Sunday, July 14, 2013

Of Papad and Urad

On a lazy afternoon, the papad-walla is very welcome in homes and shops in Old Delhi. Here he is, selling roasted urad-dal papads, sprinkled with masala. It's the perfect snack with hot chai.
Papad seller talking to a family 
near Fatehpuri Masjid, Old Delhi.
It's not just adults who like this snack. 

Kids love it too.
Roasted papads are a very inexpensive snack (you can get 2 papads for just one rupee). They are very popular among families picnicking at India Gate in the evenings (although these days papad sellers are becoming a rare sight there). The secret of the papad's popularity is not just the low price, it's the spicy tangy masala that is sprinkled on it. You'll always see people asking for more masala :)

Among Delhi's poorer families, school-going children often eat roasted papad for breakfast, along with a cup of tea. A friend of mine, doing a PhD at Delhi, says that in one low-income community she surveyed, nearly 50% of the kids ate papad for breakfast. I was pretty shocked, really, and then I felt really stupid at my lack of knowledge of what poverty is really all about. What was I expecting? A fancy breakfast with fruit juice? 

Papad doesn't really meet any nutritional needs, although since roasted papads are made of lentils, I suppose they are better than nothing. Typically, these papads are made of urad-dal (black gram), a lentil that is native to India. In fact, India is the world's largest producer (and consumer) of urad dal. Black gram accounts for more than 40 % of total legume seeds traded in the world, although I haven't seen it being used in any Western cuisines. Have you? I think it is used in central Asia and some Asian countries. 
Whole black gram (akkha urad or sabut urad)
photographed in my kitchen
In India it is used not just for papads; but also as part of the daily diet, especially in South India, where it is a part of almost every breakfast (dosa, idli, vada).
Home-made dosa for breakfast. 
The batter is made of rice and urad dal.
The thick iron griddle is one of my prized possessions :)
In Delhi, other than papads, the most popular dish with urad dal is the famous Dal Makhani.
Dal Makhani (in the bucket) and a 
super-orangey paneer butter masala!!
At the ITC Maurya, they have their signature Dal Bukhara:
From the Arkansas blog of  Max and Ellen, who travelled with us on a Delhi Magic Tour
The picture above is a collage of two separate photos - on the left is a typical meal at the Maurya's Bukhara, with tandoori roti, dal bukhara, kebabs etc. On the right is the menu of the special Presidential Platter that the restaurant created after Bill Clinton's visit. It is supposed to be for 2 people, but really, in my view, four people can eat what they serve. There is a vegetarian version of this platter as well, inspired by Chelsea Clinton.

There are several studies showing that urad-dal boosts the immune system. It is traditionally used in Ayurveda for several things, including as a face scrub, treatment for dandruff and acne, as a solution for low sperm count and erectile dysfunction in men, and for problems with menstruation. If you're interested in natural remedies, then see this link.

But if like me, your primary interest is in food, then look for a papad seller and try a roasted papad. And don't forget to ask for extra masala!


Dr.B.M.SHARMA dr.sharma said...

I had gone to Vidisha and Maandu and there came PAAPADWAALA in huge TOKREE..two three kinds of PAAPAD..I was with few friends..I called them and started or two friends of mine perhaps dissuaded that this might be of some unfounded harm to them..but I enjoyed..those village PAAPADS..and I remember one of the most beautiful was afternoon both the times..and you shall trust I gave Rs. 100 as my Love for those PAPADS..Papads are lovely items. Your Blog undoubtedly outstanding and educating.Regards. :)

Dr.B.M.SHARMA dr.sharma said...

Your blog with photographs and description simply superb.

Sarah Wilson said...

I really enjoy reading your blog Deepa.
I feel I am there, I can almost smell the aroma and hear the sounds.
Thank you.

GP said...

Really nice information.The most important thing is you explain each and every point in detail.Here i want to suggest you one of the best hotel in Delhi called Hotels in Delhi India.

outofthecave said...

In old delhi, I went to moti mahal and zaika to try afghani chicken. this is my experience.