What is a ‘tiffin’? and gol gappas

Having been lucky enough to travel all over the Country during my childhood, I had the opportunity to get exposed to, treated to and appreciate local dishes from many States in their most genuine or rustic forms.
My favorite category of food in all my culinary adventures till date has always been ‘tiffin because of the ease, taste, variety and flexibility it offers.  Tiffin is a term used in India to indicate light meals or snacks. Indians as a rule always stressed on three hearty, full meals a day and were exposed to the idea of mid-day meals, evening snacks and high-tea only after the arrival of British in India. As far as my knowledge goes and from what I collect from my elders, and from Wikipedia too, we never had terms such as brunch or supper, we only had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Later when we did borrow the idea of having something light in between the main meals, we started calling it ‘tiffin’.  Neighbours having an early morning chat over the fence in the backyard, would definitely have one sentence – “Enna tiffin di inniki?” (“What’s for tiffin today?) – conversation at this time of the day using ‘tiffin’ usually indicated a light breakfast.As a kid who always chomped into her lunch in between classes and hardly had any left for short break my mid-morning question on meeting my sister during break in school would be – “Onkitta tiffin michhum irrukka?” (“Do you have any tiffin left?”), and on returning home at 4′ O’Clock in the evening, my first question to my Mom would be – “Tiffin enna?” (“What’s for tiffin?). Makes me a glutton? I euphemistically term myself a person with high BMR – see.

Slowly, ‘tiffin’ assumed extraordinary importance and grew into what we know these days as ‘fast-food‘ – incidentally, it is also a great way to make a fast buck!

All that gyan eventually brings us to the post for today – paani puri! Paani-puri is not something I like preparing at home – why go through the trouble when I have the finest bhaiyyaji (local baniya / seller) selling the tastiest possible, hygienic and homemade paani-puris so close to my place? Aah… such bliss does not last forever, especially, when you have one kid who will not eat just because the paani is thikka (hot as in spicy), and another who wants to have her own paani-puris when she gets back from school.

Recipe: Gol-gappa | Paani puri | Sweet and spicy juice filled fritters 


Readymade puris (these usually have less oil that the fresh fried ones hence preferred) – 1 packet (contains about 40 to 50 puris)

Teekha paani (Spicy Minty Solution) – About 1 cup
(This is my regular green chutney, and I stash away this in humongous amounts as it gets used up pretty fast, and is a versatile sauce, sandwich saver and great falvoring agent)

Meetha paani (Sweet solution) – About 1/2 cup (Tamarind and date chutney – recipe follows)

Boiled Chhole / Moong bean / Boondis – About 3 cups. (Recipe follows)

Recipe for Teekha Paani / Spicy Minty Solution: Follow the recipe for mint chutney. Use about 5 tbsps.

Recipe for Meetha Paani / Tamarind Date Chutney:


Tamarind Extract – About 2 cups
Dates – 5 (Depends on the level of sweetness of the variety used and your taste buds – you could use jaggery or raisins instead or even brown sugar but I prefer dates)
Kala Namak – About 1/4 tsp.
A tsp. of roasted to black and powdered – Jeera/Cumin seeds.
Salt – A pinch to taste, remember that we are using black salt too!


Boil the entire concoction, mash well till smooth and filter through a soup strainer. Boil the resultant liquid till thick as a custard (Should coat your spoon when stirred and lifted). You can refrigerate this concentrate in a bottle. Dilute and use as required.

Boiled chhole/chickpeas:

For paani-puris, we require chickpeas without any fuss or masala. It is quite simple. Roughly mash the cooked chickpeas with the back of a spoon so that you have a tbsp. of mashed chhole and the rest are whole. Mix it up with a pinch of turmeric, salt to taste, and add very little water – about 1/4 cup. Boil and set aside.

Paani-puri paani!

Mix of Teekha paani (Spicy Minty Solution) and Meetha paani (Sweet solution). Add 2 cups of water. Heat till the water boils. Taste and adjust spices as required. I am afraid it is very difficult to say how spicy the water would be because it depends on too many things. You have to go by feel and increase the level of tang by squeezing in half a lime, the sweetness by adding jaggery or sugar or date syrup, the salt or the red chilly powder as per your taste. Refrigerate and remove only at the time of serving.

Assemblage and serving :

Tap a puri to make a small hole, about a cm. large. Put a tbsp. of boiled chhole. The chhole should be piping hot. Dip inside the paani and serve one at a time to the person. The puris should be eaten whole. The paani should be cold. Mine is not too spicy, but many prefer a really hot variety which you can achieve by adding more chillies to your green chutney or more red chilly powder to your diluted paani.

Its not much fun assembling and eating on your own. I prefer serving one at a time to my kids or husband, and my daughter or husband serve me. This way it is thoroughly satisfying!


The paani puri is off to FIC-Yellow hosted by me, as the puris are bright and warm yellow, and so are the chickpeas.

These are also going off to JFI – Chickpeas. JFI is an event which celebrates an ingredient a month – Conceptualised by Indira of Mahanandi and guest hosted by MS of Sometime Foodie. I hope the simple paani-puri ka chhole is well received.

Yikes! Sorry, Valli! My chickpeas with paani-puri also attend The Seventh Helping of MLLA (My Legume Love Affair), started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and guest hosted by dear Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons!

Warning: This one is light but remember we have chickpeas here. You better remember that too much can be gassy!! On that light note bon appetit!

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Have your say

  1. Tiffin is a wonderful Tamil word indeed. In Kannada we say Thindi for breakfast but say “tiffin box” for steel lunch boxes.
    Tiffin has become so popular now in US too. Two step steel lunch carriers we used for schools lunches in India as kids have become sensation here. Search for “Tiffin” in Amazon, you will see. It has become “green” to save paper and plastic lunch bags! I bought one too, nostalgia!:))

  2. Innikku paani puri,naalekku enna tiffin?Where is my share-micchhum irukka?I am going ‘Yellow’ without tiffin-my BMI is still high 😛

  3. muh mein paani aagaya .. I love gol-gappas/Paani puri esp the once near andheri station, I miss them. I loved the pics. really did make me crave for it.

    Another thng, I wanyed to send my Kichuri for FIC-yellow, but I kinda feels it looks more orange than yellow. what do you think?

  4. Love the way you describe the process. Delicious.

    “Tiffin” it was always great fun to run home from school to find out what was cooking 🙂

  5. In Egland they too use the word Tiffin.
    I don’t know if they got it from Indian when they brittish were there ot if we took from them.

  6. pani puri looks very delicious & nice photos

  7. “Enna tiffin” LOL Thatz all what used to come out of my mouth when I was a child! Yeah “tiffin” was a big deal back then… Now that you mentioned… yeah! We don’t use it that often here, not rather not at all… oh I miss my tiffin and tiffin box!

  8. this looks delicious and I love the way you have explained it step-by-step 🙂

  9. Tiffin romba nalla panreengale!:) He he…hello dude, awesome work, love the click, very inviting post…

  10. Asha, thanks to you, I discovered a wonderful blog on photography called ‘Tiffin-box’ here:
    I saw the boxes – surprising:)!

    Sweatha, naalaithu paadu Narayanan paapan! Yenkitta plate vandaachuna onnum michhum irukaadu! Vegum vandu eduthukko:) As for BMI – we make a pair;)

    Deepthi, Yes! I remember those – the fellow had quite a tagda dhanda in the evenings! The Elco Arcade ones I feel are hyped! Do send in your khichuri – I will look through yellow stained glasses if you want!

    Indo, Trupti, Indhu, Malar – thanks!

    Vijaya, yes it is a mutual derivation as per Wiki!

    Anu, chelapo ingendu visualise panni chaaptudu! If that makes you feel any better that is:)

  11. nice panipuri tiffin bet the kidsloved it. as a kid i was quite snooty :p didnt like street food too much. now i cant live without it!! yaar mujhe bhi ye sab banana hai… u are too good!!

  12. My favorite "Tiffin" 🙂 In Kolkata we call them "phuchchka" & we do not use the meetha pani.
    I am admitting that we have this for dinner sometimes.

    My tiffin box to school had my name carved on it … those days! I miss them.

  13. Loooooove pani puri anyday … feel like picking one off the snaps. I make pani puri at home coz I am pudina intolerant. And I use white matar.
    That is one delicious looking post! 🙂

  14. Aha pani puri!If St peters ever were to grant me a final wish…It would definitely be Paani Puri…loads of it

  15. I love the yummy paani puri. Beautiful pics 🙂

  16. I snack all the time, and pani puri has to be the best of all. Never make it at home because (as you said) why do it when there is a bhayyaji downstairs.

    And my favorite version of pani puri? Kolkata’s puchka. Nothing comes close.

  17. okay now you have me craving gol gappas at 9 am!! arrgghhh!

  18. Ennakum Vaenum:-(.Gosh from the time i landed here i’ve been missing chats! Somehow never made an attempt to make it….i really need to try this once atleast.They are also called “Puchkaas” in the north.

  19. Hey actually even i thought tiffin is exclusively used in India!
    But when I went to UK, realised that they generally call “Tea and Tiffins” which they have at around 3 in afternoon [ this is different from supper which is at about 6 in evening]
    Here Tiffins meaning – a confectionary made from digestive biscuits and raisins!! [remember cadbury tiffins?]
    Later it was started to be used synonymously with light meal – “a tiff between meals” – and then was profusely used in British India!
    sorry for the biiig comment but was too excited to tell what i discovered recently 😉

    Pani Puri ummmm too good…will surely try and get back to u as a feedback!

  20. I know that “Tiffin” was a popular concept with the Raj as it was like their high tea somewhat.

    But I also thought tiffin was the same as our “palahaaram” (not the sweet kind, but the doasi, idli, adai, etc) that was served at around 3 to 4 ish in the evening in my childhood.

    Well, whatever it is, I love my tiffins better than regular meals. 😀

    My daughter loves pani puri in a big way.
    Btw, is your picture angled (rotated) right or is it meant to be this way?

  21. I enjoyed reading..and ya agree with Asha’s comment about tiffin box. I think in India now steel is replaced by Tupperware but I am sure that one day steel is going to come back. Paani Puri dekhke muh mein paani aagaya..nice entry for the event 🙂

  22. hi,,,congrats,,ur blog is featured in whats hot delhi edition in todaysnews paper…whts hot is supplement of timesof india,..nd tnks for tellin bout the award nomination will definately go through it….:-),..pani pooris,,,r my fav,..:-)yummy post nd nice info on tiffin,….:-)

  23. Argh its evening time now, dying to have that tiffin. looks perfect and tempting.

  24. Hey you forgot the event at my place gurl!…:)))..

    hilarious post..I can recollect my own exp!…heheh…

    btw those gols are beautiful1!

  25. I felt I visited for few min my place. Tiffin (light meal) is typical Tamilian Word… Looks delicious ur gol-gappas!

  26. Tiffin romba nalla iruku, I love the way you desrcibe to serve them 🙂

  27. Lovely pic and golgappas mouthwatering 🙂

  28. pani puris with chickpeas very yummy…Drooling here..
    Such a nice entry…

  29. See I learn something new everyday:D

  30. Harini, You reminded me of Desi’s stories about his mom and other women in his Madras neighborhood who, he says, would get together each day and spend hours discussing what they had cooked or were planning to cook. I guess it’s kinda like what we do now with our food blogs now, only we are very often separated by thousands of miles.
    Your pictures and post also brought wonderful memories of sneaking away for paani-puri at every chance I could get. I haven’t had it in years now, but I can still remember each taste. Your version looks incredibly good: in fact, I can feel my tastebuds tingling!

  31. mouth watering golgappas

  32. haha good to read about tiffin, and you are right i haven’t seen it used anywhere else! Tiffin for me is the 3pm – 4pm ish snack we had in the good old days! In school we had tiffin in the tea break at 10:30am!

  33. superb pic.mmmmm panipuri looks so yum did you got my entry for yellow please let me know

  34. Gol gappas look amazing! I never made or eaten one! Mouth-watering! Tempting pics.

  35. Kitchen Flavours

    My favourite too. Whenever we go to jayanagar if i miss eating them out i don’t feel like going home.There in jayanagar at a time he will serve more than 25-30 people and my friend says it is like standing in queue waiting for PRASADAM… 🙂 with the recipe in hand i think i must give it a try at home…

  36. Thanks all:)

    Priyanka, thank you so much for letting me know!!

  37. Gol gappa used to be my favorite snack once upon a time. my love for them started when i was in Kolkatta. so, for me the best ones come from thre. they are different then in other parts of India, from what ihave seen so far.
    Yours look very inviting!
    Yes, the memories of those tiffin box were very special. That was an interesting read.

  38. That is just pure torture. DO you know how long its been since a good pani puri came my way?

  39. Unnode tiffin romba nalla irruku, love it 🙂

  40. Me too love them so much, n specially miss B’lore jaynagar ones.. its showering puchkas, now u too made them..just few days back only posted them in my blog too..
    Ur descrition of Tiffin too is nice, myself also never heard anyone use it outside india.
    But hey one thing, never heard of boiling the pani?

  41. I’ll read this one leisurely SM. I came here to notify this

    That blog is full of posts from other blogs. Found it out just this morning.

  42. Gol-gappas look mouth watering!lovely pics

  43. Hi Sunshine Mom,
    Oops i did not get your email for the JFI Entry, lucky me i stumbled upon your post late tonight. What a lovely entry for JFI Chickpea! I absolutely love golguppas. I also like the bengali version that i used to scarf down by the dozens in Delhis CR Park. They are huge.


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