Aloo Parantha

A Successful Indian Breakfast Dish: Aloo Parantha

I’ve been thinking a lot about India lately, and I miss it. I miss the beauty amidst the rubble, the food (my favorite in the world), the thrill of adventure, the kind people and their intricate belief system. My toes aren’t yet getting itchy enough to actually research plane tickets, but I decided this week’s cooking assignment could take me there via my taste buds.

I mentioned in my post about cooking Pad Thai last week that I’ve been carrying around a sack of authentic spices since I left India. That was in February, and I didn’t put them to use until Monday night when I made a traditional North Indian breakfast dish: Aloo (potato) Parantha.

I ate a different variation of parantha almost every day of the six weeks I spent in India, so it’s fair to say I know what it should taste like, and that I love it. However, this was beyond my limited cooking experience, and I wasn’t confident it would actually turn out.

I thought I might mess up the first part – mixing whole-wheat flour with water and kneading it into a ball. I’m not sure how anyone can mess that up, and I even helped prepare chapati several times in India, but I feared doing it alone could mean disaster. It didn’t.

Make chapati India

Helping make chapati at the campsite we crashed at Maha Kumbh Mela 2013. Read about it here.

Then I thought I probably wouldn’t get the spices right. I have about five different clear bags filled with colorful ingredients, but none of them are marked, and seven months is too long for me to remember which is which. I gave it my best guess, and it was flavorful. I call that a win.

The next terror came when it was time to flatten the dough balls, fill them with the spicy potato and veggie filling, ball them up once more and flatten again, keeping all the insides in place. I tried it the way the recipe said, using one flat dough ball and pinching the sides around the filling, but it came out much smaller than I remembered the authentic version to be. So I used two flattened balls to surround the insides. Not only did it make my job much easier, but it became larger and the paranthas were more sturdy, holding up nicely in the transfer from table to pan.

making parantha

After grilling each circular piece, I served them with plain yogurt and olives (as close as I could get to the original versions), and suggested my friends eat with their hands. None of them had tried Aloo Parantha before, but all gave stamps of approval. Two even went back for seconds – proof they weren’t actually lying to me.

I call that success!

 

Reflections:

I learned something about myself with this assignment. I found that because this was a homework assignment, meaning I actually had to do it, I didn’t dwell on the two hours it took from start to finish. My problem with cooking (aside from the scary part) is that it often takes too much time; I’d rather do something I might consider more productive. Plus, when I’m hungry, I want to eat now.

I noticed, however, that because I knew I had to cook, and that I was going to do it on Monday night, I was prepared to start before my stomach started rumbling, and I was equally prepared to block out the majority of the evening for such a task. Had I not been able to strike through my To Do list with a black, ballpoint pen directly after, I’m sure I would have eaten a sandwich or salad and spent those two hours catching up on the nearly 200 pages of weekly reading I have, or written an essay, or any of the thousands of other things overfilling my plate right now.

But because it was on the list, and because I was prepared to work around the time it would take me, I actually enjoyed myself. Enjoyed. Whoa. That’s a big step.

making aloo parantha

I also managed to find it slightly relaxing. My brain has been a jumble of all the things required of me after a long weekend of job training and jumping into my third week of school. I feel like I’ve been swimming through a fog, trying to keep my head afloat, and this break gave me a chance to forget about it all, to put deadlines on hold and the pressures of two new jobs aside. It allowed me to cook a good meal (albeit breakfast for dinner), to sit down with friends and, most importantly, to get the taste of India I’ve been so dearly missing.

Recipe: 

Click here to view the Punjabi recipe I used from Sanjeev Kapoor’s website. I also received valuable tips from Bhuwan Chand, avid reader, writer, researcher, family man, and devoted follower of my site whom I can’t thank enough. Read his blog here.


A Successful Indian Breakfast Dish: Aloo Parantha
Written by:Jessica J. Hill
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13 Comments

  1. Ann Marie says:

    I too have been thinking about and missing India lately and hence have dined on India food for two nights in a row! Yesterday was at least in celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi 🙂 You will inspire me to actually try and cook some of my own this winter. On a taxi ride home the other night from the airport my driver was Punjabi. He said he had lived in Las Vegas for a long time but moved to Anchorage 2 years ago to be a taxi driver because he had a gambling problem and had to get away. He is away from his family there (wife and kids) but hardly makes enough money to survive, much less send it to them, but at least he isn’t gambling it away. I’m not sure if they just make up different stories for every customer, that’s sure what I did in SE Asia when taxi drivers would ask me what I was doing there, haha. A Punjabi driver wouldn’t seem strange in other parts of the USA, but this is Alaska. Also, on Kodiak Island, AK I had a taxi driver from Cambodia. Sigh, Asia is calling me back!

    • jessicajhill says:

      I don’t think I will ever get tired of Indian food! How strange about your Indian taxi drivers in Alaska and Cambodia. I think it is a sign. You should definitely go back 😉

  2. I looooove Indian food (definitely one of my top 3 favorite foods, right up there with Mexican and Vietnamese) but it is so difficult to really nail it in a home kitchen. I can make a halfway decent chicken tikka masala, but one of the things I’m hoping to do when we reach India is take a few cooking classes so I can master a few other dishes that I love (if I could make a perfect veggie korma, my life might be complete!). Congrats on tackling and conquering the aloo parantha—looks great & I’m sure it tasted even better!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Oooh I agree, Mexican and Vietnamese are amazing too. I’m definitely going to try a veggie korma sometime – that was one of my favorite dishes. Perhaps I’ll give that a go for my homework this weekend….if I’m feeling like a challenge.

  3. Bhuwan Chand says:

    Paranthas look yummy, you’ve done a wonderful job there. thanks a lot for your nice words.

    The next challenge for you would be to try and make the outer layer of wheat flour thinner. The purpose of using only one dough ball is to make them thinner, crispier and healthier as the whole thing gets cooked evenly in shorter time period.

    • jessicajhill says:

      That will definitely be a challenge, Bhuwan, but you make a valid point. I had them a variety of ways in India, but I’m guessing the thinner version were from more experienced cooks. Perhaps I’ll stick with one dough ball next time!

  4. Suze says:

    I love spending time cooking, especially Asian food 🙂 On the weekends I like trying a new receipe from Sanjeev Kapoor’s cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of Indian Cooking’. Somehow it’s simply… therapeutic (and a great way to treat friends!)

    My first paratha-attempt was also a moderate success. Somehow it sounds a lot easier then it actually is ‘keeping the stuffing in a thin wafer’ 😉 Good luck on your next receipe!

  5. Jayla Rae Ardelean says:

    I really like how you used your aching for India as inspiration for a dish to cook for our assignment. I think involving your current feelings can allow you to be more creative and in turn, make successful dishes like this one! What a great second week! 🙂

  6. Anu says:

    I should say that I am very much impressed with the way you’ve got your parathas (round, and thick)! Great job there! I am an Indian, and it took me proper 2 years to make a round, soft rotis/Chapati’s 🙂

    • jessicajhill says:

      Whoa, that’s a compliment, Anu! Thanks so much! They’re a bit thick, so I’ll have to work on getting them thinner next time, but I got lots of practice making a round chapati while I was in India! Where are you now?

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