Garam Masala Tuesdays: Aloo Parantha (Indian flatbread stuffed with potatoes)
Parantha is nothing but a flat bread. Its an unleavened dough made from whole wheat flour and cooked on a tawa/skillet. Paranthas can be made plain or stuffed and aloo (potato) is most popular when it comes to stuffing paranthas. Paranthas can be eaten just like that, on their own, but a really good way to eat is to pair the paranthas with yogurt/curd and your favorite pickle. Aloo paratha is a great one-dish meal for the family that can be served anytime of the day!
The best paranthas that you will ever find are served in small shops on the roadsides, called dhabas. Some of the best ones I have had, were outside the GE call center (BPO) in Gurgaon, India. The first time I had a parantha there, was when I was an undergrad and my cousin and his then girlfriend (now wife :)) took me and my brother out partying. After a fun night, my cousin took us to this dhaba for paranthas. Even at 2am the place was crowded with people. My cousin ordered aloo paranthas for us and after a brief wait, a small boy came with our plates of paranthas with a cube of melting butter on top. The parantha was huge and I was sure I would end up wasting it- but one bite and I could not stop myself. I had to really restrain myself to not order another. I did take a few more bites from my brother’s second parantha! Well, I could afford it then!
The second best I have had were when my senior sneaked us out from our hostel during my first year in undergrad and took us to a dhaba next to the IGI airport, Delhi. You should all know Delhi is not a safe place for woman, even during the day and at night time it gets worse. So there we were- just us girls out at 2 at night in a place that was full of scary truck drivers, waiting for our paranthas. And boy, were they worth it. I would still not recommend any girl to go their alone- it did not look like a safe place. But, if you have bodyguards with you, do pay this place a visit!
And of course, when I talk about dhabas and paranthas I can’t miss mentioning the Dhaba outside my MBA college- Laxman Dhaba. They serve one of the best paranthas in Delhi and have a great variety- cottage cheese, potato, onion, mixed,chicken keema. I have practically survived on these paranthas, thanks to which I gained quite a few pounds during my MBA days.
On my recent trip to India, I went with my friends to Laxman dhaba. And nothing had changed! Its amazing how such small eateries, consistently roll out the same great tasting paranthas day in, day out!
There is actually a whole street full of shops selling paranthas in Delhi- called the Paranthe wali gali (literally translated- “lane of paranthas“). The parantha makers in Paranthe wali gali deep fry their paranthas! I remember when I had them there I did not care too much for the deep fried versions- I prefer my paranthas just lightly cooked in oil, but I was bowled over by the variety of paranthas that they served. But most people love the paranthas of Paranthe wali gali and you will always find this place crowded!
Being from the north, parantha is a staple breakfast item and that’s why I can list so many places in Delhi to eat paranthas. In fact, you can see us eating paranthas for all three meals, which I actually did during my MBA days. Of course, eating them in all three meals is not good for your waistline, because a true parantha eater will always have his parantha with lots of butter. At most north Indian homes, the parantha is served with white butter (ghar ka makhan), that is made from churned fresh cream. That’s how we always have it at my grandparent’s place! Growing up I would always complain about the amount of butter my grandfather would put on my plate, and now what I wouldn’t give for that butter!
V and I had these with a little butter and cucumber raita. Of course it wasn’t the same as having it at the dhaba– I think the whole atmosphere back home adds to the taste of the food, but these paranthas are pretty darn good!
Till my next trip to India, these ones will surely satisfy the craving my Punjabi background has for stuffed paranthas!
ALOO PARANTHAS ( INDIAN FLAT BREAD STUFFED WITH POTATOES)
The key to a good parantha is to use more stuffing and less flour while rolling them. If you can master that trick, most of your work is done. It takes a little practice for the filling not coming out. Try using a day old potatoes, by doing this, the potatoes have hardened after cooking, and they are not so fluffy when they are freshly cooked. Another tip to roll the dough and avoid the filling from coming out is to keep the dough in the fridge for about an hour. The dough stays fresh for a couple of days, so you can make it ahead.
I have mentioned grating the potatoes, but you could also boil your potatoes further and mash them- but be sure that there are no lumps remaining. I recommend grating them as it eliminates the possibility of lumps. If you have a food processor, grating is a breeze. The filling can be added uncooked as well, but I love the flavor of the cooked filling more. Also, you get “stuffed parantha masala” in Indian stores and that can be substituted for the masala recipe I have given here, in case you are in a hurry. For a little pizzazz, you can add grated cauliflower, indian cottage cheese or lentils to the mixture as well.
Makes 10 paranthas
For the dough: (You will get about 13-14 golf sized dough balls and you need only 10. The leftover dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days. You can use it to make normal Indian flatbread or make more aloo paranthas!)
- 400 gms whole wheat flour
- 225-250 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- a pinch red chilli powder, optional
- 1 tbsp oil
For the filling:
- 6 potatoes (Yukon gold, preferably but russet would do)
- 1 medium sized onion
- 6 green chillies
- 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- Stuffed Parantha masala
- 3 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp mint leaves (optional)
- 8-10 white pepper
- 1/2 tsp ajjwain/carom seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp black salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp chaat masala
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- Put the potatoes in a pressure cooker and cook till 6 whistles. The potatoes should be soft enough to grate but not too soft that they easily mash.
- While the potatoes are cooking, work on the dough. In a bowl, mix together the flour, salt, cumin seeds, oil and red chilli powder (in case using it). Make a well and add the water, and gradually knead in the flour into the water. Knead till you get a soft and elastic dough, but should not be sticky. Let rest for 15- 20 minutes, covered with a wet cloth.
- Dry roast all the whole spices- white pepper, carom, coriander, fennel & cumin seeds on a skillet. Once roasted and you get a nice aroma, take them off the fire and grind them to a fine powder. Add the cumin powder, red chilli powder, chaat masala, garam masala and black salt and mix with the rest of the dry spice.
- Finely mince the onion and green chillies.
- Once the pressure drops, cool and peel the potatoes. Grate them- making sure you don’t have and any lumps.
- In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add the minced onions. Cook till translucent (and the onions should have left all their water). Add the green chillies and ginger-garlic paste. Add the spices and coriander-mint leaves. Add the grated potatoes and mix all together. Remove from fire.
Note: Flour work surface and rolling pin. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, flour the dough as well as and when required!
I am linking this to the Hearth & Soul Hop