The Aloo Paratha is probably the most commonly made and relished kind of Paratha. I remember this cozy little eatery in Chennai, near the Stella Maris College in Cathedral’s Road, called Shirdi Quick Bites. This little store serves the best Parathas I’ve ever eaten, yes, better than the best. Each Paratha takes about 15 minutes to get ready and is delivered with thick yoghurt, a choice of sabzi or channa, and pickle. Each Paratha is about 12 inches or more in diameter – pretty impossible to roll that size out at home – and you can imagine all the stuffing in there! Heaven! Shirdi Bites serves any and every kind of Paratha, including a mixed stuffing Paratha, Paneer Paratha, Cheese Paratha… *drool*… and the basic Paratha starts off at Rs.20 a plate.
Making soft Rotis and Parathas in the US isn’t as easy as it is in India, unless one lives in an apartment with gas cooking ranges. Unfortunately, our apartment provides electric cooking ranges and unless you’ve tried cooking Rotis in such a stove, you will have no idea what I’m talking about. I almost went into depression when I got here and realized that suddenly, the soft Rotis I was used to making in India ended up hard and rubbery in the US. This is due to various factors – the electric burner, the dough consistency, the brand of flour… but I never had to do all this research in India where making soft puffy phulkas was never an issue.
My cousins who are lucky to have gas burners don’t have an issue. So I had to find a way out. Luckily, the Indian stores here sell Annapoorna, Ashirwaad and Sujatha, the best brands of whole wheat atta in the US. Prior to purchasing Ashirwaad, I tried Lakshmi Brand and Golden Temple – both of which ended up in the dust bin. Finally, a friend told me that Sujatha was indeed Pillsbury marketed in a different name – it came from the same General Mills. So now, it’s either Ashirwaad or Sujatha. The other master blaster pointer is to knead the dough the previous night and refrigerate it. This way, you can make phulkas in an electric stove, with a wired griddle and tava.
Tonight, S and I decided to have Aloo Parathas for dinner after a long time. Although we would have both loved it to be as big as the Shirdi Bites Parathas, I did what I could at home, and that’s that!
Here’s what we used –
1. Ashirwaad whole wheat atta – kneaded the previous night, refrigerated, and brought to room temperature before making the Parathas
2. Potatoes for the stuffing
3. Garam Masala, Salt, Kitchen King, Chili Powder, Coriander Leaves, Turmeric, Dry Ginger Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder (Instead of the dry powders, you can use fresh ginger, garlic and green chillis, finely chopped. I used the powders instead to avoid unpleasant chunks in the middle of a big bite - plus, S can't enjoy his Paratha with a chilli or ginger piece)
4. Oil Spray / Butter / Ghee
Here’s how we rolled them up –
1. Divide the atta into medium sized balls
2. Pressure cook the potatoes and mash them up with all the dry powder ingredients, coriander leaves and a dollop of ghee or butter
3. Divide the mashed potato mixture into balls
4. Roll out a chappati with the dough ball, place the potato ball in the centre and wrap it up
5. Roll this out into a Paratha, try going as wide as you can without breaking the paratha.
6. In a hot tava, place the Paratha and spray some oil. Alternatively, you could smear some ghee or butter. Cook it on both sides, flipping from time to time, in medium to low heat, ensuring that the entire Paratha is cooked inside out.
7. Serve with yoghurt, raita, pickle or any side dish that makes you go bonkers.
In India, my mum-in-law usually mashes up the hot potatoes with the wheat flour, and kneads that into a dough-like consistency, adding all the powder ingredients. This is far more easier way of making Aloo Parathas. But you won’t find a layered potato stuffing inside, the potato is blended with the dough. However, there is no compromise on the flavour and it looks good in its own way – and it’s perhaps the easiest way of making Parathas. Sadly, this trick doesn’t work here in the US as it is essential to let the dough rest overnight in the refrigerator to get soft Parathas. Thus, kneading the mashed potatoes with the atta is impossible. But, once you’ve got the atta right, there’s no looking back.
Tonight’s dinner, served with Bhoondi Raita and Bedekar’s Mango Pickle! S and I would like to dedicate this post to Srini, our dear friend. We worked together in Rage, he still works there. I was in the process of revamping the blog and had some trouble with the drop-down codes. Srini worked on the entire thing and set it right for me. Thank you Srini, this post is specially for you, and hey, its your birthday!