Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Makki Roti & some typical Punjabi fare in a typical South Indian kitchen

..America re-elects President Obama for a second term..

My introductions and exposure to Punjabi food is through the various dhabhas I have been to in my life. A particular one on the highway between Delhi & Agra visited about 6 years back still is at the top slot. I don't remember the exact location, our car broke down and the driver told us to go ahead and have lunch in the dhabha while he got the tire fixed and got the car ready to go. Things happen for a reason and I believe it was my destiny to eat a completely awesome Punjabi khana that day. The naans, paneer, chaas, salad and everything was absolutely lip smacking. Having been outside India for over a decade, I feel that the Indian restaurants here are far from authentic, they are adaptive yes but not authentic. When some of my American friends ask me to recommend an Indian restaurant or a dish in Indian restaurant, I tell them to try it out themselves and decide and also tell give a fair warning that the sambar served in a South Indian restaurant here is not necessarily how I would make it at home :-)

I am in love with the naans, rotis and paranthas that are so everyday in Punjabi cuisine and make them often at home. A true blue Punjabi may flinch at some of my adaptations and short cuts and almost nonexistent use of butter or cream in my cooking but that is just the cook's creative license I use to suit my family's palate and needs.

Also for all of us romantic Indians growing up with a Bollywood backdrop, there are umpteen number of movies to make us feel at home with the Punjabi, Gujarati & Rajasthani delicacies without breaking a sweat. I learnt that Sarsoan ka saag is made with the mustard greens as I watched Simran make a very reluctant journey back to her ancestral home through the cheery yellow mustard fields in DDLJ, realized the Gujarati soft corner for Dhoklas with green chutney as Rancho the idiot/scientist teaches little but important life lessons to lady love Pia by pouring the green chutney over her fiancee's expensive shoes, got to know that the Rajasthani people ate soft, warm rotis for breakfast by watching the bubbly Pallavi tell a graceful Dai Jaa as a hopelessly smitten Viren looks on with his mouth open (not at the rotis but at the equally delicious Pallavi :-)). Go back a little bit to Hrishikesh Mukharjee's times and you have the tall, lanky handsome Beeru asking for 'basan ke roti itne mote mote (ultra thick basan rotis) with baingan ka Bhurta from his mausi in the classic romance Abhimaan. If any or all of the above seem like complete non sense gibber, just watch these movies and you will appreciate the power of Bollywood :-). 

I made a couple of Punjabi favorites over the weekend and we enjoyed it very much. As I said already, if you are from the land of Punjab and have eaten these dishes made by a mom, aunt, grand mom and such others, just give me the benefit of doubt. Though they may not sound authentic, they taste heavenly. So go ahead and give my version a try that it truly deserves.

Corn as the grain is referred to in North America or Maize as it is called in many European countries and former colonies influenced by British English is known in Punjab as Makai or Makki and the flour is made from corn kernels. While corn itself is gluten free, the store bought corn flour or corn meal may have added wheat flour to help the use in baking recipes. I use corn flour purchased at Indian stores which states on the label that it does not have wheat flour. Wheat flour as many of you know has gluten which lends that unmistakable binding texture to the dough. Since corn flour by itself does not have gluten and hence does not form into perfectly round rotis like those with wheat flour, some people use wheat flour in part to make makki rotis. I personally prefer the unadultrated makki ki roti and hence follow a couple of additional steps to get good, unbroken rotis, look out for these tips in the Notes section below.
What do you need to make Makki rotis? 
Makes about 10 medium sized rotis
2 cups makki flour or corn flour
1 cup grated white radish
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup water (approximate, based on the water from the radish)

How do you make Makki rotis?
  • Wash, peel and grate white radish to get a cup of gratings, I prefer to use the small holes of my grater, you can choose what works for you. 
  • In a wide bowl, pour corn flour, salt and grated radish. Add hot water on top so it wets the flour, cover the bowl and keep aside for 5 minutes. 
  • Take the cover off, gently bring together the flour, radish, salt and water and knead into a dough. The dough should come together in a single mass without crumbling bits of corn flour. 
  • Take an aluminium foil, place it on a flat surface and spread a couple drops of water with your fingers. 
  • Take a big lemon sized ball of the corn dough and place it in the center of the foil and pat it with your forefingers into a thick roti.
  • Heat a flat griddle on medium heat, invert the aluminium foil on top of the hot griddle (with roti side down) and let it cook for a minute. 
  • Gently peel the aluminium foil and continue to cook the roti for another minute or two before flipping it over and cooking on the other side. 
  • The roti takes longer to cook than the traditional wheat roti and should be cooked until you see big golden spots on both surfaces without letting them turn black. 
  • Finish up all the dough similarly, enjoy the hot makki roti with a dollop of ghee or butter. I served it with a typical Punjabi side dish but not the usual combination, will be back with that recipe later this week.
  • Use fine corn flour in this recipe, corn meal does not bind into a ball at all. 
  • Addition of white radish is optional but that gives it a really Punjabi flavor and also helps bind the dough together. 
  • I have heard that expert cooks pat the makki roti beween their palms but since I am no expert, I conveniently cheated and used the same method I use for my South Indian akki rotti - pat it on a foil and turn it over the hot griddle. This works like a charm and you can tell unsuspecting friends that you have been making makki rotis in your kitchen forever :-)
  • It is important to wet the surface of the foil before you start to pat the dough so the foil peels off easily on the griddle. 


Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Nicely made makke ki roti...Liked the read about bollywood and food..

NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice narration and presantaion of the makki Roti. very tasty roti in winter.

Vidya said...

Never made this before...wil try this soon.

Hima bindu said...

Nicely made roti & good presentation!!

You have a beautiful space here.. happy to follow you :)

Julie said...

healthy one:)
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LG said...

wah wah..awesome! nange hasive agtha ide eevaga..

Priya said...

Wish everyone at home love this kind of punjabi foods,sometimes am the only person have to finish this healthy foods. Wish i live near you.WOnderful foods,you have done a beautiful work.