Chilla or Cheela is a basic savory crepe made with lentils. It has no eggs, or dairy and is completely gluten free.
Often referred to as Vegetarian Omelette in some parts of India, Chillas provide the chock full of protein to those who are strictly vegetarian. For the others, it is healthy convenience.
In some parts of India make a variation of chilla/cheela called “puda” using semolina flour along with chickpea flour.
It is very interesting to note that they bear a lot of similarity with the popular Italian Farinatas!
Chillas are extremely easy to make and come with very little restrictions. Any kind of lentils/legume may be used, though the popular ones are that of husked Moong /Mung and may be the Arhar or the split pigeon peas. Some make them (especially when they are making the eggless omlette) with chickpea flour whisked with water, salt, turmeric and fistful of vegetables like tomato, onion and peppers. Each state and each home follow their own tradition and choice to what kind of spice and vegetables to add.
You can cook them as thin and lacy like a crepe, as thick as a pancake or any size and thickness in between them. Only if they are to be thick and fluffy like a pancake it will take longer to cook.
They may be eaten as an omlette as I mentioned above, or they can be stuffed, rolled and “wrapped”. Simply treat them as a gluten free flat bread. Serve them with chutney, spreads and sides. Make them thicker to form gluten free tart crust or pizza base. If you want to get adventurous, you may even make quesadillas with them. Gluten free Tacos? How about that? Fill them with salad, salsa and whatever else you want and you have a meal. There are many reasons why I love them for lunch box.
We have them for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or anything in between. And I realized only after cooking them that I forgot to add turmeric, so they ended up looking pretty in pale instead of the sunny yellow they should be like.
Having said all that, you must have guessed by now that if you keep the basic recipe in your treasure box, the possibilities with it are infinite. Just use your imagination and let your mood and craving guide you to make the changes.
I have made the very basic one today, but finely shredded vegetables may be added in the batter or on the top of the crepes/cakes while they are cooking. Use your choice of sauce, chutneys or spices to flavor it.
I am rushing through the post for a few reasons. I found this partially written post in the draft today and realized I never got around posting it because I never got to take photographs. The chillas are served hot off the griddle whenever I make them, so they are all gone before I pick up the camera. I had also forgotten that I never posted them.
The other reason is, I am anxious that the summer vacations are coming to an end. Very anxious. The school starts next week. I cannot think and I do not want to think. I had a roaring good time at home with my girls and I know they have to go back to school. However being reasonable does not always help. The heart resides in a different place. They kept me busy, they made me cook and I craved and whined for some alone time, and now that I will have the entire morning to myself, I am not ready for it!
Is summer really over?
Moong Dal Chilla: Savory Moong Crêpes
Ingredients: (yields 6-8 Crêpes)
- 1 cup yellow moong dal
- 1″ knob of fresh ginger
- 2 small green chilli peppers
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, optional
- a large pinch of good quality asafetida (hing)
- salt to taste
- red chili powder, optional
- 1 small onion chopped fine, optional
- fresh cilantro/green coriander, chopped fine – optional
- oil for cooking them
- other ingredients that may be added: Chili Garlic Paste, finely shredded vegetables, fresh peas or whatever you think you want in them.
Wash the husled lentils till water runs clear. Soak for an hour in double the amount of water. Drain. Add ginger, green chillies, asafoetida, salt and turmeric.
Grind/blend the above with about 1/4 cup of reserved water in a blender to make a smooth batter (thicker than a pancake batter). Pour batter into a bowl and add onion, Chili Garlic Paste , fresh cilantro/coriander and vegetables if you want to. Whisk them all together.
Lightly coat a heavy bottomed pan/nonstick/cast iron with oil. Drop a ladleful of batter in the centre of the pan. Using the back of the ladle spread the batter into a circle or if the batter is runny, turn the skillet around to spread the batter in a circle.
You might (or might not) need to add a little oil along the edges of the chilla. I have used my seasoned cast iron skillet and I did not have to use any oil to loosen the edges. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes at low heat. Flip the chilla over to cook the other side.
If you are stuffing them or using a spread/chutney on them, you may do it in while they are still on the skillet and warm.
Continue with the same procedure with the rest of the batter.
Serve immediately or wrap them in foil or kitchen towel if using later. They are best when they are served hot off the griddle.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes + one hour soaking time
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty Level: Very easy
Yields: 6-8 chillas/cheelas
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