March 9, 2005
Poori Chapati of Fire

Finished Poori BreadThe final of this week's tryptich of recipes from Sunday's dinner is another from Yamuna Devi's Lord Krishna's Cuisine, the Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.

Poori Chapati is a stovetop wheat bread that uses no oil during cooking and which puffs up beautifully. You may want the party guests in the kitchen when you make this because the inflation of the bread is fun.

I didn't really deviate from Yamuna Devi's recipe at all so I take no credit for this recipe, though I can cut it down and make it a little less wordy. The bread is a perfect accompaniment to Indian cuisine and the whole wheat even makes it vaguely healthy.

The scorch marks are normal and even desirable. That's a good thing because they're also pretty much unavoidable...

By the way, you do know where your kitchen fire extinguisher is and have a clear path to the sink from the oven, right? You should. It's possible you could make a grave mistake and set your bread or oven mitt on fire while you make this recipe and you should have a plan to cover that eventuality.

Here's my slightly rewritten instructions on making poori chapati the Yamuna Devi way.

Poori Chapati Flatbreads recipe adapted from Yamuna Devi

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour - sifted measue
3/4 cup unbleached white AP flour - sifted measure

1 tablespoon melted ghee or butter - ghee is preferred
1/2 tablespoon salt
2/3 cup warm water

pie tin or plate filled with wheat flour for dusting
melted ghee or butter for brushing flatbreads

You'll also need a medium mixing bowl and a non-painted and non-coated metal cooling rack. One about 10" x 10" would be ideal. It must be heat resistant because it'll be taking all the heat your stovetop is capable of putting out.

Sift flours and salt together.

Work ghee into dough with your fingers. Add water a bit at a time, working it in until you have a workable dough ball. Dust the work surface with wheat flour and knead the dough for about 8 minutes until you have a silky smooth pliable mass. Shape it into a ball, and place the mixing bowl over it to cover for 30 minutes.

Divide the rested dough into 12 equally sized masses and roll those into balls (the original calls for 14, but you show me how to eyeball 14 balls of dough and I'll know a new trick).

Put the balls of dough on a plate, not touching each other, and cover with a clean damp kitchen towel.

Set a skillet or griddle over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes. It would be ideal if this pan was nonstick becasue we will not be adding ghee to the bread during cooking. In fact, it may be dangerous to have oil in this pan - take this warning seriously.

Take a ball of dough. Roll it out into a disk. Dip the disk in the pie plate of flour on both sides and shake the excess off. Continue to roll the disk out and dip in flour as necessary until the disk is extremely thin and about 6"-7" in diameter. (You did knead the dough for a full eight minutes earlier so it became elastic, right?)

Poori in Skillet
Set the flattened dough into the dry skillet and let it go for one full minute. Flip the dough and let it cook for another thirty seconds. You've just firmed up the sides so the bread can take the next step - the magic step.

Put on a flameproof fire retardant oven mitt and hold the cooling rack with it. Transfer the bread from the skillet to the cooling rack. Hold the cooling rack about 2" above a full flame over a gas burner or over an electric burner on high.

After a few seconds...

Poori Flattish Poori Inflated

...the bread inflates from the steam being created inside the dough by the direct high heat acting on the water in the loaf. The time in the skillet firmed up the sides and made them less likely to leak water vapor or steam, so the only thing the heated air and steam can do is press on the sides until it inflates the loaf. I burned hole in one side that when flipped acted like a pressure release valve for the bread. Steam poured out of the hole like an old locomotive stack.

Keep the bread over the direct flame until some char marks begin to form (about 15-45 seconds), then flip and hold over the flame until the other side is nicely scorched. Don't overdo it.

Poori Flipped

Set on a plate and brush one side with melted ghee. Repeat process with the other 11 balls of dough.

Although a bit of bread may catch fire while you're inflating it, it shouldn't be a big deal to blow out any small bread conflagrations. Keep an open path to the sink just in case.

You can see why we can't really use oil in the skillet since that would encourage ignition of the bread. I also turn off the inflating flame between disks so I don't have a random open uncovered flame going inches from me while I work at the stove.

Perfect with Palak Paneer and rice.

Note: After some comments in the notes, I think I may be confused on chapati vs. poori. I don't have Yamuna Devi's book with me so I can't check to see that she labels this dish as poori and that I didn't just screw up. For now, I'm changing the name to chapati and will confirm my mistake or non-mistake this evening when I get home.

The verdict is in - I'm a moron. Poori is the recipe right after chapati in Devi's book and the functional instructions were on the opposite page so I must have let "poori" soak into my brain. Mea culpa. Of course, I probablyhave to make poori now...

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at March 9, 2005 12:42 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

I thought that puri were ALWAYS deep fried. Chapatis (aka rotis) are made the way you made your bread - and I agree - chapati (or naan) is the essential accompaniment for palak paneer.

Tongs are wonderful for flipping the bread. We don't have a gas stove (I'm so envious of you!) so have to put a footed wire rack over the electric burner and puff the bread that way.

Isn't that bread wonderful?!


Posted by ejm on March 9, 2005 at 9:53 AM

I didn't know they ever were fried until I saw your comment and did a search. Who knew? Well, I did say yesterday that I was an uneducated Western eater (that would be a great name for a blog on Asian and African food).

Gas stove was my #2 requirement for an apartment, right after dishwasher and just ahead of not being over a bar or restaurant. They're great. My wife wants an electric oven to bake in, so when we buy a place I think we're going dual-fuel.

Posted by barrett on March 9, 2005 at 10:01 AM

Could this also be a regional difference?

My experience is in line with Elizabeth's -- this looks like a great recipe for what I know as chapati.

I'd love to see a recipe for bhel puri sometime, though...

Posted by paul on March 9, 2005 at 12:17 PM

You know I'd swear I used the recipe for Poori as seen in that book but it is certainly not inconceivable I'm confused. In fact, it's probably the more likely scenario, so I've made chanes in the entry above to be confirmed or reversed later.

Posted by barrett on March 9, 2005 at 12:33 PM

Hmmm... well, don't put too much stock into what I say, I could just as easily be wrong! And I wouldn't be at all surprised to find there was a better explanation.

Posted by paul on March 9, 2005 at 4:51 PM

Paul, my husband has been murmuring about bel puri lately and how we've GOT to try making them. We've never deep-fried though - it always seems like such a waste of oil to me.

Many thanks, Barrett; all this talk of Indian food has caused a flurry in the kitchen. My husband made biryani today and I'm just going down to the kitchen to wash cauliflower for aloo gobi....

Yes, gas stove and electric oven is what I dream of having. Dish washer isn't so necessary. We let the girl do that (hmmm, maybe THAT'S why I have dishpan hands!)


Posted by ejm on March 9, 2005 at 5:48 PM

My husband loves to fry pooris--he and my daughter love to make them inflate. They just think that is the best thing in the world to do--tapping the bread lightly to get it to inflate.

Whatever works--it gets me free to work on other dishes!

Posted by Barbara on March 9, 2005 at 6:35 PM

Great recipe, thanks. I Kenya, we would often have chapati with sukuma wiki (can be made with collards), and ugali (a corn meal mush).

My Kenyan recipe simply finishes the cooking on the skillet, and I was never fully satisfied with it. I am going to try this method. It looks like it provides what has been missing.

Posted by Tito on March 10, 2005 at 5:49 AM

Now who's sadly mistaken. I asked my husband about pooris and bel pooris and he said he wouldn't have the first clue how to make bel poori. I looked in our various Indian cookbooks (Madhur Jaffrey, Shehzad Husain, Ismail Merchant) and none of them even mention bel poori.

But how much different can they be from regular pooris? I'm thinking they would be just rolled smaller and thinner? I'll have to investigate further.

Barbara, when your familiy makes pooris, do you use the same dough as you would for making chapatis? (The Merchant recipe for pooris uses some semolina flour.)


Posted by ejm on March 10, 2005 at 7:12 AM

sigh... I just googled and it looks like I'm thinking of pani poori and have never had bhel poori! Barrett, does your book talk about either?

Posted by ejm on March 10, 2005 at 7:27 AM

pani puri is also good, and fun to eat!

Posted by paul on March 10, 2005 at 8:42 AM

Ah, you guys are killing me with all this talk about Pani Puri and Bhel Puri -- some of my absolute favorite Indian food snacks!! The bhel puri dish, I make at home, but I don't make the actual crunchies, just the assembled dish. SO, SO good. Our old neighbors are Indian and we always got their leftovers when they entertained, which was great, because it really introduced us to a lot of great Indian food we'd otherwise know nothing about ... and now I'm craving Indian food!! :)

Posted by Sweetnicks on March 10, 2005 at 9:00 AM

My friend Sweth wrote me about this post -

"FWIW, the cooking method in your post results in what is technically a phulka/fulka chapati; regular chapatis are just cooked on the tava (griddle), and don't puff up and get charred like a fulka. (Gratuitous linguistic aside: oddly, "fulka" is Hindi, I believe meaning "puffy", but chapati is Tamil, from a word meaning (IIRC) "flat". So a fulka chapati is puffy flat.)"

So there you go. I'm learning more about Indian food every day.

Posted by barrett on March 10, 2005 at 2:22 PM

I love your food blog, and I made my mom list it in her directory website of handpicked links to the best foods/ingrediants/ foodblogs etc at :)

keep up the great work!

Posted by jessie on March 10, 2005 at 5:20 PM

Elizabeth, yes, it is basically a chapati dough that is deep fried. I would give the ingredients, but my Indian cookbooks just got packed yesterday for a move at the end of the month! GAH!

Barrett, you can study Indian food for years and never learn it all. Chinese and Thai are much the same way--I have been studying for over ten years now and most of what I know is that there is a lot more that I wish to know.

Thank goodness all of the learning is fun--and tasty!

Posted by Barbara on March 10, 2005 at 9:14 PM

Thanks Barbara! That's okay though. I have a chapati recipe that we like quite well. And also there are regular poori recipes in the four Indian cookbooks on our shelf. Just nothing for bhel poori.

I guess we're going to HAVE to try making poori! (I actually prefer chapati or naan to poori but it is fun every once in a while to have the extra oil.) And speaking of extra oil, I suddenly need to have onion paratha!

Posted by ejm on March 10, 2005 at 11:50 PM

I prefer naan myself, too, but poori are so darned fun to make that we have them now and again--maybe twice a year. Bhatura, we are more likely to have more often. Those are essentially a fried naan meant to go with channa masala.

But even so, I limit my deep frying of anything to about four times a year, at the most.

Posted by Barbara on March 11, 2005 at 10:24 AM

Whoa! An Indian food explosion on toomanychefs!!!! Chapatti or fulkas are bread (made of whole wheat flour usually) that are roated on griddles and stovetops without any oil. Poori is bread that has been deepfried and is usually smaller in size than chapattis or fulkas. Bhelpuri is a mishmash of savouries puffed rice, crispies, hot mixes, peanuts, thinly chopped coriander, grated coconut, sliced onions and topped with a tangy green chutney and a sweetish tamarind chutney.

Posted by plumpernickel on March 14, 2005 at 6:32 AM

Anyone know of a puri that is made of not wheat but some other kind of flour? I had puris that tasted very different than those made with regular flour. These seemed not as greasy and more of a texture to them as if some other kind of flour was added to the wheat flour.

Posted by Mimi on June 25, 2005 at 4:41 PM

I love my kenyan chapatiĀ“s cuz they r made with some oil and salt and they r very tasty

Posted by joy on April 23, 2007 at 2:46 PM
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