The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed.
There’s a lot to be said about people who wake up at the crack of dawn to whip up elaborate breakfasts for their loved ones. The whole endeavor screams selflessness and, at some point in our lives, we all aspire to be this person. But let’s face it: Even if you are a morning person with a nurturing side, chances are you don’t want to be measuring, mixing, kneading, resting, shaping, rolling, and frying dough before sunrise. And that means no one gets puris.
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. You can wake up at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and be scarfing down a puri with your eggs by 8:15. You can invite 12 of your friends over for brunch and serve puris without breaking a sweat.
Puris—deep-fried flatbread—are a beloved breakfast across South Asia. In Pakistan, people wake up early on weekend mornings to drive up to road-side dhabas to get their hands on this flaky, chewy bread. The server comes to your car window, takes your order, and before you know it, brings over a metal tray bejeweled with golden, hot, puffy puris, plus a few sides like aloo bhujia, channa, suji halwa, or fried eggs. The joy of sitting in your car, eating food that is definitely not intended to be eaten in a car, is unparalleled. Half the experience is balancing the tray in your lap, while grease and yolk drip down your wrists, eating as fast as you can, not just because it tastes good, but also because the tray is scalding your thighs.
For those of us living in the diaspora, puri can seem inaccessible as a casual breakfast food. Recipes can be extensive and time-consuming, so people often save them for special occasions or weekend projects.
This trick involves just two ingredients: tortillas and oil. It’s a technique similar to Mexican and Mexican American dishes like gorditas infladas, salbute, and puffy tacos: fried masa tortillas that puff up like balloons and are served with sweet and savory fillings and toppings. My puri shortcut relies on store-bought flour tortillas that inflate just as dramatically in hot oil.
I learned it from my mom (who learned it from her friend, who learned it from another friend, and on and on). The result so closely resembles a puri, not even a desi grandma could pick it out as an imposter.
All you need are flour tortillas and neutral oil (like vegetable or canola). In a deep skillet or pot, wider than the width of your tortillas—a wok works great—heat about 1½ inches of oil to around 400°. If you don’t have a thermometer, just make sure the oil is rippling and shimmering. Carefully slide a single tortilla into the hot oil, then press it down with a mesh skimmer, a.k.a. spider or strainer. (It should immediately begin to sizzle and hiss. If it doesn’t, your oil isn’t hot enough—keep heating, then try again.) Within 15 seconds or so, the tortilla should inflate, pushing your skimmer upward. At this point, lift up the skimmer so the tortilla can inflate like a balloon. Once it’s golden brown on the first side, flip it over and brown the other side. Since the tortilla is already cooked, the aim is just to give it color and a slight crisp. Each side should take 30 seconds or less. Drain the puri on a paper towel while you fry up the rest.
A few troubleshooting tips: Thick, doughy tortillas—versus thin, flaky ones—work best here. I like Mission Brand. If your tortilla doesn’t inflate, the culprit might be a small tear in the seam. While this yields a less dramatic, puffy puri, it will still be delicious.
A puri is a blank canvas: Top with fried eggs and achaar. Use to scoop up leftover chana masala from the night before. Smear with labneh and chili crisp. Or even dust with brown sugar and cinnamon, roll up, and dip in coffee.