Why It Works
- Warm water helps the dough come together easily by hand; it will become smooth and taut with just a few minutes of kneading.
- If docked (pricked all over) the papris will fry into crisp chips. Alternatively, if left un-pricked, the papris will puff up when fried, and can then be stuffed for sev puri chaat and panipuri.
Papris are crispy chips made from a simple wheat dough, and a key ingredient in the Indian street snack papri chaat. Much like nachos, papris are often served with assorted toppings that offer complementary and contrasting textures and flavors, all of it always dusted generously with chaat masala.
Papri dough is traditionally made with a type of flour called atta, which is milled from durum wheat. Durum is a hard wheat with a high percentage of protein that forms strong gluten networks without becoming very elastic, unlike bread flour (another high-protein flour), which creates elastic doughs. This property makes atta ideal for rolling into thin flatbreads and extruding into pastas. However, atta has very different qualities from the durum wheat typically used to make pasta.
Grains consist of three parts: the germ, the bran, and the endosperm (the starchy part).** For pasta, only the endosperm from the durum wheat is milled into semolina flour, unlike with atta, for which the entire kernel is milled. If you don't have access to atta flour, a good substitute is whole wheat flour, which is similar in flavor. Warm water helps the dough come together easily by hand; it will become smooth and taut with just a few minutes of kneading. For easier rolling, it's best to let the dough rest for at least an hour, or up to overnight, in order for the gluten to relax.
** Read our guide to whole grains for more.
This dough can be used to make two kinds of papris. If docked (pricked all over), it will fry into flat, crisp chips, but if left undocked, it puffs up into crunchy pockets that can then be filled.
I like to flavor the papris with nigella seeds, which add a mild peppery aroma and a touch of pleasant bitterness, but a more traditional addition is ground ajwain seed (a member of the same family as cumin and fennel, with an herbal, anise-y scent and flavor).
The nigella seeds also act as a guide for rolling the dough to the perfect thickness, as their natural size is just about the proper thickness for the papri dough. If the papris are rolled too thick, they'll remain chewy in the center after frying, rather than crisp all the way through, while dough rolled too thin will never become puffed and flaky. Rolling out the dough just to the thickness of a nigella seed gives you perfect papris every time.
Traditionally, flat papris are served as papri chaat, buried under fluffy boiled potatoes, tender chickpeas, cool yogurt, bright mint chutney, sweet-and-sour tamarind chutney, and crunchy sev. The recipe can look intimidating at first, but just like with nachos, you can save time and effort by purchasing some or all of the more labor-intensive components—like the sev and chutneys (and even the papris if you don't want to make them from scratch)—and assembling them at home, adjusting the ratios to your tastes.
If you let your papris puff up by skipping the docking step, they are great when stuffed for sev puri chaat and panipuri.
This recipe was originally published as a component of our Papri Chaat (Indian Street Snack With Potato, Chickpeas, and Chutneys) Recipe and is being republished here as a separate recipe to make it easier to use.
2 cups (260g) atta flour (Indian wheat flour) or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon (5g) nigella seeds
1 tablespoon (12g) vegetable oil
1 1/2 quarts (1.4L) oil for frying, such as canola, peanut, or vegetable
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nigella seeds. Add warm water, a little at a time, until a soft dough forms (it should be the consistency of Play-Doh). Knead in the bowl until mixture comes together into a smooth dough, about 5 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough until it is approximately 2 millimeters thick. (You can use the nigella seeds as your guide: The dough should be just barely thicker than the seeds themselves.) Using a fork, prick all over surface of dough. (Alternatively, if left un-pricked, the papris will puff up when fried, and can then be stuffed for sev puri chaat and panipuri.) Using a 1 1/2–inch round cookie cutter, cut rounds from dough and set aside on a floured surface. Any scraps can be gathered and re-rolled until you have no more dough left.
In a large pot, wok, or Dutch oven, heat oil to 375°F (190°C). Working in batches of 6 to 8 pieces, fry papris, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Drain onto a paper towel–lined sheet tray and season with salt while still warm. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.
Rolling pin, large pot, wok, or Dutch oven, sheet tray (optionally with metal rack).
Frying oil can be reserved for another use. If docked (pricked all over), as this recipe calls for, the papris will fry into crisp chips. Alternatively, if left un-pricked, the papris will puff up when fried, and can then be stuffed for sev puri chaat and panipuri.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The papris will stay crisp in an airtight container for up to 1 week.