, ,

TBI Food Secrets: If You Love Pani Puri, You Will Love the Interesting Story Behind its Origins Too!

Love reading positive news? Help The Better India grow

Support our endeavor to become every Indian's source of daily inspiring positive news. Read FAQs.

There is something comfortingly familiar about eating a humble pani puri – a crispy hollow ball made of semolina or wheat, filled with spicy potatoes and topped with tangy, spicy tamarind water made fragrant by mint leaves and black salt.

It may sound like culinary chaos, but that this spicy, crunchy wonder is absolutely delicious is something almost Indians will agree on.

Photo Source

Served by vendors from a setup that gives the word ‘utilitarian’ a run for its money, pani puri (also called golgappa, phuchka and a multitude of other monikers) is, in every sense, a material manifestation of the elusive emotion called “simple joy.” This innocuous street snack is also a great leveller – at a pani puri stall, you will see besuited businessmen step out of sleek cars to join the queue alongside the city’s poorest residents.

So how and where did this culinary gem really originate? Many believe that the answer lies in the history of the kingdom of Magadh.

One of the 16 Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms in Sanskrit) of ancient India, the Magadhan empire was situated on the banks of River Ganga in what is now west-central Bihar. Lively accounts of Magadh and its capital, Pataliputra, are available in the travel diaries of the Greek historian Megasthenes and the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims Faxian and Xuanzang.

It is believed that phulkis (the precursor to pani puri) first originated in Magadh at a time when several traditional specialities of the region, like chitba, pitthow, tilba and chewda of Katarni rice, were evolving. The culinary genius who invented them is lost in the pages of history, but if Indians had known who invented pani puri (or whatever you call this yummy snack), they would have thanked that person for generations!

Photo Source

There is another legend associated with the origin of pani puris. This is how it goes:

In the epic Mahabharata, a newly-wedded Draupadi returns home to be given a task by her mother-in-law Kunti. The Pandavas were on exile and Kunti wanted to test if her new daughter-in-law would be able to manage with the scarce resources.

So she gave Draupadi some leftover potato sabzi and just enough wheat dough to make one puri, instructing her to make food that would satisfy the hunger of all five of her sons. It is believed that this was when the new bride invented pani puri. Impressed with her daughter-in-law’s ingenuity, Kunti blessed the dish with immortality.

Photo Source

While the origins of this delicious snack is yet to be pinpointed with historical accuracy, the one thing that is clear is that pani puri travelled across India and made the country fall head over heels in love with it. Over the years, the combinations underwent many changes as each region developed its own version according to its preferences.

As a result, pani puri today has almost a dozen different names that changes from region to region. In most parts of central and southern India, it is called pani puri but the recipes have subtle variations. While in Maharashtra, hot ragda (white peas curry) is added to the potato mash, in Gujarat, it is boiled moong and in Karnataka, it is chopped onions.


Also ReadTBI Food Secrets: The Fascinating History Behind Rajasthan’s Traditional Dish Dal Baati Churma


In north India, pani puri is called gol gappe, gup chup, pani ke pataashe or phulkis. The signature element of this recipe is a spicy stuffing made out of a potato-chickpea mash and really tangy water, liberally infused with mint leaves. Interestingly, in Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, pani puri is called tikki, which is usually used to denote crispy potato patties in north India!

Photo Source

In West Bengal, pani puri is called phuchka, probably due to the ‘phuch’ sound it makes when you take a bite. The unique feature of the phuchka lies in the fact that it’s made of wholewheat, unlike the other that are usually made of flour or semolina. The phuchka water is also a little spicier and tangier than that used in the rest of the country.

Here are a few of our favourite pani puri joints from different parts of the country. If you know a place that serves the best panipuri you have ever had, let us know in the comments

Mumbai: Elco Market in Bandra

Delhi: Chote Lal Chaat Bhandar at Chawri Bazaar

Kolkata: Phuchka stall outside Victoria Memorial

Bangalore: Rakesh Kumar’s Pani Puri in Jayanagar

Chennai: Gangotree in Gopalapuram

Hyderabad: Maharaja Chaat in Jubilee Hills.

Lucknow: King of Chaat in Hazaratganj,

Ahmedabad: Shantaben Panipuriwala in Ellisbridge Corner

Nagpur: Gurukrupa Chaat Centre in Pratap Nagar

Patna: Pani puri stall in Maurya Lok complex

Pune: Jaishanker Panipuri wala in Babajan Chowk

Chandigarh: Ram Chaat Bhandaar in Sector 34

Guwahati: Ramdev Puchka stall in Kumarpara Panchali

Feature Photo Source

You May LikeTBI Food Secrets: Unravelling the Fascinating History of the Samosa, India’s Favourite Street Snack


Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
NEW: Click here to get positive news on WhatsApp!

Written by Sanchari Pal

A lover of all things creative and happy, Sanchari is a biotech engineer who fell in love with writing and decided to make it her profession. She is also a die-hard foodie, a pet-crazy human, a passionate history buff and an ardent lover of books. When she is not busy at The Better India, she can usually be found reading, laughing at silly cat videos and binge-watching TV seasons.