The very mention of chaat and golgappe immediately transport me to the days when my cousins and I used to go out shopping in the busy markets of Lajpat and Sarojini Nagar.  After a tiring shopping spree, we would head to our favourite food stall and gorge on a variety of street foods. From tikki chole to sev puri and chaat papdi, we would order it all. One memory that’s my most favourite of all is the time when my sibling and I placed a bet on who would eat the maximum golgappas in a row. I don’t remember how much we ate that day but the challenge surely went on till our stomachs ached. That’s the kind of association and nostalgia I feel whenever I think of street food. 

Amidst the pandemic, stepping out wasn’t an option and so the only thing that we craved at home was the spicy street food. That’s when my mother made golgappas for us at home one fine day. The taste was amazing but my heart yearned for that cliché street food experience. Interestingly, on my trips to Mumbai and Kolkata in the year prior to the pandemic I realized that the love for golgappas, or should I say pani puri or wait puchkas, is not just limited to Delhi. The fandom that this small spherical ball enjoys across the country is quite impressive. So much so that even the fillings and name of this humble street food has been adapted according to the region. 

A Glimpse Of History 

For the unversed, golgappas are fried balls made of either semolina or wheat. The invention of this interesting street snack has been credited to two different eras. One takes us to the Indian mythological legend of Mahabharata wherein Draupadi is considered to be the creator of this dish. The wife of Pandavas was given a task by her mother-in-law Kunti to prepare a dish that satiates all her five sons when they return home. Since she just had one poori worth dough of wheat and aloo subzi with her, she rolled them into smaller shells and filled them with the subzi. That’s how the dish received the honour of immortality by Kunti. 

Another one talks of how the dish was actually invented in the region of Magadha. The region, which is present-day Central Bihar, was booming with culinary experiments when phulkis came into being as the first kind of golgappas in the empire. 

Irrespective of where these lovable street pooris were born, what remains constant is the fame and craze for this street food across the Indian sub-continent. Here are some of the variations of my favourite golgappas. 

1.  Puchka 

Also known as fuchka, these puchkas are a popular street food item in the Eastern parts of India. From Bihar and Jharkhand to West Bengal, the fried atta balls which are slightly larger than regular ones, are stuffed with boiled grams and mashed potatoes. The tanginess owes itself to the imli chutney and gondhoraj lime juice that is added to the poori. This recipe right here is a variant of a regular puchka, smothered with fresh curd. 

2.  Paani Ke Bataashe 

Well-known across most areas of Uttar Pradesh like Kanpur, Lucknow as well as Rajasthan, these paani ke bataashe have something special in store. The bataashe or pooris are filled with white peas and boiled potatoes but the trick lies in the water. The spices used are very different and there are certain parts which are popular for selling five types of paani for the bataashe. 

3.  Pani Puri 

If there is anything that enjoys as much love and fame in Mumbai as the iconic vada pav and pav bhaji, it has to be their pani puri, I remember that on my visit to the city, my friend who is a native was showing us around and mentioned about garam golgappe which intrigued me. One bite in and I realized why it’s pani puri and not golgappe. The hollow pooris are filled with white bean filling and potatoes as soon as it is prepared. The warmth of the mixture with the spicy water and tangy chutney make the legendary pani puri that is relished across Gujarat and Maharashtra. 

4.  Gup Chup 

This quirky-named variation of golgappa is one that is at the heart of Hyderabad and Odisha’s street fare. The popping sound that the gup chup makes as soon as you stuff your mouth with it is what gives it the interesting name. The shell is made of a combination of whole wheat flour, refined flour as well as semolina. The filling could be that of white peas or chickpeas but the potatoes and water remains constant. 

5.  Pakodi 

No, it is not a close cousin of pakodas. The fried pooris are hollowed out to be filled with potatoes and a garnish of crunchy sev. Dunked in spicy green chilli and mint water, these pakodis are a favourite in the interiors of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. 

6.  Golgappas 

Last but not the least, golgappas are found across northern states of Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. These crunchy sooji balls (could also be atta) are stuffed with boiled chickpeas, diced potatoes and a tangy tamarind chutney. The water made from mint and boondi is spicy and golgappas are dipped into it before eating.