (see Cook's Note)

A pinch of baking soda

Fine sea salt

2 medium Yukon gold potatoes

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 teaspoon roasted ground cumin 

1/4 teaspoon fine Indian black salt (kala namak) 

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Juice from half a lime (about 1 tablespoon)

30 Pani Puri shells, about 1 1/2-to-2-inches round (see Cook's Note)

Directions

  1. For the green mango water: Combine the green mango, chilies, cilantro, mint, lime juice and 1/2 cup water in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and add the cumin, black salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and 3 cups water. Whisk to combine. Add sugar to taste (this will depend on the sweetness of the green mango).
  2. For the potato filling: Put the soaked black chickpeas in a small saucepan and fill the pan halfway with cold water. Stir in a pinch of baking soda and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat then reduce the heat to maintain a strong simmer and cook until the chickpeas are tender, about 45 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, put the potatoes into a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to maintain a strong simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. 
  4. Drain the chickpeas and potatoes and allow to cool slightly. The cooked chickpeas should yield about 1/4 cup. Peel the potatoes then mash with a potato masher until coarsely mashed. Add the chickpeas, cilantro, cumin, black salt, chili powder, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt.
  5. For assembly: Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 225 degrees F. Put the pani puri shells on a baking sheet and bake until crispy (you don't want the shells to brown at all), 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. To eat: One at a time, crack a small hole on top of the thinner side of a pani puri shell then add 1 teaspoon of the potato mixture and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the green mango water. Pop the whole pani puri in your mouth in one shot. Eat the assembled pani puris as you make them since they will become soggy if they sit at all.

Cook’s Note

A green mango is essentially an unripe mango--so it will be more sour than sweet. Look for roasted ground cumin in your grocery store or toast and grind your own cumin seeds. Fine Indian black salt (kala namak) is a pungent-smelling lava rock salt that packs a ton of umami so a little goes a long way. Made by evaporating cane juice, jaggery can be found as a powder or more commonly in clumps. Black Chickpeas (kala chana) are a rare variety that are smaller and slightly nuttier than regular chickpeas. Pani Puri are crispy shells, shaped like ping-pong balls. All of the above can be found in Indian food markets.