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Panipuri is a small snack food commonly found in India. It is made from a small, hollow piece of fried unleavened bread known as puri that is filled with mashed potatoes and other ingredients, then dipped into or filled with thick, flavored water and eaten immediately. The effect is that all of the flavors of the panipuri are released at once into the mouth, providing a sweet, sour and savory taste at the same time. Street vendors often serve panipuri, although they need to be made quickly and handed to the customer to be eaten immediately, because the liquids inside of the hollow puri can quickly disintegrate the bread. Another way to serve the snack is to allow the guests to assemble each one as they wish.
The small, bite-size panipuri is comprised of three, or sometimes four, distinct elements that are usually prepared separately. The first is the puri bread, which can be made in advance and stored in a container. The second is the pani, or flavored water, that the puri is eventually filled with or dipped into. The third part is the solid, mashed filling for the bread. Some recipes also call for a type of chutney that is spooned over the filling.
Puri is a type of Indian bread made from flour, water and oil. It is kneaded and rolled into flat discs. For panipuri, the discs have to be small enough so the finished bread will fit into the mouth in a single bite. The dough rounds are deep fried in oil, where they inflate with steam, creating a delicate, hollow piece of bread.
Pani is a type of infused water in which the ingredients help to make the water thicker. A common type of pani is made from tamarind, mint, chilies, cumin, ginger and cilantro. All of the ingredients are ground together or put into a blender and mixed with water. The mixture is chilled for a time, after which it is strained to keep the thick liquid smooth.
The filling for panipuri can vary widely from one area to another, although some combinations are more popular than others. Most fillings start with boiled potatoes that are mashed. Finely chopped onions, beans or grains, and sometimes yogurt are added to the potatoes and mixed until smooth.
Some preparations also call for a type of chutney. This is often made from tamarind paste, chili powder, cumin and brown sugar that have been mixed together. Although it is not necessary, the chutney sometimes provides an extra sweet and sour taste to the panipuri when the pani is not enough.
To make panipuri, the puri is placed on a dish and a hole is gently made in the top. The filling is placed inside, followed by the chutney on top. The pani can then be spooned into the puri, or the filled puri can be dipped into a bowl containing the water. It is traditional to place the entire snack into the mouth at one time to appreciate the complexity of the dish and to prevent the water from leaking out.
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