Food for Thought: Aloo Parathas

Dive into the cultural, political, and personal significance of food

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Person in thinking pose with a thought bubble overhead featuring an image of aloo parathas
This is going to be your new go-to flatbread. Illustration: Alyssa Marie Umbal / The Peak

By: Tamanna T., Staff Writer

Growing up in a Punjabi household, my mom would cook different dals and curries for school every morning. My favourite thing to eat with them were aloo parathas. “Aloo translates to potato, while “paratha” is derived from “parat,” which means layers. An aloo paratha is essentially a flatbread stuffed with spiced potatoes.

I used to watch my mom make them while I would braid my hair at 5:30 a.m. It was a part of my routine I didn’t realize I would miss until I moved to Canada. With a busy schedule and no time to cook Indian food everyday, parathas have become a nostalgic item to treat myself with whenever I’m feeling low or ordering Indian food. 

The dish is a spin on traditional parathas and originated in Punjab, India. The existence of stuffed parathas is said to date back to “somewhere in the early medieval period, well before the 12th Century CE.” Since then, the recipe has travelled to different parts of the world, including “Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore, and the Caribbean.” 

Parathas are not complicated to make — they are simple flatbreads usually made of wheat flour and a little bit of oil — but there are many ways to prepare them. Aloo parathas, specifically, are often eaten as a breakfast food because they are quite heavy on the stomach, and most people can’t eat more than three in one sitting.

Here is a quick and easy recipe for aloo parathas, taken from Dassana’s Veg Recipes

Aloo parathas consist of two main elements: dough and spiced potatoes.

For the spiced potatoes: 

  1. Boil 3–4 medium sized potatoes (I usually use russet potatoes) in a pressure cooker or steamer until they are soft and mashable. Drain the water and peel the potatoes. If using a pan, fill the pan with water and add your potatoes. Cover with a lid and keep checking every few minutes until they are tender, then peel when they are cooler.
  2. Chop them into smaller pieces, and then mash them. If you don’t have a masher, use a big spoon to flatten the potatoes and then a fork to mash them properly.
  3. Add ½ teaspoon of finely chopped green chilli or serrano peppers to the bowl. For extra heat, you can add a dash of cayenne pepper powder as well. Then, add salt to taste and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. You can also add coriander leaves to taste.

For the dough: 

  1. Take 2 cups of wheat flour, and make a well in the centre. Add a ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter). If ghee is not available, a little bit of olive oil should work instead.
  2. Now add some warm water (around ½  cup at first) to the well, and mix. Don’t put a lot of water in the beginning, because it will make your dough mushy. Mix the dough a little, then add water as required.
  3. Bring the mixture together and knead the dough until it becomes smooth. Leave it aside for 1015 minutes.

For the aloo paratha: 

  1. Make two small, round balls of dough and flatten them with your hand. Then, with a rolling pin, flatten them further into circles of about 4–5 inches in diameter. It is best to keep the size of both circles the same.
  2. On one dough piece, add some of the potato stuffing made earlier. Now place the second circle on top of the first, and press to seal the edges together.
  3. Dust a little bit of flour on the stuffed dough, and roll it again with the rolling pin, until it becomes relatively flat.
  4. On a hot skillet or flat pan, put a little bit of olive oil and spread it. Then add your paratha to the pan, keeping the flame on medium-high. When it’s starting to cook, add more ghee or oil on the paratha and spread it around. Flip it on the other side when brown and repeat.
  5. Take it off the pan and place on a plate.
  6. Serve with any Indian curry, dal, or even just butter.

You can also find aloo parathas at any Indian restaurant throughout BC.