Wednesday, July 04, 2007

the sweet potato resurfaces

those of you who have been following my blog basically know i've never been a sweet potato lover. in fact, they really used to "gross me out," as we say in vernacular english. everything about them bothered me: their taste, their smell and, ewww, especially their texture. a few months back, i even posted an entry which detailed my disdain for them.

that post, however, also spoke of the reanalysis of my relationship with this hefty orange tuber after a fortuitous discovery and included the recipe which changed my mind about them. since that time i've tried other things — all of which, once again, started to reinforce my old hatred and none that made a dent in my further wanting to explore its virtues. well, until recently, that is ....

this new discovery, from several weeks, back has literally expanded and inflated {pun intended} my sweet potato repertoire, thus making a total of two things i'll now eat (a good thing since it's always been zero!). in this instance, my nemesis reinvents itself in the form of a flatbread which can take its shape in either of two ways. both types are commonly seen on the indian table but one is reserved for more lavish occasions like dinner parties due to the fact it is fried in oil — not something you want to indulge in every day.

called pooris, these breads of north indian origin are well worth the effort, if only once or twice a year. cooking them is fun, too, as you see them swell up into small balloons right before your very eyes.

the other option, a more calorie conscious one, is to "dry fry" (i.e. griddle bake) them as is done with phulka breads. after quickly roasting them directing over a heat source (see recipe), they will also swell up and balloon, only this time, without a drop of oil.

whichever way you choose, these breads taste incredibly good. they remain extremely soft and are wonderful with all types of spicy dishes.

if you tried the other recipe i posted and enjoyed, i'm sure you'll love these too. i know i did.

sweet potato poori or phulka

the following sweet potato-based flatbreads can be made either lavishly, quickly fried in oil or everyday style, cooked on a hot griddle with no fat at all. most likely the occasion for which you make them will dictate. poori are usually 'special occasion breads' and i bet you can guess why! ;) whichever method you do choose, both will puff up and leave you with irresistable orange-hued and mildly spiced breads perfect for almost any indian type meal.

makes 8 - 10 breads


1 sweet potato (175 gr)
1 c atta (chappati) flour or 3/4 wholewheat + 1/4 all purpose
1/2 tsp salt, heaped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red chili powder, or more but don't overdo it
1/8 tsp asafetida powder*
1 tsp ground coriander powder
2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

3 tbsp ghee or melted butter (more as needed)
2 - 4 tbsp water, or as needed

*if you can't get asafetida or don't want to use it, the closest approximation is garlic powder.


cook the sweet potato in the microwave until soft or another way such as boiling, steaming or baking until it is soft. i find using the microwave much more convenient. if doing it that way, prick it several times all over and cook according to how your microwave works best for root vegetables.

once cooled enough to handle (it must be warm), peel off the skin and mash it. you need 200 ml or about 3/4 c, mashed.

place dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together.

add the mashed sweet potato and chopped coriander.

mix the wet ingredients into the dry with your hands until it is well crumbled. it will smell incredibly good at this point!

add the ghee or melted butter and mix with your hands. add enough [ghee or butter] to make a rough ball of dough. (the ghee was semi solid so that's why it looks this way below in the photo ....)

add water by tablespoons and knead the dough to make a firm but smooth dough. it will soften more upon resting. knead for about 5 minutes noting that the dough should not be so dry as to crack after kneading it. if needed, add an extra tablespoon or two of water.

let rest for 1 to 3 hours, well covered in a bowl. you can wet a paper towel and squeeze it out and then place it over the dough to give extra moisture before covering the bowl.

once rested, cut 8 to 10 small balls of dough and roll them out with extra flour to about 5 inches rounds.

if making poori:

heat about 2 1/2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil over medium heat in a cooking vessel at least 8 inches wide, such as a wok or indian karai. you could also use a dutch oven type pan.

roll out all the pooris and keep covered until ready to cook.

once the oil is ready, slip a disc of dough into the hot oil carefully. do not let it double over.

place a metal spoon over the bread and keep it submerged as the oil bubbles up around it. this will help it inflate. this will take about 20 to 40 seconds if your heat is right. if the oil is too hot and it browns, you must lower your heat.

tap the bread slightly until it balloons up. as it is doing this baste the uncooked topside with oil. quickly and carefully, flip the bread over on the other side and cook very briefly. it will lightly brown.

if you have any tears or rips, the poori will fill with oil. this whole process may take some practice if you've never made these before.

once cooked on both sides, remove carefully and drain on paper towels.

wrap the finished poori in either a tea towel or place in a pyrex and cover with foil until serving them.

if making phulkas:

this is an easier method and involves no oil. it is the same way one makes everyday phulka (chappati, puffed up over a flame or electric element).

you need two burners for this: the first with the pan and the second for puffing up the bread. if using an electric stove, turn the heat on maximum heat so it will be ready. the whole process goes quickly, once you start.

heat your cast iron pan over medium heat until it is hot. place the round of dough down and let it cook until you see the first signs: bubbling, lightening of colour on top surface and brown spots on bottom side.

once you see brown spots on the bottom of the bread, flip it over and wait until it gets a few brown spots on that side.

if you have a gas stove, place it directly on the grate and turn the flame on high; it will immediately puff up. flip it for a second and then place in a tea towel, covered. stack them on top of each other as they are made and close up the towel.

if using an electric coil, you need to either have a small cookie, coiled cooling-type, sheet ready or make a sort of contraption with a wire coat hanger (push the middle in and make a "U" shape — weird, yes, but it works :o).

place the phulka on the wire holder or cookie sheet and then place almost directly on the heating element at maximum. it should immediately puff up. flip over and cook a few seconds again. as they are taken off the heat, they will deflate. the steam created inside finishes the cooking of the breads.

if you've rolled them out properly, they should puff up successfully. like all things, practice makes perfect.

stack them on top of each other covered, as you make them.


post script: this post was really meant for wednesday but i'm adding it early .... see you sometime next week, i'll be gone for a bit.


Princess Jibi said...

hmmm good to see you found something again with sweet potatoes that you love... I personally just like to slice it really thin and fry it, like chips, or just boil it and fry it up with some seasoning and eggs...
This looks delicious though..
if only I werent so lazy in the kitchen...

Maninas said...

fantastic post!
i tried making chapati last week, to go with my chana masala (recipe posted), but it was nothing to write home about! firstly, my internet connection wasn't working properly, it stopped after i found one (!) recipe, so i was forced to follow that one only. there weren't many (much-needed) tips on how to make it work... sigh...
I might try and make your phulka! See, that's what I needed, a post like yours, with lots of pretty pictures, and instructions! :) speaking of which, can you make chapati? :) :) :)

burekaboy — said...

PJ - lol, i think you need a personal chef ;) you wouldn't be the first person who didn't like working in the kitchen....

maninas - thanks :) that must have been annoying to be left with partial instructions on how to make your bread. basically, chapati & phulka are the same (aka roti = generic word for "bread") with the exception that the latter is puffed up over open flame/burner and the former is cooked on the pan itself, both with no oil or ghee or clarified butter (you can smear that on after if it suits you).

haven't posted anything on it but i find this works best: 1 c flour to 1/2 c water (mas o menos, type thing); salt & a bit of oil very optional (purists will scream NO!). mix water and ATTA flour tog., knead and let rest covered - essential - 1/2 to 3 hrs. dough will soften. make rounds and then follow what i show here for phulka. if you want chappati just keep doing it in the pan until it puffs partially or completely. keep them covered after making each one to keep them soft. check other (indian) blogs; there are tons of posts about it. try it again; takes practice but i'm sure you can manage :) btw, it works well with wholemeal (wheat) flour but it's not the same due to its texture (bran in wholemeal).

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your Indian food always looks gorgeous! Those poori must taste great!

I quite like sweet potatoes, but it all depends on the kind of dish that's made with them...

Once I made some caramelized sweet potatoes, but they were far too sweet (very sickly).

TopChamp said...

have a fun break! I'm just back and see I have many recipes to check out.

Koftalover said...

Hi Burekaboy,

Thanks for visiting my blog. It's a honor to have you on my blogroll as you are a wonderful cook. I will be featuring a variety of recipes on my blog, and there will be a couple of other bloggers who will share that blog with me. I will be posting mainly Sephardic recipes.

Nafeesah said...

This is the first time I've heard of someone not liking sweet potato! lol..and for me, the texture plays a big part in them being a favorite of mine :p

These look like a must make though, but what i want to know is, how do you get the chappati ones to puff so nicely even without b.p.? All the indian girls i've spoken to tell me to put b.p......?

burekaboy — said...

rosa - many thanks :) the bread disappeared quickly...

that dish must have been totally gross; anything too sweet is never good.

thanks TC - i see you changed the avatar — nice hair, TC LOL. happy reading ...

hey koftalover - thanks for the nice compliment. didn't realize it was a group effort. looking forward to seeing what you post :) thanks for dropping by & the comment.

nafeesah - LOL, i think the bp in the chappati thing is a west indian invention or variation. i kind of laughed when i read it cause i can see all these indian bloggers being mortified o.O

i guess the people who do it would see it as added insurance that they'll puff up but it's not necessary. just flour & water basically. oh yeah, and technique :P

as for sweet potato, i'm probably one of the few who doesn't like it. never did .... oh well, more for you to eat! if you like sweet potatoes, then you'll definitely like these roti.

Lannae said...

OMG! That looks great! How do you get the bread to puff? You are a poori genius!

burekaboy — said...

lannae - LOL, it's called practice and luck. they don't always puff up. much of it is rolling out the dough. one little tear or snag and there goes "the magic" ;P

Chennette said...

Ah, someone beat me to the baking powder question. All our rotis (Trinidad) have baking powder. For the ones where there are clear layers (stuffed or otherwise), I can see how they'd puff up, but I always assumed that, like with our sada roti (cooked completely dry on the tawah like the phulka) you need baking powder for it to swell. Hmm. Wonder if I can try.
West Indians also all have some variation of a fried bread, that in Trinidad is kinda like a plain poori, and we also use baking powder in that one.
Very interesting.

burekaboy — said...

hi chennette - as i'm sure you know, making "roti" [chappati or phulka] is one of those things that can take years to get straight and perfect. depending on the locale and custom, people seem to have their own variations but to set the record right, so to speak, (from what i know & understand) "saada roti" means only atta flour and water; no salt, no oil and definitely no baking powder. some people even add milk or yogurt as it is said to make the bread softer (i never noticed any marked difference in the end; it's more about how you store them right after they're cooked IMO).

first time i saw baking powder being added was in the west indian ones. left me wondering why they needed it and figured it must be for added 'puffing insurance'. i gather doing it this way also ends up regionalizing (if that's a word) the item, making it belong to a particular group. not sure how thick or large you guys make the plain ones though; i'm guessing it varies from island to island or country (lol, this may be trinidadian guyanese controversy starting here!)

in any case, it puffs up all on its own, with flour and water alone. usually the phulka ones are a bit thicker which is why they are "double cooked" -- once on the tawa and then on the flame. in comparison, chappati are traditionally done only on the tawa and tend to be thinner. they will still puff up like phulka if you press them down right. all this has to be done very fast though or it gets overcooked and results in the bread becoming hard.

all this to say, give it a try next time sans baking powder! i'm sure you'll be rewarded with great results :))

Chennette said...

I think I will, because I now NEED to know Well, our sada roti (which can be fairly thick depending on the cook) clearly morphed in Trinidad into something a little different...but we still do the "sakaying" over the open flame.
Here's a pic of my sada puffing up (we say swelling)

burekaboy — said...

chennette - lemme know how it goes after you try it :) i'm assuming your roti are made with white flour and not atta (very finely ground wholewheat). i'm sure it'll work with white ap flour but the texture will be different and gluten percentage is very different making rolling them out a bit more difficult.

great picture, btw :D you must have snapped that one real quickly!

TBTAM said...


Blog Bloke said...

Man, you got my saliva glands working overtime. I should introduce you to my wife. She's from Malaysia and also an amazing chef. I started a blog for her but she hasn't had the time to use it. Maybe this will inspire her.



burekaboy — said...

TBTAM - :D thanks.

hey BB - nice to see you around & that you're still blogging away. malaysian food is great; hope she does decide to post a few things. let me know if she ever does get around to it ;) thanks for dropping by and the nice comment.

Tartelette said...

Hi there! I came here via Rosa's brunch round up and I am in love with your recipes! I am always looking for more ethnic cuisine. Keep it up

the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

This is very nice and I will be trying this, maybe in the fall. The sweet potato bread reminds me a little of pumpkin challah

burekaboy — said...

tartelette - hi there :) glad to hear you liked what you saw. thanks for visiting and your comment. much appreciated.

hi chocolate lady - hope you enjoy them when you get around to trying the recipe; they're a bit of work but worth the effort. thanks for the link :) reminds me of our 'pan de calabassa'.

Richa said...

that looks amazing, love all kinds of puris, don't mind the oil once in a while :)i do make aloo puri, gotta' try with sweet potato next time, though the sweet potato i get here is really not sweet :( wish cud grab the puri from the scrren :)

burekaboy — said...

thanks richa :) - i probably like pooris a bit too much ;p everything is good in moderation, as they say. this particular version was really nice, i found. hope you like them! thanks for the visit :)

Anonymous said...

Hi There !!

Tried this was g8 ! This is the same method we Indians sometimes use to make potato breads/ paranthas. But had never thought of using sweet potatoes before...until I read ur recipe.I am making tikkis tomorrow, I hope they turn out to be good..I have a guest coming in. Will let u know how that will go...Can you guide me to some site where I can learn to recognize all the green leafy vegetables and how to use them. We get a lot of varieties in Indian stores here.They arent named.. Pls help.


burekaboy — said...

hi deepa - thanks for telling me how it worked out. glad you liked the recipe :) i'm sure you'll like the tikki one also (hopefully!).

as for the greens, which kind are you referring to (indian, asian, north american kind, etc)? not sure which country you are in .... i suggest looking here as a starting point. also look at whole foods; they also have recipes. hope that helps as a starting point.

Krithika said...

What a fantastic idea ! never ever thought of using sweet potato in my roti/parantha/puri.

Roopa said...

What neat way to use sweet potato in phulkas and puris. i goot to try this thanks for the recipe!

burekaboy — said...

krithika - hey there — long time no see :)) hope you're well.

i thought it would be interesting to try when i saw the recipe for it; it works really well.

hi roopa - hope you give it a try to see how it tastes. i'm sure you won't be disappointed. it's quite different from the regular fare. thanks for the comment and stopping by my blog :)

Richa said...

hey, i made the sweet potato parathas and puris are next in line :) they had such a lovely color & were real soft, Thanks for the inspiration, bb!

burekaboy — said...

hi richa :)) - thanks for letting me know they turned out. they really do have such a nice flavour and colour. glad you liked them. the poori a bit trickier but i'm sure you know how to make them! LOL. you may need a bit extra flour for the poori though. you see after you cook one of them to test it. "see you" soon ;)