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Monday, March 26, 2012

Fhuchka- An Ever Popular Kolkata Snack...



Be it the rich or the run-down, the shiny  new or the crumbling old, the trendy modern or the time wrapped traditional, the public broad-ways or the narrow back alleys, the tourist hangouts or the residential areas, the bustling bazaars or the busy dock, the west or the east, the old city or the migrant colonies, the riverside or the lakeside--in a city of 4.5 million residents the presence of the ubiquitous fhuchwalla with his mobile stand is a standard feature.

Last summer we held a fuchka party in our home. Sharing with you the invitation to show a mobile fuchka stand.

Who is this fhuchkawalla? 
He is the man who sells the fhuchka, an immensely popular Kolkata street food.  It is a food of extremes, it gives you immense pleasure yet makes you cry with the sharpness of its taste. Its a passionate food, not for the prim or the proper, or the fastidious or the finicky. Its a food which involves all five human senses. Lets just say it's a food which can be compared with the city of Kolkata-- its irresistible, its surprising, it packs a punch yet it is humble, its common, its everyday and its cheap (or used to be). Mostly you would not have to walk more than a 100 yards in the city to find a fhuchkawalla ready to serve you.


What kind of food is this puchka? 
A crisp little puffed wheat ball  dented in the middle, stuffed with potato filling, dipped in tangy tamarind water and served to you in a little bowl made of shalpata/dried leaf. The style of eating this is also pretty interesting. The phhuchkawalla stands in the centre, while the customers (a comfortable three to a jostling five or six) make a semi circle around him, he hands them each a leaf bowl, then proceeds to mash potato, add boiled yellow grams/kala chana, chillies, cilantro, lime juice, taramind pulp, rock salt, red chilly powder and roasted cumin masala. You can tell him how to you want it---really hot, less hot, really tangy, less tangy, more green chillies or less red chilly powder...the list goes on and on. While he is fixing this the air is filled with an awesome smell of rock salt, lime, cilantro, cumin masala, tamarind and the anticipation is high. Once the mixture is ready to each customer's satisfaction (he often divides the potato mix into small proportions catering to each of his customer's individual preferences), he takes these little wheat balls, dents them in the middle, stuffs in a little potato mix, dips them in pre-prepared tamarind water and puts them in each customer's bowl. He works really fast, he moves onto serve others while you finish yours, and then he comes back to you with the next one. The fuchkawallas often work so quickly, that often it is difficult to keep pace with them. When the customer eating the puchka first puts the wheat ball into his/her mouth, it is filled tangy tamarind water, then once s/he bites into the ball, a host of tastes hit at the same time-- the crunch of the crispy wheat ball, the saltiness, heat and sourness of the potato masala, terrific heat from green chillies, tang of lime juice et al. 

When I was young we could get 10 puchkas for INR 1.00. Now it has increased to INR 10.00 for 10 phuchkas or less.


Who eats this snack? 
Well just about everyone in the city-- the school children after school, the housewives out shopping, couples out on dates, friends out to have fun, the tourists, the college/university students while planning a revolution to do away with the bourgeois, the poets and cine-lovers hanging out in Rabindrasadan, the dreary office workers while returning home late in the evening. Men, women, the young, the old, the vegetarians, the non vegetarians, the rich, the poor...If they feel shy eating it out in the streets, they go to fancy restaurants and order fuchkas where the tamarind water is made with Swiss mineral water. It is served in a regular plate and  not even one tenth the fun. Puchka has even weaved its way into the illustrious wedding menus of Kolkata.  Usually a fhuchkawallh stands in one corner serving guests before they hit on the kebabs, biriyanis, fish fries and the desserts.

Away from Kolkata, I satisfy my craving for phuchka by making it at home. Its really simple, let me share with you how.

Ingredients:
  • A box of puchka shells from Indian mithai/delicatessen shop [They come in plastic boxes. Usually there are 20 to 30 shells in each box]
  • A tin of yellow grams or half a cup of dried yellow grams soaked overnight and steamed with little water for two  to three whistles in an Indian pressure cooker
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and roughly mashed
  • One bunch of coriander, finely chopped, use the stems as well
  • Green chillies (numbers of chillies depending on your heat tolerance) very finely chopped (you can de-seed them, but do add them, apart from the heat, they bring in a nice smell and taste as well)
  • Juice of a lime, keep another lime or two ready, in case you want more tang! I definitely do!
  • 2 table spoons of tamarind pulp (found in Indian grocery stores, Tesco super markets, UK in the Asian section) or 4 to 6 dried tamarinds or even the tamarinds in shells (though these are a little sweet) soaked in half a litre of water
  • Rock salt, finely ground, according to taste
  • Red chilly powder according to taste
  • 4 heaped table spoons of roasted cumin powder (take equal amounts of whole cumin and coriander seeds and dried red chilly. In a hot, dry pan roast these, till they start smelling. Cool down the mixture and grind to a fine powder. If kept in an air tight bottle, this masala stays fresh for  a year or so. I always get my stock from my mother. Its great in all kinds of vegetarian dishes, for me a pinch of this masala makes the food exciting since it brings a whiff of  the Kolkata streets)


How To:
First the tamarind water, dissolve the tamarind in the water, a little pulp will settle at the bottom of the water, let it be. Add juice of half a lime, throw in the lime skins (they smell heavenly), add about 2 heaped table spoon of rock salt and roasted cumin masala each, red chilly powder according to your heat tolerance, few pieces of green chillies and handful of chopped coriander. Mix everything and taste. If needed you can add more lime juice, chilly powder, salt, masala etc.

The potato mix: Add 2 heaped table spoons of roasted cumin masala, red chilly powder and rock salt (both according to taste), scoop out the tamarind pulp from the water and add that too, squeeze in juice of half a lime to the mashed potato and mix really well. Then add the yellow grams, the remaining coriander and green chillies and mix again. Taste it and adjust the balance.


Time for assembly-- get the puchka shells, tap them lightly, some may break, just throw those into the potato mix, stuff the balls with potato mix (ideally one third of the ball should be filled, this again depends on the eater's preference), dip it in water and eat. Some people prefer it without water, some people love drinking the water on its own. I like eating it in a bit of this and that way.



P.S. More on the joys of phuchkka  here
P.S.S. In this post I have used various spellings of fuchkas, actually there is no standard English spelling, so tried on different combinations, sorry for any inconvenience caused during your reading.
P.S.S.S. In the rate chart photograph, apart from English, Bengali script is used.
P.S.S.S.S. I have got awards from 5 of my blogger friends, will post about them sooon-ish.
P.S.S.S.S.S. This is my entry to Spice Foodie's YBR March.



Have a great day, till next time.

138 comments:

  1. Somethings look better if served in shalpata and this is certainly one of them. U wrote on the board? I simply enjoyed your post today

    Deepa
    Hamaree Rasoi

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    Replies
    1. Yes Deepa, I wrote on the board...ha ja bolecho...some things taste better in shal pata...:-)

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  2. this pukcha looks really good, I wish I could try it:)

    Life and travelling
    Cooking

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  3. I love this. I think this can pass off as a national snack. Wish i lived closer to you... You make such yummy stuff.

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    Replies
    1. Same here, let us declare this as the national snack :-)

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  4. wow very tempting and great presentation !! really looks awesome !!

    Ongoing event CC:Vegan Diet - Plant Based Food

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  5. Awesome presentation, wish could pick one right off the plate..

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  6. would love to grab that plate.. looking delicious!
    Noel collections

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  7. Hi Suchi, lovely posting and very interesting. And I have not eaten this snack. The puchka shell look so puffy and tempting.
    I like your presentation, look beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting puchka. I like your invitation card too, very creative.

    Have a nice day. Regards

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  8. I loved your idea of a fuchka party. I've had them in many cities/restaurants/roqadside stalls (called as golgappas/panipuris/batashe etc) but they were not the same as those sold by the roadside vendors in Kolkata. One of our favorite fuchkawallahs used to be the one standing opposite Gangaur restaurant in Russell Street.

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    1. Mine was next to Basanti Devi College in Gariahat :-)

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  9. You have gone to great lengths to describe the phuchka and its making. Wow! And the photographs are amazing.

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  10. I love this post. The food looks great! I love your photography. Take careX

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  11. I am not surprised that this snack is popular in all parts of India even if it has different names. I can have this anytime, without counting!

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  12. My mouth is watering right now. I so want to eat it now. Your recipe is wonderful. And I really like your style of writing and the way you describe things so beautifully and in such detail and by bringing out the story behind it.

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  13. Yummmm!! These look so amazing. I've had pain puri before, which is similar but doesn't have that incredible stuffing. Delish!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Katherine, yes pani puri, gol gappa these are belong to the same family of snacks :-)

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  14. WOW- loved this! Wish I could taste it, you made it look and sound so fantastic!

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  15. lovely post and awesome clicks...thats a very yummy snack..tempting:)

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  16. Oh! So lovely! and excellent presentation!
    http://followfoodie.blogspot.com/

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  17. I love them!!! thank you so much for sharing this recipe, your photos are amazing too my friend!

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  18. darun clicks... probably the only Bengali word I know and most apt for your post! I love it!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks :-) You know a good word :-)

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  19. I've never seen this before but it looks so good. So interesting and colorful. I can only imagine how wonderful it tastes. I need to try making this. Thank you for sharing this unique dish.

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    Replies
    1. Do let me know if you try this Vicki :-)

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  20. Yummy! Reminds me of pani puri. Your clicks are always fantastic!

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  21. Hi Suchi,
    I love the way you have shown the steps, in such detail. I love this which we call pani puri in Mumbai. Never had it with a potato filling before. Speciality of Calcutta. Looks interesting and very delicious!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Asmita. Yes this is a speciality of Kolkata :-)

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  22. Next time I'm in London, I'm going to ask for an invite and get you to make these!!! Those cases are similar to puris, I guess? I'm pinning this on the to do list!

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  23. Looks very yummyyyyy n ur pictures are really inspring n tempting for foodies like me!!!!

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  24. love this
    the paani puri of mumbai!!

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  25. wow awesome and presenting well....the pics tempting me...

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  26. Looks mouth watering. We started getting some decent ones in Bangalore as well.

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  27. Great presentation and my favorite snack :))) tempting , will have to have some now:))

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  28. Lovely! Mouth watering fhuchkas and love the way you described these fhuchkas. Guessing its very similar to the paani puris as well!

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  29. This looks amazing. 1st time I heard about this snack

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  30. What a delightful snack? I think it's just perfect meal!

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  31. I just drooled looking at your gorgeous styling and the chaats!! Gimme some!!

    BTW, you won the giveaway ;)

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  32. What's phuchka to you is Golgappa in my hometown Lucknow. I could almost taste the tangy water in your pictures. There we'd be, tears in our eyes from the sharp spices yet asking for more.

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  33. Oh Suchi...it's mouth watering indeed!

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  34. So we know what we have to eat when we're in Kolkata! The icing on the cake is it is present almost everywhere :)

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    Replies
    1. If you are in Kolkata, do give this version a try Vishal :-)

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  35. Suchi, fuchka dhekei khete ichha korchhe. Awesome presentation and attractive picture...


    Cuisine Delights
    My Monthly Event - Spotlight : "Lunchbox Ideas".

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  36. I try to stay away from pictures of the Paani Puri or fuchka as you call it because it does nothing but multiply my yearning for it manifold. But with the detailed steps you have mentioned, am going to try making it at home. What I hate is that - no matter how much effort I take - the taste and sense of satisfaction that you get from the street vendor - what we make at home doesnt do justice to that!

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    Replies
    1. True home made ones never match up....

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  37. I guess, it's similar to pani-puri. I love pani puri with spicy pudina water! I heard about the divine taste of Kolkata's fhuchka and would definitely love to taste some day. Your post made me even more keen :):)

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    Replies
    1. Yes it is similar to pani puri :-)

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  38. I loved the way you defined the fuchka wallah.... I am a Bengali and love fuchkas more than the panipuris and gole gappe's.

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  39. I'm a sucker for chaats and pani puri's one of my fave. You pics are too tempting, I feel like having some now!

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  41. I have been reading about street vendors a lot these days. It is sad that the Dallas/Ft Worth area does not even allow them. Not sure why. It is amazing to see what the popular street food is there. It looks healthy as well as tasty! Also, does not seem to look like quick prepared or "fast food". I am saving this recipe, especially knowing that there is not a talented street vendor preparing this right around the corner. Enjoy the day!

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  42. i saw these pics on fb and thought of heading here and commenting, but i kinda missed it in the scheme of things. i love that pic of the board against the wayll, it gives a very rustic feel. And that tamarind is sooo making me drool. How are you enjoying the brilliant weather? I am thinking of checking out a pop hire store in farringdon one of these dats..have been hearing so much about it :)

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  43. Great. I always loved it...
    www.rajnishonline.blogspot.com

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  44. I love the street vendor,,,the snack is very interesting,something that I never had before,sound really yummy snack !!
    Ridwan

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  45. Super pics. Super text. Drooling. No need or ability to comment, just drool. Loved it.

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  46. What an interesting snack. I've never had them, but you've made me curious to try. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  47. Suchi look nice, really nice and I love your pictures!!

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  48. can i join in...amazing suchi....i love chat

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  49. Because I enjoy your blog and your work, I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Please visit my blog for award details, and the badge to post on your blog. Patsy

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  50. Oh my gosh, those are amazing! I want to be invited to this party--I am drooling just looking at them.

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  51. That looks so delicious , Suchi ! Wish I could grab some ! ;D

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  52. Let me just reiterate here by saying that the best food comes from those very humble street vendors......your rendition is no exception, just beautiful!

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  53. Hi Suchi, This is Viya (Spicenflavors) and I am sharing two awards with you,do go to my blog and collect your awards:)) from blog.spicenflavors.com

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  54. Slurp..!! Last weekend I had been to a bengali restuarant in my city, my first experience with Bengali cuisine! It was scrumptious! :)

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  55. Suchi,
    Fuchka/puchka looks delicious..and with tamarind chutney even more :-)..I liked all the pictures ..the first one caught my eyes with all the camouflaged words depicting about our very own "Kolkata" Victoria mention korecho, okhane O to besh chaat stall lagey..hugs and smiles

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  56. Suchi thanks for stopping by at my space. Glad to check ur blog. I love fhuchka too .Keep visiting my blog :)
    http://lavanyasrecipes.blogspot.com/

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  57. Suchi - I love to read your posts, call it Fhuchka/puchka/gol-gappe/panipuri they are the all time favourite snacks for a majority Indians and each time I eat or read about it time takes me back in time ... lovely pictures !!

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  58. loved the invite the boards & the pani purr's.. one of my fav items which i can never ever get bored of :)

    Ongoing Event : I'm The Star

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  59. 10 takay kata fushka debe??? :-)
    beautiful post and gorgeous clicks...

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  60. First time here and you have such a lovely space. What beautiful photographs.
    The pani puri clicks transported me back in time back home.

    Inviting you to participate in Cook Eat Delicious Desserts Event- Wholesome Desserts with no refined sugar or flours ending on March 31st

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  61. awesome pics..it luks very spicy n yummy too..loved it....:-)
    Maha

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  62. Hmm...Now I'm craving for that crunch and the mouth-watering tamarind water. Superb write up (it's more than just a recipe) and fabulous pictures, Suchi.

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  63. how artistic u are suchi, love that chalk-board with the menu written its such a nice touch :) well im always up for pani puri, when can i get some?

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  64. Wow Wow Wow! There is something about Kolkata Phuchka that beats the Dilli Panipuri or the Golgappes at other places.Thanks for making me nostalgic Suchi:)

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  65. oh man this looks like an amazing snack! i need to try this sometime!

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  66. I am drooling over them!! i feel like i could eat 20-30 of them easily...

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  67. Oh wow..this is such a scintillating post. Lovely pictures. Yumm.

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  68. I have been to Kolkatta and have had the privilege of having these puchkas there. It was heavenly. Loved all the food that I had a chance to devour there

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  69. Love these puchkas!!They looks so so delicious and appetizing :)Always a great party food!

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  70. Wow...looks tasty!!! One more form of fhuchka is known as paani poori down south..love eating them.
    Nice pictures

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  71. wow interesting ! almost like pani puri of mumbai ! but Ingredients are a little different. Cool..... and nice photos I must say... the signboard and the calligraphy ... excellent way of presenting.

    AJ
    http://ajstates.blogspot.com

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  72. most interesting,post about street food i have ever seen.

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  73. lipsmacking...excellent presentation..;)
    Tasty Appetite

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  74. Those bites look delicious! I wish I could find these ingredients in Cyprus. I will definitely try them when I visit India though...

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  75. What a lovely posts and scrumptious food. Thanks for being a part of the YBR :)

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  76. What a fun idea for a party!!! These fhuchka are just beautiful...and I'd love to sample yours :)

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  77. Pls collect your award from my blog
    http://followfoodie.blogspot.com/

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  78. Simply want to say your article is as amazing.
    The clarity in your post is simply spectacular and i could
    assume you're an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.
    My website: Hamster Cages

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  79. My snack,my lunch and my dinner and can be my breakfast too...just can't resist those street delights everytime I visit Kol.

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  80. Most people don't realize that the yummy tangy water is what makes it delicious :) Really miss my fhuchkas in Bangalore :(

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  81. What a wonderful recipe!! It's been years and years since I have had one of those....tried some in Vegas recently at a restaurant. It was quite good, bit zip compared to the real thing. Thanks for posting this.

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  82. Looks great!...mouthwatering!

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  83. Mouthwatering,amazing.........I m new here - http://zariafrozrecipes.blogspot.com/

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  84. Ummm Phuchka.... U made me so nostalgic....What a mouth watering idea of a Phuchka Party!! I am surely going to ponder about it. But U know what! U can prepare phuchka at home, no matter how delicious it turns out to be....you will never get the awesomeness of the street side stalls where the potato mix gets mixed with dirt, the sweat of the phuchka wala and the shal pata bowls....Its mesmerizing

    Love
    Rajrupa
    http://riotofrandom.blogspot.in/

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  85. Very informative. Love the details you have presented in this post. I once had plans of eloping with a phuchka wala.

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  86. Oh, I can smell that divine smell of phuchka water

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  87. aaah phuchkas aka pani-puris for mumbaities like me :) love love love them to death!!
    great post n excellent shots! i love the serving presentation idea.
    new reader to your blog, hope we can follow each other.
    ~ashy
    http://thezingofmylife.blogspot.com

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  88. Thanks for bringing some of lovely memories

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  89. Ek plate phuchka Rs 10 !!! Ar plate e 8 piece !!! Ami roj ekhanei phuchka khabo :D

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  90. Now I know everything about Puchka....if only someone made it in Mumbai

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  91. hi,very tasty,crisp and popular edible! it is known as golgappa in UP.in summers when one is on the road and very thirsty,this item gives great relief..try this summer.

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  92. kolkata phucckha is so addictive!!! whenever im in kolkata, I have around 30 puchkaas in one single session!!! and i have many such sessions!!


    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

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