Vantage point

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Pune's Best Pani Puri

As a panipuri expert, I am pleased to announce that Pune finally has a panipuri vendor who can match the audacious taste of the Lucknow vendors.

The serpentine canal road that joins Prabhat Road to Law College Road is a popular spot for couples to park their vehicles and "cootchie coo". Now it has another claim to fame. Operating out of the backyard of a house flanking the road is a chaatwaala whose concoctions will blow your mind.

This establishment, whole name is either "Kalyan Bhel" or "Kalpana Bhel" (age is taking its toll on my memory) does roaring business in the evening, when the couples that frequent the canal road are joined by college students, children, folks returning from office, and pensioners out for a walk. In just a matter of few years, the chaatwaala has already achieved cult status.

While his ragda puri and bhel puri are delicious too, what really steals the deal is his pani puri.

In Pune and Mumbai, chaatwaalas will generally have teekha paani, i e hot water, with a lot of pepper and cumin, and they will have meetha paani, i.e sweet water, usually made from tamarind, sugar and dates. Up north, folks believe in using only the hot water.

This place takes the radical middle path, combining all the ingredients into one liquid, which is unbelievably tangy. As an innovation, he also adds khaara boondi to the liquid, which bobs around in the filled puri as you partake of it.

The experience sends your tastebuds into an orgasmic trance from which they will take some time to recover. Bliss!

If you live in Pune, you must make a trip to this place, and share with me the delight of the pani puri that is the city's best, and definitely in the country's top ten.