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April 20, 2009

My favourite ball sport

Dear Gol gappas, You are by far my favourite ball sport. You are my comfort food, my sustenance when broke and the one experience that completes any shopping trip. I love the way the tamarind chutney mixes with the boiled potatoes and chickpeas in you. I love you despite the near-death-experiences of the times I have choked on you. You are the flavour of India to me: sweet, spicy, tangy and yet undefinable. You are also my biggest craving. I miss you.
Love to eat you.

It started with helping out a friend, and now thanks to the good samaritan in me, I am craving. This friend -- the same one who wrote to me from New York saying she loves ghooghni -- is doing a thesis on favourite foods. She has also started a VERY cool website called My Food Valentine. The idea being we all write a love letter to our favourite food.

My love letter was to gol gappas. May I please request you to log in to her site and write a love letter to your favourite food as well?

So now I am seriously craving for gol gappas. Some educated folks have been calling them 'water balls', but that's an insult. A literal translation of gol gappa would mean 'round cheeks' because that's what happens when you eat it. In some parts of India, it is called pani puri and Bengalis call it puchka.

For those who don't know, gol gappas are round, flour pastries, filled with a mixture of boiled potatoes, chickpeas, a sweet 'n' sour tamarind sauce and a very tasty concoction of cumin-fennel-pepper water. It is one of India's most popular street foods. It is meant for the brave. It is also a great equaliser and a test of humility. Why? Because everyone looks ridiculous eating it. There is no gentle, lady-like biting involved, you are supposed to shove the entire ball into your mouth and chomp. I've nearly choked on it and yet, I totally love it.Almost everyone I know has a gol gappa anecdote. It is stuff of legends.

There are love stories that evolved around gol gappas: Guy takes girl out for date and feeds her etc. Most such girls will think they look very cute while eating a gol gappa (while the juice trickles down the sides of their mouths). Almost every neighbourhood aunty will complain at least once that the pani does not taste as good as it used to. Every second person will complain about the rising price of a plate. Every foreigner I have met is scared of eating a gol gappa as they usually think cholera. Contrarily, no Indian has been known to fall ill due to eating one. Most gol gappa loving Indians in fact ask for a plate of pani.

There are also fastest gol gappa eating contests amongst friends. If you ever see how fast some fataunties can gulp them, you will realise it's a sport. Like slurping is a sport in Australia, chomping gol gappas is a sport in India. And no matter how many tandoori chicken and curry joints you have in a foreign country; there are never any gol gappa stands/stalls. Sigh. I miss it.
What is your favourite Indian food/ street food? Please do write a love letter to your favourite food on My Food Valentine.

PS: Since I've not written a word on the novel during the Easter break, am off to the city today. To sit at some cafe, people-watch and finish a chapter.

7 comments:

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

"You are the flavour of India to me: sweet, spicy, tangy and yet undefinable."

Beautiful! And so true!

I have a long-standing love-affair with phuchkas as well, so I totally 'get' this.

Mystique said...

paanipuri. Want.
and hey. you haven't read Shantaram?
Go. Read. Now.

Ashish Chatterjee said...

It does take a Indian germ-laden-water-drinking immune system to have phuchkas safely. Another year in Australia and you will join the band on NRIs who can no longer eat them without gastrointestinal malfuntions but still just have to. :)

Piyush Hari said...

I never thought that the pic I took shall be useful for some people ! (That Gol Gappa pic was taken by me during my Delhi visit a couple of years ago)

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Cialis said...

Those look so delicious!

Elliott Broidy said...

Oh yes please