EPICURIOUS: A PANCAKE BY ANY OTHER NAME…

Published March 10, 2024
Photo by Faryal Diwan
Photo by Faryal Diwan

Malpuras always make me nostalgic for my childhood. Karachi’s winters wouldn’t be complete without a dinner treat of sweet malpuras whipped up by my nani [maternal grandmother] and served with generous dollops of malai [cream] and honey. Of course, unlike my mom, we kids would be overjoyed at the sight of a stack of these desi pancakes — which child isn’t when given the chance to overdose on sugary delights?

A Gurjrati/Memon/Kutchi twist on the pancake, malpuras are, like its culinary cousin, made from eggs, milk and flour. While malpuras are fluffier than crepes, they’re thinner than the traditional American pancake. Yellow food colouring and baking soda are added, which gives malpuras a distinct colour and some extra fluff.

Unlike pancakes in the West, malpuras are usually served for dinner or iftar — street-food stalls are brimming with tawa-sized malpuras during Ramazan. Cut up into pieces and served with generous dollops of fresh malai, they make for a nice addition to an iftar table or a fun street-food snack to share. If nothing else, malpuras are an easy-to-make, delicious dessert.

While the American version of pancakes probably originated with the Greeks — the ancient Greeks made tagenias or tagenites made from wheat flour, curdled milk, olive and honey — malpuras more likely evolved from malpuas, a similar pancake dessert popular in neighbouring India. A 3,500-year-old dish, malpuas can be traced back to the Vedic period in India and were originally made from barley flour fried in ghee and then dipped in honey.

The desi version of the popular breakfast treat is just as delicious and has ancient origins

Contemporary malpuas are, of course, far more decadent and various versions can be found throughout South Asia. Served on festive occasions or eaten as dessert, malpuas, like malpuras, are made from eggs, milk and flour. However, unlike malpuras, malpuas are soaked in sugary syrup after they have been fried.

Each community in the Subcontinent has added its own twist to this highly popular dessert. In some regions of India, either bananas or mangoes or pineapples are added to the batter; in others, khoya [milk solids] or yoghurt is added but no fruit; in some communities, malpuas are generously topped with fruits and nuts.

In Bangladesh, coconut is added to the batter. In Nepal, a savoury-sweet pancake called marpa is made by adding fennel seeds, pepper and bananas to the pancake batter. Regardless of the interpretation, one thing is constant — it’s a pancake made with much love and is a decadent, sugary delight.

Malpuras

For the best results, make the batter fresh and serve the malpuras hot. Some people love the yellow colour that can only come about with adding food colouring (the far more expensive option is saffron), but I personally am not a fan. Often, the pancakes end up looking orange-y and the added eggs give the malpuras a slight yellow tinge (because of the yolks) in any case. While malpuras are traditionally eaten with malai and honey, feel free to sprinkle it with chopped nuts or fruit. After all, the more indulgent it is, the more delicious it will be!

Ingredients

(Makes 4-6 malpuras depending on size)

2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon elaichi/cardamom seeds (crushed)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon yellow food colouring (optional)
Ghee (as needed)
Toppings (optional)
3-4 tablespoons almonds (blanched and chopped or crushed)
3-4 tablespoons pistachios (blanched and chopped or crushed)
Malai (as needed)
Honey (as needed)

Method

Add the milk and sugar to a saucepan. Heat the milk, stirring slowly, until the sugar dissolves. Take off the stove and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour. Whisk and beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add to the mixing bowl, folding the flour in with the eggs. Stir well. Then pour a little of the sugar-milk mixture at a time, mixing well.

Continue stirring until the batter has a medium-thick consistency. Add the baking soda and cardamom, and stir again.

Heat ghee in a frying pan. Pour a ladle or a large spoon of batter in the centre, in a circular motion. Make sure the mixture is spread evenly on all sides.

Cook till the malpura is browning in places. Flip and fry the other side.

Pipe or spoon a dollop of malai on the malpuras. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and serve hot.

Published in Dawn, EOS, March 10th, 2024

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