Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Delicious Debauchery

Read this post in my friend Gaurav Sabnis’s blog. He claims to be a "panipuri expert", but, as I pointed out to him, a career in consuming panipuris is never complete without the delicious phuchkas (panipuri) of Kolkata -pretty much like a batsman's accomplishments, which seldom command respect unless he scores a century in Perth, on a bouncy track in windy conditions, facing the greatest bowling attack in the world at present.

As all panipuri lovers know, there are three crucial components that go into the making of this truly indigenous innovation, namely:
1) the globe (called the "phuchka" in Kolkata)
2) the stuffing inside the globe (referred to as the "choormoor" in Kolkata)
3) the pani (referred to as "tetuljol"in Kolkata)

(What exactly is the Puri, then, I wonder. Can someone lend me a helping hand?)

The first, in keeping with the perfectly competitive nature of its market, is more or less homogeneous across the length and breadth of this country and hence seldom emerges as the differentiating factor, or, as we MBAs love to call it, the USP. The rough cricketing equivalent of this would be the cricket bat.

What makes the crucial difference are the second and third components, the rough cricketing equivalents of which would be the technique and the temperament. It is here that the true genius of the creator comes into play; it is here that He (the phuchkawala, often greatly revered in Kolkata) “pulls up his socks” and “shows his true mettle.”

One of the worst-kept secrets in the world is that the unique taste of Coca-Cola comes from the highly mysterious “Flavour X” and that the recipe has been protected safely in some bank vault in Atlanta for some zillion years. Years of scholastic (and occasionally frivolous) research indicate that it can be anything between liquid gold and bird shit.

As a result of our occidental obsession, there have been no similar deliberations on the secret ingredient in phuchkas. The detractors point out, with convoluted logic, that it cannot be anything other than the phuchkawala’s sweat. Not in a figurative sense, mind you, not that the buggers refer to the arduous toil of the creator- but in a rather literal and derogatory sense. The detractors back their claims by pointing out the numerous instances of gastronomic calamities, ranging from loose motion to diarrhoea, which usually follow this gastronomic delight.

True, phuchkas are not for the hygiene freaks. There will be the occasional revolutions in your stomach, but, as someone said, the set of gains has a one-to-one correspondence to the set of pains.

Today, after consuming panipuris across the country, I am firmly convinced that Kolkata phuchkas have a true touch of magic, a genuine secret ingredient which I’m sure the Baba phuchkawala hands to khoka phuchkawala on the (former’s) deathbed. Be rest assured, my unflinching efforts to unearth the secret will continue unabated. The day I succeed, I shall give up working and start my own phuchka chain selling processed phuchkas, which’d surely give me more money and greater job satisfaction that my current job.

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Blogger Gaurav said...

The globe is referred to as puri.

And yes, as a pani-Purist, I realise that I need to experience the puchkas soon.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous pooja said...

this post brought a smile to my lips. we call them gol gappas and yes, dont know too many people who could resist well-made gol gappas..

3:39 PM  
Blogger Niraj said...

Here's my post on Kolkata street food:

12:14 AM  
Blogger shakester said...

Yes we call them Gol Gappas too. Or at least 'we' did till I moved out of Delhi, and out of the country. It has been but a few motnhs (not even three actually), but God I miss them.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Rajk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Rajk said...

You read most blogs to find out what the blogger has to say. In your case, I gotta say, I'd read it even if I knew what you'd wanted to say, just to find out how you'd put it.

That's not something you can say of many blogs. I guess it's because a scholarly tone combines with a humorous outlook to make your blog so readable.

Here's hoping for more frequent showers, preferably thunderstorms.

3:46 PM  
Blogger chitra said...

came across your blog quite by accident and couldn't help but salivating at the topic of this post. A devout Calcuttan myself, living out of the city for the last 4 years has forced me to adapt to the pani puris and the gol gappas of the world - but yes puchkas rule!
In Blre though - there is some respite - Koshy's Calcutta chats on brigade road.. its on the same side as pizza hut just before or after it (depending on if u enter from mg road or the ther side)... the puchka wala is a native of malda and used to sit in vivekananda park for four years - so thats as authentic as u can get. So in general public interest if there is someone from cal who is dying to get the authentic puchka taste in blre u know where to look for it - all for an astronomical price no doubt :)

9:04 AM  
Anonymous upama said...

well,u r talking abt panipuri & i would like to offer a definition of phuchka..
puffed flourball,stuffed with sweet sour concoction..swallowed whole..
should dribble down the chin for the ultimate experience..

6:21 PM  

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