creative writing, Food & Culture

An Ode to the Gol Gappa

I sing a thousand praises in your name, O Inventor of Gol Gappa*. Were you aware that with this one humble recipe from your Benarasi kitchen, you had changed the innocent landscape of India’s street food scene forever? That long after your death, children would be pestering their mothers for a round of gol gappay from their favourite panipuri wallah**? That after leaving for greener pastures, Indians in every corner of the world would fondly recall this unassuming, humble snack and pine for it the way a lover pines for his beloved? And somehow, even Indians who never knew that motherland would discover a recessive gene that mysteriously craves for an explosive combination of sweet and sour? After all, what is a gol gappa? A hollowed out shell of a mini puri punctured at its crown, stuffed with a tangy mix of potatoes, meethi^ chutney and shudderingly sour tamarind water; small enough to be eaten whole and big enough to make the whole exercise an example of how food can be such delicious fun. Did you name it yourself, knowing that gol, meaning round in Hindi, refers to the shape of the snack, but is no doubt also a description of the delightful O your mouth needs to shape into to accommodate it?

What’s the best part of the gol gappa? Is it that first crunch that shatters the crispy fried dough? Is it the moment the sour tamarind floods your mouth while your eyebrows shoot upwards in response to that first shock of taste? Or when the meethi chutney’s sweetness cuts through the tamarind like a blessing and brings relief to your molars? Or could it be – and this is my favourite bit – that frantic journey the gol gappa makes from plate to mouth, the way you move extra quick when there are holes in the puri, how your lips stretch extra wide, knowing how absolutely stupid you must look, the self-consciousness bringing an inevitable grin to your face so you end up smiling with your mouth in a great big O?

Oh, what a riot.

Glossary

*Gol gappa is what this snack is called by in Delhi. Gol gappay is the plural of gol (round) gappa (something that is eaten in one bite).

** In Mumbai, gol gappa is known as pani (water) puri (fried dough/bread). A panipuri wallah is a street vendor who sells the snack.

^ meethi = sweet

Edit: I am so thrilled to see the response this post has gotten from gol gappay lovers all over the world! Thank you for sharing the locations of your favourite gol gappay wallahs and joining in my celebration of this super chaat. 

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77 thoughts on “An Ode to the Gol Gappa

  1. My mouth just flooded with saliva and I swallowed in a great big gulp. Must go gol gappa hunting this evening in Dubai . he he
    Congrats on being freshly pressed! May the blessings of a thousand gol gappawallahs facing an onslaught of wordpress readers descend on you.

  2. Your writing and pictures transported me right back to Mumbai and the “street food” we so enjoyed on a daily basis! Yes, we called them Pani Puris in Mumbai and most of my friends and I could toss down about 8-10 of these … no problem! I try to duplicate this snack with the ready made puris from the Indian store and then fill them with either boiled potatoes or steamed and sprouted green mung beans, topped with the tamarind chutney and cilantro leaves, chopped. Thanks for the posting!

  3. Well..I just had Gol gappas yesterday! 🙂 I am from Kolkata and we call it ‘Phuchka’ here. The quintessential piece of phuchka is the one which the seller or ‘Phuchkawala’ gives you at last when you ask for an extra.. The dry one with a dash of lemon and tamarind with coriander leaves sprinkled over it.. Perfect!

    • Phuchka! That’s great, I didn’t know that – thanks for sharing! I recently learnt that gol gappay are also known as gupchup in central India. Why does this food have such deliciously cute names? Haha..

  4. Every weekend, a trip to nearest local market is a must-do thing to quench the craving my wife starts having for gol-gappa/paani puri/puchka – in Delhi you can get two versions of them, my wife loves soojiwala (made with semolina) while I like the crispy plain wheat flour one with a little extra sonth (sweet chutney). The must have place in delhi for us is at Gole Market, outside Bengali Bakery shop 🙂
    http://wp.me/pnx59-kU

    • I haven’t tried the sooji ones before. I live in Singapore, and the only place you can get gol gappay here are at restaurants where a plate of 5 or 6 costs about USD4 to USD5, and I seriously doubt the puris are made fresh (they taste pre-packaged).

      I’m definitely checking out your recommendation at Gole Market the next time I head up to India 😀

  5. Monday afternoon and you have me drooling 🙂 ..Loved your play with words !! Have a few of my own memories associated with the gol gappa – the circle around the gol gappe wallah bhaiya and the frantic urge to finish one before the next one lands on your plate ,the request for the last “saada ” (plain) gol gappa or papdi after finishing your round and drinking the spicy ,tangy “paani” even though the mouth is almost burning ,just so that the taste lingers a little longer …

  6. Tanya says:

    The best part of visiting India is the street food. Consequently, it’s the worst part as well depending on how tolerating is your immune system. I could definitely go for a round of gol guppas.

  7. I had to read this post when I saw what it was about in the Freshly Pressed Page…But, lady, you made me crave for pani puri right now. I love it. I feel so darn fortunate for being an Indian because of the food we have here and the king of all the treasures and pleasures is the Gol Gappa (: I loved your post! Thanks for sharing.

  8. this is an ultimate tribute to my first love :gol gappa.. i wish i could have them stuffed in my mouth day in day out.. :p loved your piece , i swear in the name of the great gol gappa ! delicious!!!!

  9. Reblogged this on Strollfree and commented:
    Panipuri, my love!!!
    I am eternally thankful to the person who invented Panipuri.
    Put it inside your mouth. Then close your eyes and experience one of the clever inventions of human beings.
    Here I have decided to share with you my version of panipuri recipe which not only will win your vote but will help you to win praise from others.
    Spicy Chutney:
    Take a bunch of mint (pudina). Wash it and chop it finely. Chop a few green chillies (4-5). Take a piece of ginger (one inch) and a few petals of garlic (6-7). Mix everything together. Then add powders of corriander seeds and cumin seeds. Add water to blend everything in a mixer to make a fine paste. Now add black salt in it. If you haven’t got it, use normal salt. To make it diluted add sufficient quantity of water and ice cubes.
    Sweet chutney:
    Soak tamarind (half bowl) in water for half an hour. Then remove the seeds and hard parts of tamarind and blend it in a mixer to make a fine paste. In a pot put 4-5 spoons of water and turn the gas on. Add grated jaggery (half bowl) to it. Let it melt. Keep the flame on minimum to prevent the jiggery from burning. Now add the paste of tamarind in it. Add cumin seed power, coriander seed powder and black salt to it. Turn off the burner.
    Ragda:
    Get salted bundi from market. Soak it in little quantity of water for 10 minutes. Add salt and boiled moong in it.
    Panipuri packets are easily available in markets. Get a packet of 50 puris . Put radga, sweet chutney and spicy chutney in each puri and enjoy the awesomeness!!

  10. Oh my goodness, one of the best aspects of Indian food, nothing compares to the thrill and absolute awesomness of Gol Gappa, just the thought is enough to make you smile, and also make you very very hungry… 🙂

  11. Pingback: A Literary Family for Book Lovers | Preet Kaur

  12. Yum! We can get dahi puri here as a starter at my favourite Indian restaurant but we don’t have the option of eating it as a street snack because we don’t have vendors who offer it. If only it was ok just nip into a restaurant for a quick snack. I always think of puri as similar to a nacho loaded up with goodies 🙂

  13. It really nice that I found this post, I love golgappa’s and there’s so much to write about it.Cheers to you for writing such a nice article about it…Golgappa is also known as ‘PUCHKA’ in Bengal 🙂

  14. I have a sore throat, my head aches… but my main priority now is to find a Gol-gappa stall — And believe me not as easy as you might think in a south Indian city! Great post!

  15. You’ve made so many peoples’ mouth water with that tempting photograph of the irresistible gol gappas and its details. I’m the latest victim. Well done 🙂

  16. Reblogged this on Blog For Anyone and commented:
    Mouth Watering Blog!!!

    Malaysians who are craving for Panipuri can visit WTF – What Tasty Food in Bangsar, KualaLampur.

    You can find the information about WTF on their facebook page Facebook . I visit here almost every week especially for panipuri.. I am sharing WTF details here for my fellow gol gappa lovers residing in KL,Malaysia.

    Enjoy!!! 🙂

  17. I am literally having panipuri in my imaginations while I am reading this.. 🙂

    Cannot resist from Reblogging!!!

    Reblogged this on BlogForAnyone and commented :

    Mouth Watering Blog!!!

    Malaysians who are craving for Panipuri can visit WTF – What Tasty Food in Bangsar, KualaLampur.

    You can find the information about WTF on their facebook page Facebook . I visit here almost every week especially for panipuri.. I am sharing WTF details here for my fellow gol gappa lovers residing in KL,Malaysia.

    Enjoy!!! 🙂

  18. shekar says:

    thanks, i learnt from salim-anarkali story that how stupid we, the men are , that too father and son, akbar and his son…Khuda ofice…. MS OFFICE……bye

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