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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