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Gol Gappa – arguably India’s most peculiar street snack

Gol Gappa (crispy dough ball = gol; food = Gappa) is probably one of the most popular, but also one of the most peculiar Indian snacks ever, especially for the western palate. It is also known as “Pani Puri” – a crispy puri filled with spicy water, the Pani.

The Punjab region snack is a crispy hollow tennis ball made out of dough, filled with a potato-pea onion mass, a sweet chutney and a spicy tamarind-coriander mint sauce. Then the ball must be taken into the mouth at time. What happens then is a real explosion of taste: when the shell of the crispy ball bursts in the mouth, the sweet chutney mixes with the spicy sauce and the soft potato filling, resulting in a completely unfamiliar but harmonious taste combination and the liquid at the same time is refreshing and light. So easy, that you’re probably not just having one or two of the Gol Gappa. No, the street snack comes as a whole plate with four pieces, which you then plaster together to order the next plate.

There are  unofficial Gol Gappa Eating competitions and there are supposed to be Indians, which can eat as many as 50 pieces.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend trying this snack on the street. I am all the happier to appreciate that I had the opportunity for a professional “Mithai Wallah (a trained candy and snack maker) to prepare these refined balls for me and in my company.

The recipe is complicated. On the one hand, because it has four sub-components, and on the other hand because the spice ingredients are very special. Nevertheless, I wrote down the recipe for your interest.

Ingredients and preparation

(for 4 people (30-40 Gol Gappas))

For the dough:

100 g semolina

100 g flour

1/2 packet of baking powder

200 g water

  • Knead everything into a dough and leave to rest covered with a damp cloth for 30 min.

  • Then form hazelnut-sized balls, press them flat and roll them out to a thin 3 cm diameter large slice (add some oil to the base).

  • Then heat the oil in a frying pan, add the slices to the oil one by one. Press the slices with the foam spoon a little. As soon as the slices inflate like balls, turn them a few times until they take on a golden-brown color. Place on kitchen paper for draining.

For the spicy sauce:

150 g tamarind pulp

1 tbsp salt

400 ml water

2 packets (8 g) Jal Jeera (mixture of salt, cumin, mango powder, sugar, pepper, mint, black salt and chilli)

1 tsp chaat masala (Indian spice mixture consisting of salt, mango powder, mint, black salt, chilli, cumin, pomegranate, coriander, black cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, black pepper, asant, cloves, girsch)

  • Mixing everything together

100 g fresh mint

100 g fresh coriander

2 green chillies

  • Add to the kitchen blender and mix everything together (with some of watery mix) to a uniform mass
  • Add the mixture to the water with the tamarind and mix well. To ensure that the tamarind gives its sweet and sour taste to the water, it is good if you knead the tamarind well by hand.
  • Leave to stand for 30 minutes, then transfer the liquid through a sieve.

For the sweet chutney:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tsp cross cumin seeds
  • 4 tbsp dried mango powder
  • 150 ml water
  • 10 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • Heat the oil, then roast the cumin seeds until they take on a brownish colour. Then add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

For the potato pea filling:

  • 2 boiled potatoes
  • 50 g dried peas (soak overnight and then cook)
  • 1 onion diced
  • Three chopped green chilli
  • 1/4 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tbsp salt
  • Roughly crush the potato so that small pieces are still visible. Then mix with all the ingredients to a mass.

Eating the Gol Gappa

Now comes the fun part, because the food of the Gol Gappa is above all a social event and requires the use of the hand:

  1. Push a hazelnut big hole into the crunchball

2. Add a teaspoon of the potato mixture to the opening

3. Now add a teaspoon of the sweet chutney

4. Dip the whole ball into the spicy sauce and top up with the sauce

5. With one bite quickly put the Gol Gappa in the mouth and enjoy. Important: the mouth should remain closed while chewing ☺

My friend Rajesh (pictured) is a professional in Gol Gappa Eating and explains how we should have it.