An all time national (probably even an international) favorite – it’s got to be the delicious poori (or puri) bhaji. You will be sure to find some variation of this dish in almost all of the different regional cuisines in India. It’s served almost everywhere. You’ll be sure to find it on the menu of finer restaurants or the several food stalls or dhabas scattered across the entire country. Indians will have this dish as a warm breakfast or as a quick lunch.
The versatility of the dish is just one of the many reasons why Indians are so fond of the Puri-Bhaji.
So what exactly makes up a poori-bhaji dish?
A poori is a flat bread made out of a wheat flour called atta, which is commonly used in Indian cuisine. The dough is rolled out in flat circles with a rolling pin, and then fried in hot vegetable oil. When put into the hot oil they swell up with air and puff up into a balloon-type form. The pooris taste best when served immediately. Hot and crispy, they impress any guest with their puffiness. As the air is released, the pooris will gradually sink.
Pooris from the northern and central states of India are softer and are served with a spicy potato curry. A mango pickle typical to these regions is often served on the side. My favourite way!
The pooris from Maharashtra are crisper than those found in the northern regions of the country because of a variation in the proportions of dough. Pieces of the poori are torn off and folded to form a type of a scoop, then used to literally scoop up the vegetables from the plate.
I remember the first time my dad showed Tom how to eat this way. It was our first trip to San Francisco together, to meet my family, we were at the Gurudwara all sitting down to eat the Langar and my dad was explaining the reason behind this ritual. When the food came and we all began to eat, my dad smiled at Tom knowingly - he knew that Tom might be feeling a bit like a fish out of water. He touched Tom's hand and showed him the way to eat Hindustani style. LOL! It's a scene that I watched sitting across them and it has been branded in my head forever.
Bhatura, kachori, Khasta kachori are all versions of the basic poori - flat disks of dough fried in hot oil.
Typically, the Bhaji is any vegetable dish made with a masala, often consisting of onion, garlic, ginger, chillies and other spices. Depending on the taste and style of the persons cooking and eating the bhaji, it can be prepared with more or less, thin or thick gravy. Often the bhaji’s main ingredient will be potatoes, but you will also find other popular condiments like channa/chole masala or a quick paneer.
My own version of bhaji is with potatoes and some green bell peppers. It is prepared with a rich masala made of fresh tomatoes, lots of onions, ginger, garlic and some basic Indian spices. I also prefer to make my bhaji more on the dry side, but with a lot of the masala. I find scooping up the succulent and spicy vegetables with the poori more delightful when the bhaji is served dry. However, this can be changed to suit your own taste.
I also use a mix of whole wheat flour and normal white flour for my pooris instead of the typical atta. Whole wheat is high in fiber and I find it gives the pooris a great texture.
Shake it, stir it or blend it - let's get this party rocking with your tempting drink creations. Liquid Dreams is all about mixing up some of the most delicious drinks and bringing it to this months mingle.
Deadline: September 10th!
Makes 7-8 flat circles the size of small tea-saucers
150g whole wheat flour
50 g white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
Luke warm water
In a large mixing bowl mix all the ingredients except the water together. Add a bit of water and knead into a stiff dough using your hands. You might find this helpful. Roll into a ball, place in the bowl and cover. Allow to rest for 15 - 30 minutes.
Take the ball of dough and roll into a long snake-like roll. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into balls the size of table-tennis or golf balls.
Dust your counter top with some flour and using a rolling pin roll into flat circles.
Heat your deep-fat fryer or some oil in a pot or wok. When the oil is hot enough gently slid one of the dough circles into the oil. Using a slotted spoon, hold down the poori until it starts to swell. Then let go and watch it puff up. Allow to turn golden. Flip over and fry until this side also turns golden. Remove the poori from the oil with the slotted spoon and allow to drip on some kitchen paper towel.
Repeat this process for each of the pooris.
Poori making - A students guide
Meeta's Potato/Bell Pepper Bhaji
4-5 medium sized potatoes - cubed
1-2 green bell peppers - coarsely chopped
2 medium sized red onions - chopped
3 garlic cloves - finely chopped
Ginger - as much as you like - finely chopped
3 tomatoes - coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper
2 red chillies - finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon clove powder
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Oil - like canola
Coriander leaves - chopped
Heat oil in a large wok or a heavy saucepan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and allow to cook until they are fragrant and begin to pop. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the onions and red chillies and cook until soft. Sprinkle in the rest of the spices.
Mix in the tomato paste and cook for a further few minutes until the mixture is thick and the oil starts to separate. Add a few drops of water to this mixture if it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Then throw in the tomatoes and potatoes and give the whole mixture a good stir. Salt generously. Add a bit of water then cover and allow to simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Do not add to much water at this point. If you like the vegetable dish dry it's better to keep checking if there is enough of water and adding as required. Stir frequently so that things do not stick to the pan.
Once the potatoes are soft, remove the lid from the pot and add the bell peppers. Cook until peppers are soft but still crunchy. Check to see the consistency of the dish. Finally add the yogurt, mix to incorporate and heat through. Do not allow to boil or else the yogurt might curdle.
Remove from heat and garnish with the coriander leaves.
Enjoy with hot fresh pooris.
So I am sure you are eagerly awaiting the revelation of my secret I told you about in my earlier post. Here it is: this was the first time I actually made pooris on my own. Anita's shout to party with pooris gave me the wings to have a go at frying my own pooris. Look mum I made my own pooris!
They were just the way I remember my grandma made them. Soft but crispy and purely delicious.
The vegetable dish is something I often make for a quick lunch. All three of us normally enjoy this with rotis or plain parathas. This was the first time with pooris. It's a lovely and simple dish to make. Although the list of spices seems a mile long, these are all spices one can find in any good supermarket or Indian store. The green bell pepper adds a wonderful note to the entire dish. Leaving it slightly crunchy gives the bhaji more texture.
About Bollywood Cooking:
Bollywood Cooking is my candid name to a monthly (more or less) series of Indian cooking on WFLH. The purpose is to show many of my non-Indian readers that good Indian food can also be enjoyed in your own homes, cooked easily in your kitchens. I cook basic Indian dishes using ingredients available commonly in most supermarkets or Indian stores. This session also encourages me to experiment more with my own cuisine. I document these for you and demonstrate that cooking Indian is easier than believed. Read more Bollywood Cooking
More Indian Cuisine on WFLH:
Spicy Beef & Potato Curry
Fusion - Potato Pitta Parantha
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