The poori is a North Indian dish. When it came to South India it captured the hearts, and stomachs, of all South Indians. It is consumed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is freshly fried and served across the spectrum of eateries, from 5-star hotels to roadside snack bars. Mothers pack leftover pooris from breakfast as lunch for their children. It makes a filling meal that satisfies everyone.
Unfortunately the popularity of pooris is not matched by expertise in making them and often the pooris are flat or dripping in oil. The trick to making good pooris is in the preparation of the dough and in rolling out the pooris, as dough that is too stiff results in flat and hard pooris, while dough that is too soft results in oily pooris. I have given the proportion of water in the dough that yields good pooris when using a poori press, though different brands of wheat flour may absorb more or less water, and as always, the cook has to exercise their judgement.
The wheat flour in the pooris supply a fair amount of protein and the deep frying gives a large amount of energy. It is the accompaniments or the side dishes served along with the pooris that will determine the total nutritive value of the meal. While a potato masala, which is very popular in South India, will provide additional carbohydrates, the channa curry (whole Bengal gram) popular in the north will add extra protein and the wheat and the pulse together give an almost complete protein.
- 1 C Atta (Whole Wheat Flour)
- 1 C Maida (Refined Wheat Flour)
- 2 tsp Vegetable Oil for the dough
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 C Water
- Vegetable Oil for deep frying
- Sift the atta and maida together in a large bowl.
- Add salt and mix with your fingers.
- Add the vegetable oil and keep mixing till the flour resembles semolina in texture.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour, add some of the water and start mixing the dough. Keep adding water little by little and mix until you get a soft dough.
- Cover the dough and set aside for 30 minutes.
- Knead the dough using the heel of your palm till the dough becomes soft and pliable.
- Divide the dough into lime sized balls (you should get around 12 balls).
- Place a ball in the centre of the poori press.
- Lower the top plate of the press onto the dough and press down on it using the handle.
- Remove and place it on a large plate. Repeat the process with the other balls.
- Heat the oil in a kadai or wok to just below smoking point.
- Drop a poori gently into the oil using your left hand. With your right hand, using a frying ladle, press the poori gently until it is completely immersed in the oil.
- When you feel resistance allow the poori to come to the surface, taking care not to crack the poori. It should puff evenly.
- Turn the poori over and allow it to fry till it is golden brown.
- Remove the poori with the ladle. Hold it against the side of the kadai to drain the oil.
- Place the fried poori on absorbent paper to remove excess oil.
- Serve hot with channa curry or potato masala (the same masala used for the masala dosai).
- If you do not have a poori press you can roll out pooris using a rolling pin and dusting with flour. This is the traditional method that requires a lot of skill. I prefer using a poori press as the press takes care of the shape and the thickness of the poori; there is no dusting of flour and thus the loose flour neither lowers the temperature of the oil nor adheres to the poori, avoiding an unattractive appearance.
- If the poori sticks to the poori press, rub a little oil on the surface of the press.
- If the flattened dough begins to shrink, turn it over and press again.
- If the dough has too little water, the dough will be stiff, the poori will be thick, and it will not puff up.
- If the dough has too much water, the dough will be sticky; the poori will puff up but the extra steam formed will crack the surface of the poori allowing oil to enter the poori.
- Keep regulating the oil temperature to avoid under or over fried pooris.
- Pooris should be served hot as they collapse quickly once they cool.