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Parathas are Indian flatbreads which are traditionally stuffed with fillings before being pan-fried. Although parathas originate in Northern India, they are popular all over India, and in communities with a large Indian population. These flavorful flatbreads come in a myriad of flavors, and they are commonly on offer at Indian restaurants all over the world, where they may be served on their own or eaten with various curries.
Traditionally, parathas are made from whole wheat flour, which gives them a hearty, nutty flavor. Many cooks blend whole wheat and unbleached white flour to make parathas a little less intense, out of a preference for white flour. In either case, the simple dough is very easy to make and roll out, with many cooks folding the dough several times while they roll it to create pockets in the dough which will turn into light, flaky layers when the parathas are cooked.
The fillings for parathas vary. Some common choices include: potatoes, lamb, veal, peas, spinach, cauliflower, paneer cheese, or radishes, although potentially any vegetable or meat could be used in parathas. Typically, the filling is heavily spiced with things like chilies, coriander, and cumin, and it may include onions, anise seeds, and other flavorful additions. When the parathas are fried, the flavor of the filling seeps through the dough, making all of the layers of the paratha quite flavorful.
To make paratha dough, measure out two cups of flour, a pinch of salt, and a tablespoon of oil or fat. Slowly add water to the mixture while working it to create a smooth dough, and allow the dough to rest briefly before tearing off small chunks and rolling them into balls. Roll each ball of dough out separately into a roughly square shape; if you want a traditionally flaky paratha dough, fold the dough several times as you roll it.
To make the filling, cook the vegetable or meat you plan to use and then mash it up with Indian spices to taste. Spoon out a small heap of filling onto the dough and then fold the dough over and lightly press down on the edges to seal it. Pan-fry the parathas in ghee or oil until they are golden brown and bubbly, and serve immediately with a curry of choice, or a dipping sauce like raita or a chutney.
For me, paratha without raita is like toast without butter.
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