Puran poli is a sweet chapatti or flatbread filled with cooked chana dal (Bengal gram), jaggery and spices, essentially cardamom and was one of my favourite things to eat as a child. My grandfather knew how much I loved it and would get a box as a treat for me from Girgaon (South Mumbai) at least once a week.
I would start my eating ritual by pouring warm toop (ghee) over the puran poli and then tear off small pieces, dip it into the ghee and polish it off quickly. But it didn’t end there! I would then take the filling that would crumble and settle onto the plate, pour it into a bowl, add a little milk, mix it into a soggy paste and then eat it with a spoon. May sound crazy but I simply couldn’t waste the delicious combination of chana dal and jaggery!
As I got older, I ate it less frequently and eventually when I moved abroad, it became a distant memory. Sometimes when I came home for a holiday, my mother would get puran poli for me to eat. But a slower metabolism (I could no longer manage to eat a whole puran poli!) and the long list of other delicacies to try, meant I didn’t always end up eating it.
After we started Bombay Howrah Dining Car, I decided I had to try my hand at puran poli and find a way to bring it on the menu. Something that was so special for me, deserved to be discovered and enjoyed by other people.
I first wanted to make it the traditional way, to get the basics right. After scouring many recipes and videos, I wrote up a recipe that appealed to me. For the poli (bread) I used a combination of refined and whole wheat flour. For the filling I cooked the Bengal gram, mixed it with the mashed jaggery and spices and cooked it a little further. Instead of just cardamom I also added fennel, cinnamon and pepper to make it more fragrant. Once it was cool I blended it into a smooth paste and then placed a ball of the filling into a slightly bigger ball of dough, wrapped it over the filling and rolled it out as thin as I could. And finally I cooked it on a tawa (pan) till pinkish golden spots began to appear.
Making puran poli is quite straightforward. The trick, which is true with any filled flatbread, is getting the right consistency of the filling and making sure you roll it out evenly without letting the dough tear and expose any of the filling inside. There is another more traditional way of making the poli and here’s a video that shows how it’s done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv8ryg9MraA
Someday I will become this proficient! But for a first attempt, I thought my puran poli was quite good. Unfortunately I knew I couldn’t serve puran poli in its traditional form to our guests, because it would come as dessert after a fairly big meal and it could become a tipping point to something I had no desire to witness 😉
A small sized poli could help…but wasn’t interesting enough. So I started taking the elements apart and came up with the following version. I converted the filling into kulfi and made it with reduced milk, a little condensed milk, cooked Bengal gram, jaggery & spices and then set it with the ice-cream machine. For the poli, I decided to use filo pastry as it would give a similar flavour after baking and the crisp texture would complement the ice-cream well. To serve, I placed the filo pastry on the plate, topped it with the puran ice-cream, some honey, a little ghee, some of the extra filling from the traditional poli and pistachios.
It doesn’t look like puran poli at all, but it sure tastes like it. A couple of more trials before it debuts on to the menu! 🙂