Written By Suhani Khemka (Grade 10)
What is that one element for you that best complements a dish? Without which any meal feels incomplete? For me, that is “Papad” also spelled as “Poppadams” and “Papadam”. Originating in India, the tradition of making and eating Papad traces back to the late 1800s.
Being made of different lentils, pulses and spices, the food is naturally gluten-free, vegan and nut-free. This not only makes it safe for everyone with food restrictions but also makes it a healthy snack. There are different varieties of Papad- Aloo ka Papad (made of potato), Sabudana Papad (made using Tapioca), Rice Papad, Moong dal Papad (made with green gram dal), Urad dal Papad (made with Black Gram split), Chana ka Papad- also known as “Lapad” and many more varieties. Each type of Papad can be cooked using different methods- frying, roasting on the stove or “tandoor”. Traditionally it was cooked on the “chulah”, that is on burning coal, while modern methods include using the microwave.
Cooking a Papad is no easy task. It requires practice and perfection. Papad is usually as thin as paper, causing it to catch fire very easily. For a beginner roasting Papad, the centre is burnt and the sides uncooked. In the olden times, it was said that if a person could cook Papad to perfection, they could make any other dish. For that, the woman had to undergo a “Papad roasting test” before being chosen for marriage. Yes, that is how hard it is to roast Papad.
Before the cooking part, comes the process of making Papad, which is just as hard. First, a dough of the desired ingredients is made. Then the dough is cut into small balls which are further rolled out into thin circular sheets. Those sheets are then dried until they are hard and are finally stored. Growing up I have seen Papad being made in large lots, which last throughout the year. When my grandmother makes Papad, nobody is allowed near the dining table, where the whole lot is dried. Rolling out Papad is so hard that it has been turned into an idiom, or “Muhavra”- “Papad belna” which means “doing hardwork”. In the earlier centuries, making Papad was a cultural tradition. All the neighbours would get together and make Papad. As a tradition, they would send their beloved ones the Papad made in their home. Nowadays, Papad is made using machines and has lost the original flavour as the authentic recipe keeps getting contaminated with low-quality ingredients and modern methods.
Papad is usually eaten with curd or different lentil soups and curries(“Daals”) and “sabzis”. But it can be eaten in many ways other than just a side compliment. Papad Churi is roasted Papad crushed and seasoned with “ghee” (crystallized butter) and spices. Papad is used in making curries and even rotis. While scrolling through Instagram, I found a reel where Papad was used to make spring rolls. In restaurants, they have dishes like “assorted Papads” and “Tostada”, in which they serve varieties of Papad with multiple toppings like chopped vegetables. As a rule Papad is eaten everyday in my house. I grew up to learn the same and now any Indian meal feels incomplete without Papad.
Papad is something so simple yet complex, so plain yet diverse. It can be a side dish or a course in itself. It adds the perfect crunch and flavour to any meal. A story is preserved in Papad as it continues to be a part of the Indian tradition.
Featured Image Courtesy – Archana’s Kitchen