For a long time, the only way I knew how to eat papad was as a plain accompaniment with an Indian meal (usually khichdi), much like chutney or pickle. I liked papad, just that it didn’t seem all that *consequential*.
When I moved to Bombay, my friends there would order masala papad as a starter in restaurants. This was something new, something interesting – papad as a standalone dish, and a mighty good one at that. I started experimenting with papad in curries – very convenient on days when I opened the vegetable tray of the fridge and found nothing.
We get papad in many varieties nowadays: made of moong dal or urad, potatoes or rice flour, with added spices. For this recipe, use a plain salted dal-based papad.
- Papads (moong or ural, plain) – 8
- Tamarind – lemon-sized ball
- Fenugreek seeds (whole or coarsely ground) – 1.5 teaspoons
- Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Jaggery powder – 1 teaspoon
- Water – 3/4 cup
- Coriander powder – 1 teaspoon
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 teaspoon
- Red chili flakes – 1 teaspoon (adjust to taste)
- Salt – to taste
- Cinammon – 1-inch stick
- Asafoetida – 1/4 teaspoon
- Mustard oil – 2 teaspoons
- Fresh coriander leaves – a few sprigs
Soak tamarind in half a cup of water for 30 minutes. Extract the juice and discard the seeds if any.
Dry-roast 1.5 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds and 0.5 teaspoon of mustard seeds together on low heat. When the seeds turn a couple of shades darker, turn off the heat. Allow the seeds to cool to room temperature. Grind them to powder in a blender or using a mortar & pestle.
Roast the papads on an open flame, for a few seconds each side, till they turn crisp.
Crush the roasted papad roughly – about 1-2 inch pieces, and don’t worry if the sizes aren’t uniform. A little bit of unevenness adds character ;-)
Heat two teaspoons of mustard oil in a thick-bottomed pan. When hot, add mustard seeds, asafoetida and cinammon stick in that order.
When the mustard seeds have spluttered, add red chili flakes, turmeric powder and coriander powder. Stir and pour in the tamarind juice, jaggery and half a cup of water. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add salt at this stage if required. I say "if required" because papad tends to be generously salted and I usually find that no added salt is needed in this curry.
Add the cracked roasted papad and mix well.
The papad will absorb all the moisture and spices in 3-4 minutes. Take it off the heat at this stage. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Serve papad ki sookhi sabzi on the side with an Indian meal.
As a variation, stir in papad ki sookhi sabzi into plain yogurt and serve it as raita.