65 large phuchkas
For the phuchka papri
- 200g Atta
- 100g Suji (semolina)
- ¼ tsp Papad Khar
- ¼ tsp Baking Powder
- 170g Water
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
[UPDATE: We are removing salt from the ingredients for the papri]
For the phuchka water
- 30g Lime juice
- 25g Tamarind pulp
- ¼ tsp Bhaja moshla
- 3g Blacksalt (beetnoon)
- 3g Salt
- 400g Water
For the alu filling
- 300g Boiled potatoes
- 4g Salt
- 4g Bhaja moshla
- 1 tsp Chaat masala
- ½ tsp Coriander powder
- 7g Crushed green chillies
- 10g Coriander leaves
- 50g of phuchka water
- 30g Boiled motor
- 10g Soaked chhola
- Onion chopped (optional)
[In this series, we tip our hats to some of our favourite dishes available in the restaurants, cafés, and cabins of Calcutta. Our purpose in doing so is to document their existence, and give people a way to recreate them if they happen to live away from the city. Make these at home, or hunt them down from the source—irrespective of how you get your hands on these items, we hope you enjoy them.]
Phuchka is a way of life in Calcutta. Everyone has their favourite phuchkawala (phuchka seller). Every para (neighbourhood) must have at least a few phuchkawalas who set up their stalls around four in the afternoon everyday. They bring their already fried phuchka papri or puris in huge bags and arrange them neatly in a huge wicker basket or a glass box. Then they start preparing their mis en place and mixing the tawk jol (sour water). By the time they are done, customers start gathering around them and the day’s business starts.
What is Papad Khar?
Papad Khar (or Saji khar) is an alkaline salt made up of Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3) and Sodium Bicarbonate(NaHCO3). The baking powder along with the Papad Khar help expand the papri when they are fried.
Sodium Bicarbonate is commonly sold as baking or cooking soda in grocery stores. Sodium carbonate is known as soda ash. You should be able to find Papad Khar in any big local grocery store in Calcutta.
How can I make papad khar at home?
If you cannot find papad khar in a grocery store near you, it is easy to make at home. To make a substitute for papad khar, you need to start with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). Papad khar is a mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate in a 2:1 ratio by weight.
Step 1: Make Sodium Carbonate
You can make sodium carbonate by simply heating sodium bicarbonate either in an oven or in a pot. When heated sodium bicarbonate releases water (vapour) and carbondioxide to turn into more alkaline sodium carbonate. You will notice that the white baking soda will start bubbling—indicating that the water vapour and carbondioxide gas are escaping out of the pan. Once it stops bubbling, it is done.
2 NaHCO₃ => Na₂CO₃ + H₂O + CO₂
Step 2: Mix
Using a weighing scale mix Sodium carbonate and bicarbonate in 2:1 ratio by weight. Now you have Papad khar. Keep it in a jar and put a label on it so that you don't confuse it with baking soda.
Make the papri
- In a large bowl mix together 200 grams of atta, 100 grams of sooji, ¼ tsp of papad khar, and ¼ tsp of baking powder. Please note, since making the phuchka video we no longer add salt to the phuchka papri. Because salt is hygroscopic it draws out water from the surrounding air. This can be a problem when storing phuchka for longer periods. It is best not to add salt in the papri.
- Add 150–170 grams of room temperature water. The exact amount depends on several factors including how dry or humid the weather is. Start with 150 grams and add more if necessary.
- This is a stiff dough. So kneading it is going to be quite the workout. Knead continuously for five minutes. We find it helpful to set a timer instead of looking at the clock or guessing. Wrap in a plastic wrap or place in an airtight bowl and rest for one hour.
- After an hour divide the dough into quarters. While you work on one quarter, place the rest back in the bowl or wrap to prevent them from drying out.
- Roll the dough into a thin log. Cut into small portions—7 grams each if you like a big papri and 5 grams if you want a small one.
- Roll each tiny ball of dough between your palms until they are round and have a smooth outer surface. This step is important. If there are cracks on the surface now, your papris may not puff up after you roll them out and fry them.
- Roll them out one by one into discs of uniform thickness—about 7 centimetre in diameter when using a 7 gram portion of dough. You should not need to use any extra flour for dusting. Uniform rolling is important for a good success rate.
- As you roll the papris, leave them out to dry for some time. In a cool room without a fan running it takes up to two hours. But don't go by time. The surface of the papris should dry out but they should not turn stiff. Flip them when one side looks dry. Check the video to see how they should look and feel after drying.
- Now, heat sufficient neutral oil in a korai or wok. The oil has to be very hot—above 200ºC.
- Add a papri and press down with a jhajhri or perforated spoon. Within a few seconds it should puff and rise to the surface. Continue to fry it, basting it with hot oil or turning it over until it is brown. Take it out of the oil and place on a jhuri or colander so that the steam can escape and the papris remain crisp.
- Let one papri puff up before adding the next. Take time to fry all the papris and don't be tempted to put too many in the oil at a time until you have had enough practice. The papris that don't fully puff should be separated and set aside for making churmur.
- The papris, especially the top won't be very crispy right off the oil. Phuchka makers usually leave them out in the hot sun to dry and crisp up. During monsoons they use a high power incadescent light bulb to dry them. You can fry them in the evening and dry them in the sun next morning. As an alternative, dry them in an oven at the lowest temperature setting until crisp. Please keep an eye on them. Papris burn easily! Also, if making ahead, crisp the papris on the day you are planning to serve them.
Make the tok jol
- Soak 25 grams of tamarind (pits removed) in warm water mash it well with some water and extract the pulp.
- Add 30 grams of lime juice or a mix of lime and gandharaj lime juice, 3 grams of black salt, 3 grams of regular table salt, ¼ teaspoon bhaja moshla and 400 grams of chilled water. You can also add some chopped coriander leaves if you want.
- Taste the water and adjust sourness and salt to your liking. You can leave the lime peels in the water for flavour.
Make the potato filling
- Peel and roughly mash 300 grams of boiled potatoes. Don't remove all the lumps. Use jyoti or a medium starchy variety of potato (Yukon gold potatoes if you are in the US).
- Season the potato with 4 grams of salt, 4 grams of bhaja moshla, 1 teaspoon of chaat masala, ½ teaspoon of coriander powder, 7 grams of crushed green chillies, 10 grams of coriander leaves, and about 50 grams of the tok jol (the sour water we made in the previous step) and mix everything together. Taste for seasoning and adjust. 30 grams of boiled yellow peas (motor) and 10 grams of soaked Bengal gram goes in last. Mix gently and you are ready to serve phuchkas.
- In bengal phuchka is assembled one at a time and served and eaten immediately. Use your thumb to poke a hole on the thinner side of the papri. Inset a teaspoon of the potato filling. Dip the whole phuchka under the tok jol to fill it partially with the water. Serve immediately.
- Ghugni phuchka: This is based on the fantastic phuchka served at Swapan'er phuchka—a very popular phuchka stall on Baghajatin Station Road, Calcutta. To make ghugni for ghugni phuchka, use this ghugni recipe, but leave out the whole spices used for phoron, garlic, coconuts, ghee and the garam moshla at the end. While serving mix the hot ghugni with a little bit of the mashed potato mixture prepared in the previous step. Add some extra bhaja moshla, chopped onions and green chillies. The hot ghugni with the chilled water provides a beautiful contrast.
- Mixing bowl
- Plastic wrap
- Bench scraper
- Weighing scale
- Rolling pin
- Korai or Wok
- Jhuri or colander
- Mortar and pestle
- Small bowl