Michael Karlo Lim
A STOPOVER by way of paranoid overestimation had us spending a night in Kolkata. We booked an AirBNB reservation enroute and our host gave us many generous recommendations on what we can squeeze into our next twenty-four hours. Cooking classes were in our original plans but the jaunts across Rajahstan proved too hectic to schedule even just one. There’s always a reason for everything and we guess the one for this unplanned extension was “Rakhi’s Cooking Classes.”
Uber has made both navigation and transport across the city quite convenient and our booking rolled us into one of Kolkata’s many large apartment complexes. Rakhi Thakkar welcomed us into her home a floor up by lift. We, the culturally ignorant, took it a hint to shuck our shoes when we realized the LPG tank and stove setup on the floor meant the lesson was to be conducted squatting. Out came a kitchen treasure trove of seemingly exotic spices and ingredients made familiar only by virtue of their Tupperware brand containers.
Mrs. Thakkar opened with a brief introduction to Indian cooking ingredients and kitchen essentials made more interesting by her encouragement of analogies with those of ours. We were later joined by her son, Pranat – foodie and aspiring DJ, who helped fill in gaps with parallels to Western cuisine and practices. Then it was on to one demo after another in that special crash course of over a dozen different classical Indian vegetarian dishes broken only by intervals of sampling.
We were never more excited to try preparing the dishes ourselves when we got back to home. Armed with ingredients we took back from India and locally available ones, we took to the task of preparing what we thought would be the simplest in the lineup: Seven-fold Paratha. The recipe was easy enough but some practice and skill were definitely required in rolling out the parathas in the traditional softly-triangular shapes. Slightly misshapen, the parathas still came out deliciously buttery and chewy with some crisping in the layers.
As I have always maintained, I’d daresay I can cook but I’d really much rather just eat. We later found ready-to-cook parathas at the frozen section of Landers. If you’re the renaissance person and would like to try making it from scratch, here is the recipe:
* 2 Cups Maida or whole wheat flour
* 1 Cup water or as needed
* Ghee or clarified butter
1. Place flour in a mixing bowl, add a little water at a time, mix, knead dough until soft
2. Make a ball and put it back into the bowl then cover it and keep it aside for at least half hour.
3. Pre-heat the tava (cast iron flat griddle) on medium heat.
4. Roughly divide the dough into 10 to 12 equal parts.
5. Using a rolling pin, roll into a 6 “circles.
6. Dust with flour and spread ghee over the surfaces.
7. Fold the circle in half to form a semi-circle then again in half to form a triangle. Gently press to flatten the triangle with your fingers, dusting on both sides.
8. Roll the paratha lightly into desired size.
9.Place the paratha on the hot greased griddle, and let it cook until bubbly. Flip the paratha back and forth until both sides become light brown and you have the desired crispness.
10. Take the paratha off the griddle. Serve paratha hot. Preferably with dips, sauces and, oooh, Chicken Curry.