If I had to name one dish as our official mauritian food, I would not think twice before picking dal puri. Brought by our bhojpuri speaking ancestors from Bihar, the small pan-fried stuffed pancake has won the heart and tastebuds of our multi-cultural population [as well as visiting tourists].

Low cost, ready availability and unique taste are factors that have turned dal puri into the top ranking street food in Mauritius. The little pancake is the secret behind quite a few sucess stories where small entrepreneurs have evolved into flourishing businessmen. Everyone here is familiar with dal puri Dewa [Arab Town, Rose Hill] or dal puri Chapeau la Paille [Port Louis Market]. You will find a detailed list of mauritian dal puri sellers here.

Why am I taking the trouble of writing a post when I can easily buy a pair of dal puri from any local street vendor? For the simple reason, that is, the difference between bought and homemade. The process of making dal puris is as long as it is tiring. I dunno how those guys do it but my homemade dal puris never matches the ones sold on streets and market foodcourts 😦

While the street bought dal puris have the property of being exremely soft and flaky, their homemade counterparts are sturdier in terms of texture and storage. They are typically filled with like cari gros pois/ curried butter beans, rougaille and pickles or chutney. My favourite filling, however, is a sweet one – kheer or rice pudding

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If you want to know more about the awesomeness of kheer-dal puri combination you’ll have to make it from scratch since I dnt know of any street vendor who sells them. Of course, you can be a tad lazy and buy unfilled dal puris that you can fold around a large spoonful of luscious kheer.

DAL PURI – STUFFED INDIAN PANCAKES

Ingredients:

250g dholl gram

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup cold water

1tsp salt

3-4 tbs oil

Yellow food colouring or turmeric

Method:

  • Clean dholl gram on a white surface to remove any impurities.
  • Place in a heavy based pan and fill pan to 2/3 with water.
  • Bring to the boil without covering pan for 30 minutes or more.
  • After first 15 minutes, skim off as much of the frothy material floating over water as you can. Add 1 tsp salt and a pinch of yellow food colouring. Allow dholl to continue cooking until it softens.
  • Test by pressing cooked dholl between 2 fingers. It should be firm but easily crushed with little force. Remove pan from heat.

  • Drain well and transfer dholl to a clean dry bowl. It is now ready to be processed to make the filling for dal puri.
  • I use a hand held moulin à légumes to process the dholl to a loose powder-like consistency. This is hard work if you’re not used to it. You might like a few pauses in between in case your hands get stiff.
  • I can’t tell how well the food processor works here. I don’t think it will sucessfully reproduce the consistency required for the filling.
  • Collect processed dholl in a bowl free from moisture and set aside.
  • Take a short break before you get started with the dough.

  • For dough, sift 2 1/2 cups flour in a bowl. Add 2-3 tbs oil and rub in.
  • Combine remaining oil with 1tsp salt and a pinch of food colouring with 1 cup water in a jug.
  • Gradually add liquid to flour until you have a loose ball of dough.
  • Turn onto a floured work surface and knead until you have a soft smooth ball of dough. You may need to add extra flour or water.
  • Cover dough with the mixing bowl [used above] and leave for 5 min.
  • Then divide dough into small equal portions with a sharp knife.
  • Roll each portion into a small ball around the size of a small lemon.

  • Now begins the tedious process of filling each ball with the dholl. Once you master the technique, you’ll proceed must faster.
  • Take one dough ball and work it into the shape of a small cup using your fingers and thumb.
  • Fill it with about 1tbs of dholl and pinch the edges together to close.
  • Dunk filled dal puris in flour and place on a large plate. Continue until you have filled every portion of dough evenly.

  • Heat a heavy skillet/ griddle/ tawa and brush surface lighly with oil.
  • Tawa is ready when a drop of water instantly evaporates from its surface with a loud sizzling sound. You now simply have to roll out dal puris and cook on preheated tawa.
  • Roll out dal puris with a light hand on a floured surface. They need to be smaller and thinner than faratas, therefore not as easy to roll out.
  • Cook over high heat until they puff up slightly but dnt wait for too long. Dal puris should not have a blistered surface like faratas.

  • Cook for only few seconds on one side before flipping over. Brush cooked surface lightly with oil and flip over again.
  • Stack dal puris in a heatproof bowl lined with a clean cotton cloth.
  • Serve immediately with sweet or savoury filling of your choice.

I dunno about you but in my opinion kheer is one of the most perfect desserts indian cuisine has to offer. Of South Indian origin, kheer is traditionally a milk-based dessert and therefore quite liquid in consistency. I like mine thick and creamy so I tend to reduce it more than actually required. Chopped nuts and spices can be added to enhance flavour. 

In Mauritius, kheer forms part of an interesting ceremony at indian weddings. The bride and groom are served kheer and fed in turns by the bride’s close relatives before the couple leaves for their new home.  The rice pudding also forms part of offerings to Maa Durga at prayer ceremonies. Kheer-puri along with signs of matrimony is then distributed to nine married women with blessings of peace, prosperity and fertility.

KHEER – CREAMY RICE PUDDING

Ingredients:

1 cup raw rice

1 cup milk powder

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup almonds

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 tsp cardamom

1 tbs pistachios

Method:

  • Place rice in a heavy based pan and add 2-3 cups water.
  • Bring to the boil and keep cooking until you go betond the point you would normally stop at when normally preparing boiled rice.
  • Continue cooking over low heat until most of the water evaporates.
  • Stir cooked rice so that it breaks up into smaller bits and becomes kinda mushy and has a porridge-like consistency.

  • Add sugar and stir. After 1-2 minutes, add milk powder and stir thoroughly until no lumps remain and mixture becomes creamy.
  • You can add 2-3 tbs coconut milk as well for added flavour.
  • Finally stir in coarsely chopped almonds, raisins and cardamom.
  • Cardamom can be substitued by cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg.
  • Sprinkle with pistachios and serve on its own in small dessert bowls or as a sweet filling for dal puris. Can be eaten warm or chilled.
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