Most every culture has their version of fried dough. In Italy, it’s gnocco fritto, a fried sandwich bread, in Spain it’s churros, and in America – we’re all about our doughnuts and funnel cakes. In India, they have puri, a crispy, golden, deep-fried unleavened bread made from whole wheat flour, water, and salt.
While puri’s exact origin is somewhat unknown, a version of the fried dough is served in each region of India. To learn more about this popular dish that spans the country, I spoke with Palak Patel, Chef at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City who specializes in Indian cuisine.
“Growing up in India, we often made puris as a special occasion thing. I remember begging my mom to let me help roll them — although she would then scold me for not making them perfect round circles. Jokingly she would say they looked like the United States,” Patel said.
Puri dough is formed into small balls and rolled out in little flat circles with a rolling pin, and then fried in hot oil. The little dough balls puff up with air into a balloon-like shape due to the moisture in the dough which becomes steam and causes the dough to expand when it’s deep-fried. The perfect puri is pale golden in color and puffed up almost like a ball. If done right, it’s light and crisp, not heavy or oily.
“The texture of the dough is very important. It shouldn’t be tough or too sticky. The right consistency helps the puris puff up immediately without soaking up too much oil,” Patel told SheKnows.
Patel said puri can be paired with both with savory or sweet dishes and makes a great breakfast, lunch or dinner accompaniment. Serve with savory dishes like daal, potato sabzi or go sweet and serve alongside mango pulp (aamras) or rice pudding (kheer). The hardest part of puri is deciding what to eat it with!
Patel likes to eat puri with vegetarian dishes to scoop up the sauces and pick up vegetables. She says you can also enhance your puri dough with spices like turmeric or cumin for extra flavor. If you’re looking for an easy recipe to try, we love this puri recipe from Spice Up the Curry.
The joy of puri is that it’s super simple to make and fun to eat. If you’ve mastered tikka masala, why not give puri a whirl and impress your friends with your expansive Indian cooking abilities.