Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Chaat Street, Indian chips mimic street food golgappa

December 13, 2005

Nine months ago I was in Delhi and not in the Polar Circle at midwinter, and it was there that I was introduced to golgappa, one of the top ten amazing things you could ever hope to put into your mouth. The more I re-peruse the images of food from ElBulliFatDuckAlineaMoto and the likes, the more I can’t get this unpretentious street food out of my mind.

Golgappa is a deep-fried pastry pillow, neither sweet nor savoury, which is served up in a most intimate way. The street vendor pokes a hole in the deep-fried puff, gives you a metal or leafenware bowl and then asks you if you are ‘ready’.

Ready? you say, *lifting one eyebrow.

And he takes that as a ‘yes’.

The vendor proceeds to ladle a liquid into the golgappa that quite strongly resembles brackish pond water. In actuality it is a tasty, thirst-quenching tamarind drink with crispy puffs and bits of melon or turnip floating around in it. Neither sweet nor savoury, this soupy mixture is best described as ‘refreshing’.

The vendor then hands you an about-to-drip-and-disintegrate golgappa filled with the liquid and you have to pop the entire thing into your mouth where it implodes instantly, crunch and rinse, and you can do nothing but laugh and sop up the dribble on the shoulder of your friend’s blouse.

By this time the vendor has already started to dish up another one, (pop, crush, rinse and swallow) and another one, and another one. The idea is that you are popping golgappa into your mouth as fast as you can until you beg him to stop by motioning with your tamarindily dripping fingers. A recent study on street food has proved that ninety-four percent of first-time eaters of golgappa say ‘wowwy’ in response to the experience.

How wise it is then that Frito-Lay should be inspired by golgappa for their Street Chaat line of chips in India. Poke-free. Drip-free.

* - Poetic license. I can’t lift only one eyebrow.

debra at 18:04 | | post to


  1. Yes! I had them at a street party in Mumbai once. It was more relaxed though. They were served with 3 different soup/sauces. we could fill them ourselves and determine our own pace. (still pretty high;-)

    I’m sure that this way of serving will be appreciaterd by an even higher percentage…

    Comment by Willem — December 14, 2005 @ 11:53

  2. Holy fnorking schnit! WoW !!!

    Man, I can almost picture/taste/experience the whole thing. That is just way too cool.

    I wanna go too.

    Comment by Dr. Biggles — December 15, 2005 @ 0:29

  3. Coolio Willem,

    Can you describe what sort of soupy sauces they were? I know it’s hard some times with (Indian) food when you don’t know the names for the ingredients. I’m going to do a Indian recipe search tomorrow on this very sûjet. In the photo on the chips bag, it looks like a sort of salsa verde but is undoubtedly something much more nuanced and wild.

    In this wonderful takeaway dessert chain called Haldirams, they had large golgappa that you filled with all manner of custardy goos. Not being a huge fan of sweeties, I didn’t fulfill my duties tasting everything in gawd’s creation, and missed out on the experience. Next time.

    Comment by Debra — December 15, 2005 @ 0:43

  4. Oh Dr. WigglyBiggly,

    Get yer tuchas on a jet-plane ASAP and make a visit to India. Your face will still hurt from smiling for half a year after your visit. Just about everything you put in your mouth is roq-a-ma-lish-ious, and many of the ‘haute cuisine’ technique that is going on in the elbullifatduckalineamoto is directly lifted from traditional street food or small kitchen style cooking. Plus India smells good. (Most of the time.)

    If you like to see and read about this stuff… I have tons of material from India, and China.

    Comment by debra — December 15, 2005 @ 0:51

  5. Maybe one of these days I will get to India and experience the culture.

    Comment by Jane — December 15, 2005 @ 13:21

  6. Another name for Golgappa is PaniPurri (water puri)

    You can also get taste of this treat at a local Chatt house. There are many in the SF Bay area, like Viks in Berkeley,ca. There is also the Chatt House in Berkeley. I think there are a couple of places in SF. Fremont and south bay are also abundant with places.

    Golgappa is both Indian and Pakistani. Like most of our cuisine it is varing with regions, but in its basics the same. Some areas more meats, seafoods, or vegies.

    The fillings can also have garbanzo beans, potatoes, or a variety of other things.

    The liquid inside is called Pani (or “water” in Urdu/Hindi) sometimes and made with a variety of things like tamarind and mint, etc.

    You’ll definatly be able to google Pani Purri or Golguppa and find some tasty recipes (which you can customize to your taste/ everyone has different favorite recipe), go to a local Indian/Pakistani/Middle Eastern market to get your ingrediants easy.

    The puri come ready made and easy to fry…

    Have fun!

    Comment by Sairah — December 15, 2005 @ 20:53

  7. The brown sweetish sauce is a tamarind and date sauce called meethi chutney (sweet chutney). The greenish water is made of crushed mint, green chilli and dried mango powder with black salt.

    Comment by VA — March 24, 2006 @ 13:11

  8. i have had golgappas more number of times than i can recall and they r simply one of d best things to ’sass’ u up..its like some sexy thing happening in your mouth..

    Comment by Priyanka — March 18, 2007 @ 21:02

culiblog is a registered trademark of Debra Solomon since 1995. Bla bla bla, sue yer ass. The content in this weblog is the intellectual property of the author and is licensed under a Creative Commons Deed (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5).