Pani Puri Chaat in Mumbai, India
On our walking tour of Bandra in Mumbai, our guide took us to his favorite place for chaat, which he explained is a broad range of savory snack foods sold in small shops and street stalls across India. Chaat is good anytime, but is often eaten as a quick lunch, as an hors d'oeuvre before dinner, or just a fun evening pastime.
There are many different kinds of chaat with some common elements: a base of crispy fried wheat or puffed rice, mixed vegetables of some sort, tangy and spicy chutney, a sprinkling of chopped cilantro, and a coating of crunch (like crunchy fried potato sticks).
My favorite was Pani Puri chaat. Crispy, thin, hollow pockets filled with a few fingers of spiced potatoes and chickpeas, hand-dipped in a coriander and mint flavored water, followed by another dunk in a sugar-laced ice bath. A dash of masala powder and the whole ensemble is popped straight between your lips. Boom! I never had a food awaken every taste bud on my tongue like pani puri. My favorite Pani Puri place in Mumbai added a hefty dollop of yogurt on top, which was sheer joy!