A few weeks ago, I returned to an empty fridge after a wonderfully relaxing two-week trip to New Zealand (more on the trip and the food in a later post). I was jet-lagged and was reduced to rummaging through my pantry to find something satisfying and yet easy to make. I mulled over various combinations of beans and rice, but it sounded so dull. And after 24 hours of airplane and airport food, I wanted something with a bit more spice. Then I had a brain wave—I would make papdi no loat, which is basically steamed dough made from rice flour.
We always had papdi no loat on Sunday afternoons or as a snack. The best papdi no loat I have ever had has come from a Hare Krishna temple in Vidyanagar, a small town in Gujarat where my grandparents used to live. When I was young, my grandfather and I used to walk to the Hare Krishna temple every evening. He would go to meet all of his other grandfather friends and I would go to eat the temple’s papdi no loat.
Papdi no loat is easy to make in the sense that there are few ingredients. But it took a lot longer to make than I had originally thought and I waited restlessly for it to finish steaming. All you need though is rice flour, cumin seeds, ajmo seeds, which you can find at any Indian store. You will also need fresh chili and baking soda.
A few helpful tips my mom gave me:
- Put the chopped chili into the dough not into the water. Just trust me on this, if you don’t want to have a coughing fit, put the chili in the dough.
- Use a pressure cooker if you can to steam the dough. I ignored this one because my pressure cooker needed to be washed and I was too tired at the time to clean it. I think I would have cut my steaming time in half had I just used it. Lesson learned.
- Don’t forget the baking soda and make sure you add it to the water and not the dough.
1 c rice flour
3 c water
1/ 2 t baking soda
1/2 t cumin seeds
1/2 t ajmo seeds
2 medium chilies, chopped
3/4 t salt
oil (as much as you want to add on top)
Put water to boil on high heat. In the meantime, place flour in bowl and add cumin seeds, ajmo seeds, chopped chili, and salt. Mix. When water is boiling add baking soda. Stir once. Then add the flour mixture to the water. Turn heat to low and cover. Keep checking to see if there is still water. When there is very little water left, get a wooden spoon (or if you have an Indian rolling pin use that) and stir the mixture. You shouldn’t have to deal with any clumps of flour but if there are clumps, get rid of them. Once all of the water is gone, mix one last time. Then take the mixture and steam it. If you have a double broiler you can use that. I used the contraption I created from my pots and pans photographed above. Not a great idea. It took forever. If you have a pressure cooker use the pressure cooker. You will be able to tell once the dough is steamed as it will change in color (the way vegetables do when they are steamed). Drizzle as much or as little oil as you want on top of the dough right before you are ready to eat.