Paporer Jhal or Bengali Papad Curry – Fried or roasted Papor simmered into a spicy gravy! As papor soaks the gravy and becomes wilted, the consistency of the sauce becomes slightly thick. It is worthy of calling a delectable spicy frugal curry.
We all need a great quick fix vegetarian curry recipe for everyday cooking, right? And this Paporer Jhal is my answer to the situation when there is no egg, meat, fish or veggies in the refrigerator, not even paneer! If I got a packet of papor or Papadum on my kitchen shelf and 20 minutes, then my lunch or dinner is sorted with this flavourful Bengali curry called papor- er Jhal served on steamed rice.
What is papor or Papad?
Papor is one of my favourite pantry essentials because, being a Bong, my monsoon special food list is incomplete without Khichuri and papor Bhaja. papor, commonly known as Papad or Papadum. It is a crispy, thin flat round cracker mostly made by rolling lentils dough. These days nobody put the effort to make Papad at home. Most of us buy Papad from the supermarket. It typically serves as an accompaniment with Chutney just before dessert at the end of a Bengali meal. But, sometimes to everyday Bengali meal, fried papor served with Dal and Rice as a crunchy accompaniment. Many Indian restaurants serve Papad as an appetiser. And Papads are an excellent choice for an evening snack.
In Bengal, food is closely associated with seasons and festivals. Ratha yatra, a Hindu festival celebrated in Monsoon! And on this occasion at home Papor Bhaja (fried Papadum) is a compulsory food item either as an evening snack or lunch along with Khichuri.
What is Jhal? A Taste and A type of Dish
In Bengali terminology, “Jhal” refers to a spicy or extra hot taste from chilli. Also, Jhal means a spicy curry or sauce packed with flavours but not loaded with nut’s paste, cream.
A yellow coloured Jhal made with mustard seeds, green chillies and turmeric. And there is a reddish colour Jhal made with red chilli, tomato and other ground spices like this papor er Jhal!
What goes in Paporer Jhal?
Papad- I prefer to buy either cumin flavoured or sometimes plain papad. Because I often make curry or savoury snacks with papad, so I like to control the heat.
Onion – Red onion is commonly available in India, so we always use red onion for curry.
Ginger- Ginger is a dominant flavouring agent in Bengali cooking.
Tomato- Tomato for tartness and the reddish colour.
Spices- Cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli and turmeric powder, and Gorom moshla are the common spices used in Bengali cooking for everyday meals.
Whole spices- cumin seeds and dried bay leave to add flavour to the oil.
Oil- Mustard oil, but you can cook the dish with vegetable or unflavoured nut oil.
How to make Paporer Jhal?
Fry papad- Break the Papad into four pieces, then heat plenty of oil to fry the Papad and remove it from the oil. I prefer to do shallow fry.
Make curry- Remove the extra oil from the cooking pan and add whole spices to the remaining hot oil. Stir for a few seconds and add the chopped onion, sprinkle salt. Fry till the onion develop softened and developed a golden colour.
Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, except Gorom moshla, add all the ground spices. Add a pinch of sugar, salt to taste and pour a few tablespoons of water to make a thick paste and keep aside.
Next, add the ginger paste to the cooking pan, keep stirring for a few seconds, and then add chopped tomato. You can use canned tomato as well. After adding tomato, you can add the spice paste you made earlier and add about a half cup of water. Mix everything well and over high heat, cook and wait for a boil to come; reduce the heat and continue cooking until the oil separates from the masala. This step is crucial to make a good curry. In Bengali, it’s known as Kosano, or in Hindi, it’s called Bhuna or Bhunowing.
Then add warm water to make gravy. When the spicy liquid bubbling up, reduce the heat and add fried papad. Increase the heat to high again and simmer for a minute, add garam masala, give the final stir, cover with a lid and remove from the heat.
What is the significance of releasing oil from the Masala?
When the oil separates from the masala or spice mixture, that means there is no moisture left. If there is any moisture left in the masala, that means the raw juices from onion, tomato, ginger are still there and for that reason, the curry will not taste good, and it will spoil quickly. So, it is essential to cook masala over low heat. If you cook masala over high heat, it will burn.
What to serve with Paporer Jhal?
Serve this Paporer Jhal with steamed rice. But as an Indian meal serves with more than one dish or curry, you can serve a bowl of curd, some pickle and a few slices of cucumber to enjoy a complete meal.
- 5 medium-size Papad - I used Lijjat cumin seed flavoured papad
- 1 medium Red Onion - ~ sliced (Approx. 1Cup)
- ¼ cup Tomato - chopped
- 1 tsp Ginger - grated or 1 tsp ginger paste
- ¼ tsp Cumin seed - If you are using plain Papad, add 1/2 tsp of cumin seed
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 Pinch of Asofatida - or Hing
- 1 tsp Cumin powder
- 1 tsp Coriander powder
- ½ tsp Red Chilli powder - you can add more
- ½ tsp Turmeric powder
- ½ tsp Garam Masala powder
- ½ tsp Sugar
- Salt to taste
- ¼ cup Mustard Oil
- Add in ground cumin, coriander, red chilli and turmeric powder, salt and sugar in a shallow bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to make a spice slurry. Keep it aside.
- Heat a cooking pot over medium heat, pour oil and heat it. If you cook in mustard oil, then make sure the oil reaches the smoky point.
- Add the papad one by one and fry each side for a few seconds, and remove from oil.
- Add Hing, cumin seed and Bay leaf in the remaining oil and stir to release the aroma from the spices.
- Add sliced onion, sprinkle salt for the onion and over-medium low heat cook the onion till it develops a dark brown colour.
- Add ginger paste, stir for a few seconds.
- Then add chopped tomatoes and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Next, add the spice paste or slurry and about 1/4 cup of water.
- Finally, increase the heat to high. When the liquid starts bubbling up, reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover with a lid and continue to cook until the oil and starts realising from the masala.
- Add about half a cup of warm water, stir the gravy, increase the heat to high, and wait for one boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium, break the fried Papads into big pieces and add in the gravy.
- Give a stir and over high heat, simmer the gravy for a few minutes, then sprinkle Gorom moshla, give a final stir and turn off the heat.
- Cover with a lid and give at least 10 minutes of resting time before serving!