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RCP: Papadums

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Paul Winalski

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RCP: Papadums

by Paul Winalski » Tue Oct 27, 2020 5:49 pm

These are an Indian flatbread in the form of a thin, crispy wafer. They are served alongside dals and curries, or as a starter accompanied by pickles and chutnies. You can find them in any Indian grocery. When subjected to high heat, the baking soda in them causes them to puff up. They are usually shallow-fried, but they can also be cooked over an open flame or a stove burner set to high heat. I always fry them.

They are almost all made from urad dal flour, water, salt, and baking soda (this is what makes them puff up when fried). There are also papadums made from mung bean flour. They typically have a bit of asafoetida added. They are rolled out almost paper-thin and dried in the sun. They may have spices added such as crushed black pepper, cumin seeds, or garlic. Sindhi papadums (or masala papadums) have a bunch of seasonings added.

Northern-style papadums are about eight inches in diameter, very thin, and still a bit pliable. They fry up to about twelve inches in diameter. When shopping for Northern papadums I always gently bend in the edges of the package. If the papadums are completely stiff, it means that they are stale. Once I open the package, I always keep the raw papadums in a sealed container.

Southern-style papadums are smaller in diameter, a bit thicker, and stiffer. They tend to be plain, perhaps seasoned with a little asafoetida. I think "papadum" is the Hindi name for these things. Southern Indian states have local regional languages (such as Tamil) with different names. The Southern papadums that I buy are labeled "fryums". I suspect that name was adopted from English during the British Raj.

You cook both types in the same way. Heat 1/4 to 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet large enough to hold the expanded papadum. Getting the oil temperature right is a bit tricky. If the oil isn't hot enough, the papadums take too long to puff up and come out greasy. If the oil is too hot, the papadums start to burn before you can get them out of the oil. I test the oil temperature by dipping one side of a papadum in the oil. It should puff out as soon as it hits the oil. When the oil temperature is right, put in a papadum and push it completely under the oil. I use kitchen tongs for this. You have to work very fast. It only takes a second or two for the papadum to puff out. Remove it immediately from the oil. You want it fully expanded but not browned. I've found that the plain Northern papadums are the trickiest to get puffed out but not browned. Drain the cooked papadums on paper towels.

As per usual when doing frying, fresh, unused oil works out best. The oil can be reused a few times when frying urad dal-based papadums. The oil will pick up aroma and flavor from asafoetida in the papadums, so be careful about using the oil for cooking anything else. Mung bean-based papadums tend to make the oil foam and leave it unsuitable for reuse.

-Paul W.
Last edited by Paul Winalski on Sun Nov 01, 2020 4:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Peter May

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Re: RCP: Papadums

by Peter May » Fri Oct 30, 2020 7:05 am

Thanks, Paul for the interesting background on a thing Brits know well.

They're offered by waiters as soon as you take your seat in Indian restaurants', as an appetiser and to go with your drinks. They come with a tray of pots of dips - mango pickle, lime pickle, chopped onions and tomatoes, a yoghurt based dip &etc.

You snap of a section and pile on the dip, and of course take a swig of your Cobra or Kingfisher beer while pondering the menu

I think the reason they are pushed is they have a big profit margin.
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: RCP: Papadums

by Jeff Grossman » Fri Oct 30, 2020 5:00 pm

Same here in the 'colonies', Peter. But I'm always happy for crisp snacks!
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Re: RCP: Papadums

by Matilda L » Sat Oct 31, 2020 8:04 pm

I love papadums and could happily eat three times as many as the waiter brings.
(Peter, your mention of Kingfisher and Cobra beer takes me back to my favourite curry houses in Birmingham and west London.)

I've used the microwave to puff the papadums but the flavour benefits from the frying.
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Peter May

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Re: RCP: Papadums

by Peter May » Sun Nov 01, 2020 7:53 am

Matilda L wrote:I love papadums and could happily eat three times as many as the waiter brings


The waiter will always bring more if asked :)

It's difficult - impossible - to stop eating them until they're all gone.

We now don't have any - it's easier to not start than to stop.
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Re: RCP: Papadums

by Jenise » Sat Nov 14, 2020 7:46 pm

Jeff Grossman wrote:Same here in the 'colonies', Peter. But I'm always happy for crisp snacks!


New product at Trader Joe's--Shakri, or is it Chakri? Paul will correct me. FANTASTIC crisp Indian chick-pea flavored snacks.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Paul Winalski

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Re: RCP: Papadums

by Paul Winalski » Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:11 am

It's Trader Joe's Chakri Mix. It's an example of a type of Indian snack food called Chiwda or Bombay Mix. It's sort of like a spicy version of trail mix made almost entirely out of crunchy ingredients. There are lots of different brands and regional variations. My personal favorite is Deep brand Extra Hot Mix.

-Paul W.

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