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Flatbreads


Suvir Saran
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I am of the opinion that Indian cooking may stand out most of all in its breads. I think they're all fabulous. And I may not be getting the really good quality ones, but they're still great.

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frankj,

Of all those great Indian breads, which are your favorites? Where do you get these? A favorite restaurant? What does this restaurant do differently from others, if anything at all? Where is this restaurant?

Vivin,

Those Punjabi home made parathas are the best. I yearn for them like you do. I make my pilgrimage to San Francisco a couple of times a year. My maternal grandmother (Nani) was always the best paratha maker in our group of family and friends, and how lucky I am that she lives so close to me. Even in San Francisco, she has done everything she can to make her kitchen the same as what her chefs and she had prepared in India. Aloo (potato), Gobi (cauliflower), mooli (radish), paneer, pyaz (onion), dal (lentil) and even meethe (sweet) parathas are made. I had never eaten the ones stuffed with leaves of radish at her home. I shall ask her why... they sound amazing. We all also have in her repertoire those stuffed with peas.

As I travel to friends and families homes across India and even the US, I find her parathas and those of other Punjabi moms the very best. They are geniuses when it comes to stuffing. They overstuff with filling and have mastered t he art of being able to roll these parathas even as they burst with filling. They are crisp and crunchy breads that are more filling than bread. How they do it? Only they know and can be learned only by watching them and learning the art of feeding with love from them.

I remember Nani takes ghee into her hands, she tears a hole into a cooking paratha, and with her fingers she lines the inside of the bread on either side with ghee. I asked her why she did that? Her answer, the ghee heats the bread from inside and helps cook it both inside and out and makes the thick layer of bread nice and crisp. It also adds more flavor to the filling. I asked her if it burned her fingers, she said it does for the first few times, but then she gets used to it. I do not know many chefs that would make such a gallant effort.

Remembering her paratha making takes me to Olivas post about the women working the tandoor in the squares around some of the smaller cities and certainly many villages, these women work the chulahs (earthen-ware ovens) with such dexterity that one would think they are assembly line workers in some complex industry. But these are mothers, wives and grandmas that have mastered the art of bread making to ensure the most humbles of pleasures for all their family, the gift of a warm chapati, naan, paratha or roti for each family member.

That is what is most important for me when I think of Indian breads. Having hot, fresh and home made breads. They are as good as life gets and as simple as it can be. But in that simplicity, as frankj shares is one of t he greatest zeniths of any culinary tradition.

As a teenager I remember begging my sister and brother, who were older to take me with them and their peer to the Anda Paratha (parathas with eggs) vendors they went to very late at night. Again, this simple preparation would make our senses go atwitter even at the very late hours of the night, when morning is well on its way. In less than humble surroundings, we would eat less than simple food, but it gave us such joy, that even as I type this on the keypad my mouth is drooling for a chance to savor those simple parathas.

In Singapore, at 4:30 one morning, it was friday night- saturday morning, we came out of a night spot with our hosts. They asked if we were hungry and ready for "An Asian" late night experience, and I said a loud Yes. We were taken to an outdoor dining hall. At that late hour, hundreds were gathered in this semi-covered food mall. Vendor after vendor were selling amazing foods at reasonable prices and to people as diverse as one could hope to see at the UN. Rich, poor, Chinese, Malay, Indian, Nepalese, Sikh, Caucasian, Black, Japanese and who knows what else, could all be spotted, and at that place and setting, nothing divided them, they were all enjoying the wonders of these foods t hat were being served by hawkers and their pimps. You could sit at a spot you liked and were lucky to find. With a few extra cents, you could have a third party person buy you all your dishes or those that wanted to explore themselves, could travel around the market to buy their foods directly. It was amazing to see such life at this hour. It took me back to Mohammed Ali Road in Bombay. No where else before had I seen that great buzz at this hour of the day/night. It is magical. People were mostly eating street foods from many different cuisines. And breads were the winners across the different cuisines. And I actually saw how many of the cuisines had adopted some kind of flat breads into their repertoire.

My favorite in that setting were the several Malaysian Rotis.

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Perfectcircle,

Thanks for your encouraging words. And most of all, thanks for sharing the memories of breads. They were wonderful. Indiras recipe sounds perfect. If you have great success with it, make those. My mother makes them like Indira. And they are sumptuous.

You have a great member name. Especially when posting on a Indian flat-bread thread. I always teach my students how while it would not matter at home, but Indian grandmas would teach new brides to be the art of rolling perfect circles. A perfect circle, rolled perfectly can eliminate any errors you can find in the puffing of chapatis and pooris. ALso they look attractive.

What do you eat your Bhaturas with Perfectcircle??

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Hi Suvir,

I normally have Roti Canais at the street stalls or Indian Muslim (Mamak)restaurants. They even have them at buffets at some hotels here but they seem to taste so much better at the stalls or Mamak restaurants. I've never tried making them at home as they're available at the stalls / restaurants throughout the day and are freshly fried when you order them. Some of these Mamak restaurants are even open 24 hours.

I have a couple of recipes for Roti Canai from some Malaysian cook books. Will post them here soon once I dig the books out.

PerfectCircle,

I'm posting from KL. I think each roti stall probably has their own variation of the basic roti. I haven't tried ones with peanuts and honey or spiced potatoes but I definitely like the roti with the filling of little sweet bananas - it's quite good with honey drizzled on it too. I like the plain Roti Canai or Roti Bom (smashed up version of the plain one) best drowned in dhall curry.

Eating Roti Canai in Cameron Highlands sounds really good - a hot crisp Roti Canai with its chewy doughy layers smothered in curry in the cool clean highlands air. It's a lot warmer here in KL so we're usually drenched in sweat once we've had our Roti Canai and Teh Tarik (pulled tea) at the hawker stalls.

Did you try the Murtabak when you were in Malaysia / Singapore? It's sort of like a Roti Canai but is made in a square shape (Roti Canais are usually round) with a minced mutton / chicken, egg and onion filling. It's served with a curry and pink pickled onions.

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I should have been careful about volunteering a recipe fpr makai ki roti because I am notoriously bad when it comes to providing exact measurements. I guess those who are "precisionists" will not want to follow my recipe!! If anyone has anything to add to my recipe, or has any constructive criticism, please let me know, it can only help everyone else.

For the makai ki roti, you will also want to cook some mustard greens, 'sarson ka saag'. The recipe for this is somewhat structured.

2 packets frozen mustard greens

1 packet frozen spinach

1 packet frozen broccoli

1 "thumb" ginger, chopped

3-5 thai bird green chillies, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt to taste

2 tablespoons cornmeal (NOT the extra fine sort)

1\2 cup of butter

For the 'tarka" (ie the ginger infused oil) to drizzle on the sarson ka saag before serving:

1 tsp. ginger, roughly chopped

2 green thai bird chillies, finely chopped

a few tablespoons of butter

Place mustard greens, spinach, broccolli, chilies, ginger and salt in a saucepan and cook over low heat for about an hour. Add some water to the pot as well, maybe a cup or so.

After about an hour when the consistency is quite thick, place the greens in a processor and blitz to a puree.

Alternatively, you could use a pestle and mortar, but this will take a longer time. At home I use this method, it has to be done in batches and is quite time consuming (and a little messy too). I like the resulting consistency, so I stick to this method. Choose whichever method you fancy.

Once you have pureed the greens, place them back into pot and add cornmeal and mix thoroughly. Stir it constantly till it has a cream like consistency. Add the 1/2 cup of butter.

Heat a few tablespoons of butter in a frying pan add finely sliced ginger. Saute till it turns a nutty golden colour. Add the green chillies and pour over the greens.

Makai ki Roti

2 cups cornmeal (NOT the extra-fine sort)

warm water

salt

butter

The trick to making this roti is to use warm water to mould it.

Add water in stages to the cornmeal till it is of a medium consistency. It should not be sticky and it mustn't be too tough either. Add about a tablespoon of butter to this mixture. Some people also add some freshly chopped coriander and a little bit of green chilli, but I am more of a "purist" and leave it as is. Let the sarson ka saag do the extra work!

Smear some corn oil on your hands and form small rounds with the dough.

To form the makai ki roti take a large ziplock bag and place the round, one at a time, in the ziploc. Use your rolling pin, flatten this out to about 3 mm thickness. It should not be too thin.

Place the roti on a hot griddle (a 'tava") smeared with a tablespoon of butter. Fry it on medium heat about 2-3 minutes per side.

Carefully, very carefully, flip over, you can smear some more butter on it if you like. I go crazy with the butter. Particularly, by smearing the butter along the sides of the roti, so it crisps up well.

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Chapattis / Rotis

(Girdle baked flatbread)

Serves 4

Chaptis are comfort food to most any Indian. No meal can compare to a simple home cooked meal of a vegetable, daal and chapattis. Light, nutritious they are a perfect accompaniment to an Indian meal, chapattis are one of a few things that bind India together. Across India they are made with very slight variations for most any meal. At our home we would call them Phulkas which referred to the fact that they puff up as they are made. Us siblings would enjoy getting our perfect ball, have my mom put some ghee on it and then enjoy piercing a hole on it from which the steam would escape. In winter times this steam would give us a moment of warmth followed by a tasty meal. And now in New York, Chuck is most happy eating daal, sabzi and chapattis.

2 cups atta (Indian wheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Close to 1 cup water for kneading

1. Combine the flour and salt together. Put into a bowl.

2. Knead the dough adding a half cup water into a well you make in the center of the flour.

3. Knead for close to 15 minutes using as much water as needed, The dough should be wet, soft and pliable but not sticky.

4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and place some flour on the surface where you will roll the chapattis.

5. Divide the dough into 12 –16 large marbel sized balls. Roll each in your palm into a smooth circular ball. Flatten these by pressing them. Coat these with flour and roll them out into a circle around ? inches in diameter.

6. Place chapatti on the griddle and cook for a couple of minutes or until the top side seems opaque. Now flip the chapatti over and cook the other side for a brief minute.

7. With a tong, take the chapatti to the flame and bake on the fire till it puff up.

8. Serve with most any Indian meal.

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Suvir,

What can be substituted for the Indian Wheat Flour? I haven't a clue where to find an Indian market in New Jersey, although I will be searching the internet to track one down very soon. My supermarket only carries the usual refined flours...all purpose, wheat, unbleached, cake flour, rice flour etc.

I also have another question: I am very fond of Phulorie which is made in Barbados and was wondering if this also has Indian origins.

Here is the recipe I have been using since my mom did not have the ingredients.

PHOULORIE

Ingredients:

2 cups split peas powder

½ cup flour

1 clove garlic, crushed

1-½ tsp salt

black pepper

1 tsp saffron powder or 2 tsp curry powder

2 tsp baking powder

oil for deep frying

Method:

Mix split peas powder with all ingredients except water.

Add enough water to make a thick batter.

Heat oil in heavy pot.

Drop batter, a teaspoon at a time into the hot oil, and let cook until brown.

Drain and test one for salt and dryness. If too dry add a little water to the batter.

Serve with a spicy chutney or a peppery tamarind sauce.

I could eat dozens of these. Now if I can find a recipe for the fried bread the Indians in Barbados make. Its sweet and chewy and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon(?) Like Italian Zeppoles with a different topping.

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What can be substituted for the Indian Wheat Flour?  I haven't a clue where to find an Indian market in New Jersey, although I will be searching the internet to track one down very soon.  My supermarket only carries the usual refined flours...all purpose, wheat, unbleached, cake flour, rice flour etc.

You can use a mix of whole wheat flour and all purpose flour. That works just fine.

Or simply order Atta from www.namaste.com

They will deliver within a couple of days.

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I could eat dozens of these.  Now if I can find a recipe for the fried bread the Indians in Barbados make.  Its sweet and chewy and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon(?)  Like Italian Zeppoles with a different topping.

Wonder what bread you are talking about.

We have something called Malpuas, another version called Poode and then there are paaras... not sure which you are speaking of.

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I am not sure what bread it is either. :smile: I will ask my mom to bring some back with her when she returns from Barbados. But I remember buying these when I was in Primary School for 5 cents for 5. I wish I knew what they were called or had a better description to give you. Until then ....my search continues.

Thank you for the substitution and ratio.

Jodi

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Thank you for the substitution and ratio. 

Jodi

Jodi,

Remember it is equal amounts of whole wheat flour and all purpose flour.

But I must warn you that the results will never be the same as when you use Atta. But it is close enough.

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Makayee Kee Pooriyaan

(Fluffy Cornmeal Pooris)

Serves 4-6

These pooris are very similar to the pooris you find in restaurants. The only difference is that they are heartier, tastier and very satisfying eaten by themselves with some yogurt and chutneys or pickles.

1 cup makayee kaa atta (cornmeal)

2 med baking potatoes, boiled

1/4 teaspoon carom seeds (ajowain)

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon canola oil for kneading

Canola oil for deep frying

Warm water for kneading

1. Peel and mash the boiled potatoes, set aside.

2. Sift the maize flour with the salt into a bowl.

3. Add the carom and the teaspoon of canola into the flour and mix it well.

4. Mix the mashed potatoes into the flour and with some warm water knead it into a soft pliable dough that is moist but not sticky. Spend a good 5-10 minutes kneading.

5. Moisten your hands with canola, take some dough, form it into large marble sized rounds. Roll these into thin round pooris. Set aside on a platter. Continue doing this with the rest of t he dough. Place the pooris in a single layer on the platter. You could spread some Saran Wrap between layers and use the same platter.

6. In a deep fryer or a Karahi, heat the canola to 375?F.

7. Place the pooris one at a time in the deep fryer and fry them till they are a light golden brown. You should use the strainger very gently to press the poori down as you first place it in the oil. This will ensure that it does not come up very quickly and also encourage it to fluff up. Be very gentle as it fluffs, since it can just as easily puncture.

8. Remove from the fryer and drain on several layers of paper towels. Serve hot with raita and chutney and pickles.

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(answering some earlier questions; I haven't been online lately)

- Suvir, I'm embarrassed to tell you what I eat my bhaturas with! I cheat drastically and use Patak's curry out of a jar. I prepare it with potatoes and lots of cauliflower. My sweetheart is vegetarian and it's one of his favorite winter meals (for two days in a row, usually; plenty of leftovers). We have several kinds of pickle on hand (different brands of lime, mango, and garlic) and the curry acts as a vehicle for the pickle as well as being delicious in its own right (despite its pre-packaged origins). Indira always prepared channa masala to accompany her bhaturas, and while we made it once together, my schedule generally doesn't allow for such detailed cooking. Plus I could never make it as well as Indira! Her recipe is in the molecules of her fingers; they know exactly how to do it right. My fingers are mere interlopers.

- Shiewie, I didn't try murtabak when I was in Malaysia, but it is on the menu of the Malay Satay Hut here in the Seattle area, and I'm planning on ordering it next time. It's hard to forego the roti canai to try something unknown, so thank you for the recommendation!

Over and out-

PerfectCircle (a shape my bhaturas never achieve)

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There's something about a good naan that I can't describe. It's soft and moist and steaming hot. Almost like sex.

Most rotis I've had, however, were on trains in India and they were, well, not like sex. Mostly greasy and smelly.

What's the difference between roti and chapati?

I love aloo paratha, but the places out here are so bad that my friends make fun of me when I order it. (Of course, last time I went to Indian food with my friends we had 5 people and three orders of chicken tikka masala. I had to beg for some saag paneer.)

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Most rotis I've had, however, were on trains in India and they were, well, not like sex.  Mostly greasy and smelly.

What's the difference between roti and chapati?

They were greasy for they were not rotis. Or perhaps they were and were made greasy to keep them fresh longer. :wink:

Each family in India has their own definition of what a roti and chapati are. They are the most basic breads made at homes. This evening my sisters mother-in-law who is visiting from India made us both for dinner.

Rotis are traditionally bigger and thicker and more rustic.

Chapatis are thinner and mostly small in Northern India.

In our home Chapatis are also called Phulkas since each chapati is rolled so delicately and perfectly that they swell up like balls.

These are the most addictive kind of bread I know. Nothing can brighten up my face better than these made fresh.

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I love aloo paratha, but the places out here are so bad that my friends make fun of me when I order it.  (Of course, last time I went to Indian food with my friends we had 5 people and three orders of chicken tikka masala.  I had to beg for some saag paneer.)

Who would not like aloo parathas?

They were never meant to be restaurant fare. Homestyle ALoo Parathas are as good as life gets. When made by grandmothers and mothers, nothing can come close to them in providing a hungry body or even a sated appetite hunger and satisfaction.

Vivin made a beautiful reference to Punjabis and their parathas. No one can make them better.

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Suvir, I'm embarrassed to tell you what I eat my bhaturas with! I cheat drastically and use Patak's curry out of a jar. I prepare it with potatoes and lots of cauliflower. My sweetheart is vegetarian and it's one of his favorite winter meals (for two days in a row, usually; plenty of leftovers). We have several kinds of pickle on hand (different brands of lime, mango, and garlic) and the curry acts as a vehicle for the pickle as well as being delicious in its own right (despite its pre-packaged origins). Indira always prepared channa masala to accompany her bhaturas, and while we made it once together, my schedule generally doesn't allow for such detailed cooking.

Over and out-

PerfectCircle (a shape my bhaturas never achieve)

Your potato ad cauliflower dish sounds wonderful. Maybe you can post us a recipe. You will be surprised to know that many Indians would love to eat exactly what you liked...

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  • 2 weeks later...
Eno ANtacid is used by many Indians in the preparation of the batter for making Dhoklas (The steamed caked from Gujarat.  These are availbale at Dimple Chaat and also other Indian restaurants or some stores as well).  I have never seen people using them for Idlis or Dosai, but have heard about it.  Not sure how successful it is.  I do have Eno's in my kitchen.  Still waiting to be opened.

Dhoklas are one of my favorite Indian foods! Actually, one of my favorite foods period. I've never seen them on the menu at an Indian restaurant though. Luckily, I got a recipe from a friend's mother and it's not difficult to make. The recipe called for Eno's, but not wanting to buy a whole bottle just for the occasional pinch, I substituted baking soda and it seemed to work just fine. I think baking soda is main active ingredient in Eno's anyway.

Since this is the flatbread thread, I'd thought I'd mention Breads of India in Berkeley, CA. Their menu changes daily, offering several dishes from various regions of India and always suggest specific breads to accompany each dish. The prices are very reasonable too.

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Dhoklas are one of my favorite Indian foods!  Actually, one of my favorite foods period.  I've never seen them on the menu at an Indian restaurant though.  Luckily, I got a recipe from a friend's mother and it's not difficult to make.  The recipe called for Eno's, but not wanting to buy a whole bottle just for the occasional pinch, I substituted baking soda and it seemed to work just fine.  I think baking soda is main active ingredient in Eno's anyway.

Have a recipe to share with all of us?

Yes baking soda is the active ingredient.

I love Dhoklas as well. How light and wonderful. I love them with some mint chutney.

What tarka (perfumed oil/tempered oil) do you add to your Dhoklas?

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Since this is the flatbread thread, I'd thought I'd mention Breads of India in Berkeley, CA.  Their menu changes daily, offering several dishes from various regions of India and always suggest specific breads to accompany each dish.  The prices are very reasonable too.

Breads of India...

Is this a restaurant? Where is it? What are your favorite dishes there?

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The recipe calls for plain oil, but I've thought about adding other flavors to the basic dish. I think I need to make it more often so I won't be as scared to screw it up. I wish restaurants would serve this too, but then it probably wouldn't taste the same as my friend's. Mine doesn't taste the same either, but that could be because I use the preground dhokla flour and they grind their own.

Dhokla

1 1/2 cup Rice dal, ground to corn meal consistency

1/4 cup urad dal (white mung bean), ground to cornmeal consistency

1/4 cup chana dal (garbanzo bean), ground to cornmeal consistency

OR 2 cups dhokla flour (available at some Indian markets)

6 tbs oil

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup yogurt

pinch of cumin

hot water

marcha (green chiles) to taste (2 or 3 for me), chopped

garlic, to taste (about 3 cloves for me), minced

ginger, to taste (about the same amount as the garlic), minced

1 tsp Eno or baking soda

coconut

sesame seeds

Mix the flours, oil, salt and yogurt together in a bowl. Let sit overnight or for several hours.

Add enough hot water to form a thick batter.

Stir in the chiles, garlic and ginger. Steaming dilutes the taste of the spices so you might need to add a bit more than you think.

Add the baking soda, stir well.

Pour batter into greased pan. My friends have a special set of steaming pans, but I've used regular 9" cake pans and an 8x8" square pan without any problems.

Sprinkle coconut and sesame seeds on top. I've also made it without adding these and it was just as tasty.

Steam for about 20 minutes or until a knife or tester comes out clean from the middle.

Enjoy!

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Is this a restaurant?  Where is it?  What are your favorite dishes there?

It's on Sacramento Street at Dwight Way in Berkeley. I'll have to look up the exact address. I haven't been there often enough to have any favorites; the menu has been different each time I've been there. I haven't had anything bad there yet. I wouldn't call it four star dining, but it is a cut above most of the Indian restaurant food I've had here in the Bay Area.

The menu makes a point of describing which region of India each dish comes from and I haven't seen any other restaurant offer different types of bread with specific dishes.

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  • 3 months later...

What a wonderful thread....I missed it first time out. Had planned to make Laurie Colwin's gingerbread this afternoon (and still will!) but I'm going to see if I have any whole wheat flour so I can make a run at some chappatis.

Thanks all, and especially Suvir for his evocative and helpful advice.

Come to think of it, it the last couple of months I've been active on eGullet, I haven't seen much from bread bakers, whatever the ethnicity or specialty. You must live closer to good bread than we do!

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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      Prep Time : 5 mins
      Cook Time: 5 mins
      Serves: 2
       
      Ingredients:
      1 cup rice(basmati), cooked
      1/2 cup coconut, shredded or grated
      1 green chili, slit
      1 dried red chili
      1 1/2 tablespoon oil/ghee(clarified butter)
      1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
      1/2 tablespoon chana dal(split chickpeas)
      1/2 tablespoon urad dal(split black gram)
      1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
      A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
      Few curry leaves
      Salt to taste
       
      Directions
      1) Heat oil/ghee(clarified butter) in a pan in medium flame. I used coconut oil here because it tastes best for this dish.
      2) Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chana dal(split chickpeas), urad dal(split black gram), green chili, dried red chili, ginger and curry leaves. Fry this for 30 seconds in medium flame. The trick is to ensure that these are fried but not burned.
      3) Add a pinch of hing(asafoetida) and mix well.
      4) Now add the cooked rice and coconut. Stir well for about 15 to 20 seconds and switch off the flame.
      5) Finally add salt into this and mix well. You could add peanuts or cashew nuts if you prefer. Goes well with most curries.
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