Why It Works
- Proper drying of the poppadoms ensures they puff up when cooked.
- This recipe's spices are easily customizable and you can swap black pepper for seasonings like crushed cumin seeds, red chile powder, or sesame seeds.
Poppadoms are an Indian staple made from little more than flour (rice, lentils, potato, and chickpea are among the most popular), water, and spices. In most of India, we call them papads, and I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like them. The staggering variety might have something to do with the fact that one can never really run out of ways to enjoy these delicious crisps.
In parts of the country, they take center stage as a dish of their own, called papad ki sabzi, made in a tangy yogurt sauce. Sometimes poppadoms are a starter, draped with raw onion, tomato, fresh coriander leaves, and serrano chiles, and topped off with chaat masala (a salty-sour spice blend used to garnish many snacks). They can also be simply roasted for a quick, healthy snack.
But for me, the real story of the papad lies in its legacy as a tool for women's empowerment in India. This easy dish is, in a sense, responsible for changing the lives of thousands of women, particularly from financially crippled sections of society. The company Lijjat Papad was founded in the 1950s and has since become a household name throughout the country. The women's cooperative provides employment to tens of thousands of women, allowing them to raise their families, educate their children, and live better lives. Every member of the organization is a co-owner, sharing in its profits and losses alike.
If you try this recipe at home, make sure you read the weather forecast a day before. The secret to the perfect papad is the sun. Natural sun-dried papads are the best and keep well for the longest time. Feel free to experiment with crushed cumin seeds, red chile powder, or sesame if you don't like black pepper.
1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups; 454g) urad daal flour (black gram flour, see notes)
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (see notes)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup (60ml) water
1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable or other neutral oil, divided, plus more if frying
In a mixing bowl, combine black gram flour, cumin seeds, baking soda, asafoetida, black pepper, and a large pinch of kosher salt. Add half of water and work into mixture with hands. Gradually add more water until the dough just holds together. Gradually add 1 tablespoon of the oil and knead into a very stiff dough. Cover and set aside for at least 2 hours.
Remove from bowl and knead with greased hands until it is very pliable, about 5 minutes. Using a tablespoon measure, divide into 12 to 15 small balls. Roll each ball into very thin rounds with a rolling pin on a lightly oiled surface. The rounds should be evenly thin and about 6 inches in diameter.
Space the dough rounds on rimmed baking sheets and dry in direct sunlight until totally dry, 24 to 48 hours. Alternatively, dry in the oven at the lowest possible heat for 4 to 6 hours, or in a dehydrator. After fully drying store papads in an airtight container.
To fry the papads: In a cast iron skillet or medium pot, heat 1/2 inch of oil over medium-high heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 375°F (190°C). Working 1 papad at a time, gently lower into oil and fry, turning once and pressing down with tongs to submerge as it cooks, until papad is crisped and bubbly, 15 to 30 seconds. Drain on a paper-towel–lined tray, then serve immediately.
To bake/broil the papads: Heat papads directly over an open flame or gas grill until lightly toasted, or preheat broiler to high and broil until lightly toasted. Serve immediately.
Black gram flour and asafoetida can be found online and in Indian specialty markets.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Store the dry papads in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 4g||5%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||2%|
|Total Carbohydrate 22g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||15%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|