Ever since I went for biryani (online ordering) the other day, I have been bothered by one question: why is papad a traditional accompaniment to biryani and not poori or naan?
Biryani is essentially a layered dish of rice, spices and meat. A typical biryani contains spicy chicken, mixed vegetables, onions and fried potatoes. The rice is seasoned with saffron and other spices. The curry is served on top of the plain steamed rice.
Tasty as it is, I always have some leftover rice even after finishing the curry. Papad, an Indian wafer made from lentil flour, is usually eaten with any type of curries. And I wondered why papad was traditionally used as a side dish for biryani but not with any other type of curries.
When I tried doing a Google search for this question, all that came up were general queries about the use of papad in any type of food. So I thought maybe there was no reason why papad should be associated specifically with biryani. It might just be tradition alone that makes us think that way.
So I decided to do some research on how papad was made – to find out what gives it
Papad is a soft, thin, round cracker made with gram flour (besan), salt, oil and water. Sometimes whole spices like chilli powder or asafoetida are added to make flavored papad. Papad or Papadi is an essential accompaniment of biryani. But then why do we not serve Paratha instead of papad with biryani?
Taste is the main reason because paratha is more filling than papad and you can eat only two pieces with one portion of biryani but you can have around five pieces of papad with biryani. The other reason being people find it difficult to make paratha at home.
The Pappads are usually made during rainy season when you get fresh green leaves of coriander, mint and fenugreek. These leaves are chopped finely and added to the dough while preparing the papads. You can also add some garlic cloves to give it a good taste.
In India, Biryani is a well known dish which has its own unique taste. There are many different types of Biryani and each of them is different from the other in taste, texture and even method of cooking.
There are many accompaniments to Biryani like Mirchi ka salan, Sharbat, Kachumbar etc. But among all these accompaniments, one thing that is not common to all Biryani is Papad. This is because papads are deep fried and they go very well with Biryani especially Dum style.
But why do we not use Parathas?
The answer to this question is pretty interesting. There are two major reasons due to which we do not use Paratha as a primary accompaniment for Biryani. These are:
(a) They break into pieces when dipped in gravy (b) The uncooked flour tastes bad with the gravy.
Papad is an integral part of Biryani along with rice and meat. The origin of Papad is a disputed matter as it has been accepted by various regions in India. The Arabic word for this is “papar” and it refers to the thin sheets of dried and pressed vegetable. So the word Papad literally means a thin sheet or wafer made from the pulse flour or legume flour or dried vegetables. However, in Indian languages like Hindi, Urdu and Bengali, the word papad refers to a thick doughnut-like fried snack which is also known as Pakora or kachori.
The recipe given below will give you the idea of how to make papad at home easily. You need to prepare the dough first then roll it out in thin layers and dry them in warm place for a couple of hours. Or else, you can directly dry them in a slow oven for about two hours with some low heat setting.*
The masala is a mix of ground spices such as cumin, coriander, and black pepper, which is added to the chicken or mutton broth. It is a very important part of biryani, giving it its characteristic flavour.
The most popular spice brand for making the biryani masala is the famous “Papad” brand. The company that makes this spice mix is called “Shri Krishna Foods”. They say that they have been making papad since 1950, and they also make other Indian spices like garam masala. The papad masala has become so popular that it seems to be a traditional part of biryani now.
Tandoori Chicken Biryani Recipe Ingredients:
For Marinating Chicken:
1 kg Chicken
½ cup yogurt (curd)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp tandoori color (optional)
Salt to taste For Biryani Masala: 1 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)
½ tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 tbsp pure ghee or oil
2 medium onions sliced thinly For Garnish: 1 small onion thinly sliced lengthwise (optional)
I’ve been toying with writing a blog on how papad is made. I think the process may be slightly different than the one we follow in India, although I haven’t done enough research to confirm this. And then there are all those people who say that you can’t make papad at home because it will never taste as good as the one made by hand.
I’m going to write about what I do and why, and then let me know if anyone has any other suggestions.
The first question is the most difficult: how do you make papad without using any oil? The answer is that you need some kind of fat so that the dough doesn’t stick to your hands while rolling. The most readily available fat in India is ghee (clarified butter). So that’s what I use here in US. You could use lard or vegetable shortening, but ghee is tastier.
Papad need to be rolled very thin, almost translucent; so the dough needs to be very soft and pliable. The usual way of achieving this is by adding lots of water to the flour mixture. But if you add too much water, the dough becomes sticky because all the starch granules swell up and form a gel. If you
The process of making papad involves a lot of labour, which is why it is expensive. Traditionally, papad was made at home and then sold in the market to earn money. Now, thanks to the packaged papad available in the market, anyone can make it at home. But there are still some people who prepare it by hand on old stone-grinding machines (like the one pictured below).
This process is lengthy and requires great skill. In the video below you can see how the fresh green chana dal or yellow split chickpeas are ground with water and salt into a smooth paste using a stone grinder. The stone used for grinding is called a chakki and it is operated with a handle called a kalajeera.
The ground mixture is then dried in sun until hard and brittle pieces form. These pieces are then separated from each other and then cleaned once again before being packed for sale.
The final product has become more uniform in shape and colour after going through this process, but the taste remains similar to what it has always been.”