I always grew up knowing these flatbreads as theplaa, though some do call them methi parathas. I put 2 “a”s in them because that’s how you pronounce them: THHEP-LAA. It’s one of those Gujarati words which when you mention to your other Indian teenage friends, or others that you meet for the first time, you get ridiculed for being “Guju”. It’s just one of those words that make you sound as if you are not in fact an ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi) even though you’re clearly American and Confused and Desi (Indian). I’m still an ABCD, well into my thirties. I’m sure I’ll never have it figured out. My kids will be ABCDs as well, I secretly hope. And I hope their kids are as well. Because though I’m truly American, I’m Indian as well in my heart and my blood.
This is what I mean from confusion, at least from a culinary standpoint: What to cook for dinner any given night? Roast chicken with maple glazed brussels sprouts and roasted root vegetables? Or chicken curry with lemon rice and saambhar and chaash (a savory yogurt drink much like lassi). Could it be chappatti, zucchini curry, and creamy urad dal? Or do I feel like orrechiette in a cherry tomato sauce with an arugula and herb salad. I’m starting to want to blend the two (or more) cultures, such as in naan pizzas; this is something I hadn’t been keen on doing when I first started this blog.
I’m lucky that my menu planning is never boring. I choose from more than 6-8 ethnicities and within that, I choose regionally. South Indian, like Tamilian? or Southern USA, like Texan? Gujarati? or Californian cuisine? Punjabi? or Cajun? I still don’t know about the different regional cuisine of say Italy or Greece, but I’m not sure I need to add that to the mix yet. My plate is FULL!
And I digress….
I chose the theplaa recipe as an ABCD post because we adore theplaas in our family. They are a great staple for travelling, lasting several days without refrigeration, great for lunch boxes slathered with peanut butter, tasty as a snack with masala chai, and they even suffice as a substitute for naan or chappattis with dinner. They may not be the healthiest Indian bread, but they’re certainly not the most unhealthy (ahem….naan, puris, parathas made with tons of ghee….).
Anyone have suggestions for other “American” or “ABCD” uses for theplaas?
These thin pliable griddle-cooked flatbreads are slightly spicy from the chili powder, deep yellow from the turmeric, and have specks of green from the fresh fenugreek leaves. You can use dried fenugreek instead, if you can’t find any in the freezer section or fresh market of your Indian grocer. The primary ingredient is atta flour, which is an Indian whole grain wheat flour made from hard wheat. It is a highly nutritional flour, made from the whole wheatberry, including the bran, endosperm, and germ. Many brands are available; be sure to find one that says “whole wheat” or “whole grain” and read the ingredient list to be sure all-purpose flour is not mixed in.
Theplaa (aka Metthi Parathas): The Recipe.
- 1 ½ cups atta flour Indian whole wheat flour OR King Arthur White Whole Wheat or 100% Whole Wheat flour
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. coriander powder
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup chopped frozen or fresh fenugreek leaves
- ½ cup warm water
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and spices and mix well.
- Add the oil and mix well with your hands, especially using your fingertips.
- Add the fenugreek leaves and mix well with hands.
- Add water gradually, starting with a third of the water.
- Begin mixing the dough, kneading with your whole hand a few times. Add another third of water and continue kneading a few more times.
- Add the rest of the water and begin kneading with your whole hand including the palm of your hand.
- The dough will come together and become a smooth and round and slightly sticky dough ball. If it’s too sticky and wet, sprinkle some flour and knead again. If too dry add a sprinkle of water. Lastly use your hand to coat the dough ball lightly with a little oil.
- Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
- Set up your rolling area near the stove: you will need a lightly floured surface to roll on, rolling pin, extra all-purpose flour for dusting, and a large plate or cutting board.
- Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll between your palms to a nice round 1 ½ “ ball. Slightly flatten between your palms and set all patties aside on a plate. If the dough sticks to your hands, lightly brush your palms and the ball of dough with some oil. Then try rolling.
- Begin rolling parathas: take an atta patty and place it on a floured surface. Roll it from the center going up and down several times. Then rotate the patty 90 degrees and repeat rolling. Dip again in flour both sides, if necessary to avoid sticking.
- Continue rolling, rotating as needed and dipping into flour as needed to avoid sticking. It will reach the size of a lunch plate and should be circular and thin but not as thin as a chapatti. You can flip over and roll if necessary. If you want to roll all of them before you cook them all, you can keep them from drying out by keeping them between parchment layers.
- Begin heating a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Place a paratha on the skillet. When air pockets are visible flip over the paratha. Apply a few drops of oil with a spoon on that side of the paratha. Quickly rub or brush the oil on this side.
- Then flip paratha over again and apply a few drops of oil with a spoon on that side. Brush again quickly. The parathas will be sizzle and cook rapidly. Dark brown spots will form and sometimes larger air pockets fluff the paratha, indicating that the paratha is cooked. Remove from heat and repeat with the next paratha.
- The entire cooking process should only take 1-2 minutes per paratha. Adjust heat accordingly.
- Don’t worry if the first few don’t come out, or burn. It’s normal for a cook to ruin and discard the first paratha, puri, or chappatti!