July 07, 2022
PAPAD. (Also called pappadam, paparh, and appalam) Every time I crisp up one of these dried wafers for my family I wonder why it's not given the respect it deserves. It's a critical part of our Punjabi meals. Papad is one of the most overlooked aspects of a North Indian meal in the West, and I hope to help change that.
What is it? Papad is a large round, dried, paper thin wafer that is sold in Indian grocery stores in flat, thin plastic packets. They are usually stacked near the spice aisle and easy to miss. Typically made from dried legumes like moong, plain or seasoned ground lentil flour, or rice flour, they are rolled paper thin and dried in the sun. They come in many different 'flavors'. The one pictured above is the one we prefer in our Punjabi household - spiced with black pepper. Some are plain, spiced with red chile powder, or cumin and other seeds.
We cook them simply by placing them on an open flame until they crisp up like a chip. It's easy if you have a gas stove. If you have an electric burner no worries, you can simply use a metal diffuser and place the papad over it. You can even crisp them up in a microwave. Just a minute usually does the trick. The ones you may be familiar with are deep fried in restaurants and served as a starter with chutney on the side. My family, though, has never deep fried our papad.
Technique is important when crisping these up. They are thin and can catch on fire easily. The key is to keep flipping the papad as it cooks - and if it catches on fire not a worry, just blow it out and keep going. Much like heating a tortilla on an open flame.
When do we eat them? Always! We always have a few with a drink ahead of a meal. Kind of like in Japan where they serve edamame with beer or in the US peanuts at a bar with drinks. We also have them available with the meal as an additional or as a replacement to bread. When we eat dal we will crush a small amount and sprinkle it over top so that as we eat we also get that delicious crunch.
What are your memories of papad? Please post in the comments section. I would love to hear them!
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