I would say without hesitation that this one little bread is treasured and loved by all Indians.
Pooris are little discs of whole wheat dough that are deep fried in hot oil/ghee, as they fill with steam and puffs up like balloons, and in few seconds you have the most delicious fried bread.
Weekend breakfasts, cozy indulgent evening snack, lunch, dinner, picnics and lunch boxes, festivals and special occasions from birthdays to weddings, train joruneys, and even the street food- all have one thing in common; the Pooris. They are sinful, but worth every little bite.
Looking back many years from now, when I was at an age when children exists more in the imaginary world than real, with dolls and pony tails and friends, we used to have doll weddings between friends. Now with a wedding we had to have a party. So my ma made a list of the invitees, and decided on the menu. I remember all of us sitting down and enjoying a lavish meal; along with many other delicacies were the really tiny Luchi that ma fried for us – hot, puffed and bite size.
Luchi/Loochi in Bengal, is made a little differently than the Poori. While Poori uses whole wheat flour, the Luchi uses maida – which is equivalent to the all purpose flour here. Therefore Luchi results is a beautiful elegant pale white puffs as opposed to the brownish Poori. The texture also differs as it would with the whole wheat and all purpose flour. There was also a tradition in our home to fry the Luchi in ghee. So you see, it is definitely a very indulgent affair.
Poori or Luchi is accompanied by a side. It could be a vegetable dish, some lentils or even meat. Poori (not Luchi), may be flavored with spices, or sometimes some greens like spinach may be added or even a different flours other than wheat may be used ( chickpea flour, buckwheat flour, amaranth flour etc). There can be many creative variations as with any other bread.
Poori happens to be an unleavened bread; they puff without the yeast, and with little bit of practice making Poori is a breeze. The procedure simply involve a few steps of making the dough, rolling them (believe me the shape does not matter), deep frying and pouncing on them.
Poori – Deep Fried Puffed Bread
Ingredients: (makes about 10-12 pooris)
- 2 cups whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour/atta (atta=wheat flour available in Indian Groceries)
- 2 teaspoons oil + 1/2 teaspoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup water or as much needed to make a tight dough
- oil to deep fry
Note: The whole wheat flour/atta that is available in the Indian grocery is finer than the whole wheat flour; it has a texture similar to the whole wheat pastry flour. If you have access to whole wheat pastry flour, use it for a better smoother texture of the Poori.
To make Luchi, add a couple of tablespoons of yogurt to the dough and adjust the water to make a tight dough. The yogurt softens the dough, as the Luchi is supposed to have a different texture than Poori.
Combine flour, salt and oil. Rub everything together; some parts of the flour will form crumbs because of the oil. Slowly add the water and only as much as you need to make a dough. Pull the flour together and knead to make a dough. The dough should be stiffer than normal roti/flatbread. It should not be sticky at all, but should be smooth and pliable.
Knead for about 5-7 minutes, form a big ball, coat the ball with the 1/2 teaspoon oil. Set it aside or use right away. (If you are letting it sit, then cover the dough with a cloth to prevent drying out and knead it again before making the bread.) The dough should be stiff enough to roll without extra flour.
Divide the dough into 10-12 parts (you are free to make more or less, but the size of the dough will decide the size of the pooris). Roll these portions into balls between the palms of your hands till they are smooth and without cracks.
Take a ball of dough and dip a corner of ball in melted ghee or oil and roll it out into 4 to 5 inches round.
Repeat the same process to roll out all Pooris. Roll out as many Pooris as you like, stacking them, ready to cook with a layer of cling film/parchment paper between each Poori.
Heat plenty of oil in a kadhai/wok until very hot. To test if the oil is hot enough, pinch a small piece of dough and drop it in the oil. If the dough rises up to the surface right away the oil is ready to start frying the pooris.
Put in a poori in the hot oil and immediately start flickering hot oil over the top of it with a spatula.
Gently press down on the Poori with the back of the spatula, and you will see it start to puff up. (If the poori turns dark in less than a minute, the oil is too hot. Reduce the heat of the stove. ) Gently press down with the spatula, without resisting the puff and wait till it puffs completely, it should take only few seconds.
Flip the poori over and cook the other side until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels.
Side dishes that Poori tastes great with: