When I visited cookbook author and blogger Mallika Basu at her home in London last year, I found her ready and waiting to whip up a batch of pudla, chickpea crepes with cilantro, green chili, and ginger — a quick and easy breakfast staple she makes frequently for her family. I loved how light yet satisfying these gluten-free, vegan pancakes were, soft in the middle, and with a crisp edge.
I asked her for the recipe and tried a batch in my own kitchen, and here are they are for you today.
Pudla, shot by Mallika in her kitchen.
On her blog, Mallika describes these as "spicy savoury pancakes" made chickpea flour (known as besan, or gram flour, in Indian cooking). This makes them the sibling of socca, the chickpea flatbread found in the South of France.
The taste of pudla, though, is spicier than socca, with a whole green chili in the batter, and a handful of cilantro, not to mention plenty of grated ginger. It makes a wonderful breakfast, along with a simple cilantro and mint chutney, such as this this one.
But pudla still has other good things in common with socca: it's gluten-free (provided your chickpea flour is 100% certified gluten-free, of course), and vegan. This kind of crepe is now one of my go-to recipes when hosting gluten-free friends; it's so savory and satisfying, and with a hash of breakfast potatoes and sautéed vegetables, it becomes a really exciting brunch dish.
Pudla, made and shot in my own kitchen.
A few notes on this recipe, having made them in my own kitchen. There are some tips here for getting them just right the first time, but don't be intimidated by them: these are really quite easy and whether they turn out thick, thin, crispy, or soft, they will be delicious!
Recipe measurements: I converted Mallika's ingredient list from weights and more British-style measurements. I left her instructions completely as she wrote them.
Salt: They were quite salty the first time I tried them — and then I realized (duh) that a tablespoon in England means a bit more than a tablespoon in American measurements. I converted the salt measurement below to a more correct amount.
Finding chickpea flour: I used to only be able to find chickpea flour in Indian or Mediterranean grocery stores (I still buy it at the Indian grocery, where it's cheap and comes in big bags — usually labeled besan or gram flour.) But now it's much more widely available thanks to the rise of gluten-free cooking. Look for it from Bob's Red Mill or other brands in the gluten-free baking section of any major grocery store.
Managing stove heat: The trick with these, as with any pancake or crepe, is controlling and managing the heat of the stove. I started off scorching a couple until I got the hang of it, but I tried to keep the heat up high enough to still get crisp edges on the pancakes.
Batter consistency: The other trick that comes with practice with a pancake like this is getting the batter to just the right consistency. Mine started out a wee bit too thick, which meant they weren't crisping up at all. I thinned out the batter with a little water, and that helped a lot.
When to turn them: The trick with knowing when to turn the pancake is looking for little pores on top of the pancake. Then you know they're ready.
Oil: I like how Mallika keeps the oil quantity low in these by using cooking spray instead of the copious amounts of oil or ghee used in other similar recipes I've tried. But if you feel like being indulgent some morning, cook them in as much butter or oil as you like!
Here's the crepe ready to be turned.
Pudla (Indian Chickpea Crepes)
Makes 8 crepes
1 1/3 cups (150 grams) chickpea flour
1 cup water
1 green finger chili
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, loosely packed
1 inch fresh ginger
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Oil cooking spray
In a large mixing bowl, place the besan, salt, chilli powder. Chop finely the chilli and coriander [cilantro] and toss in and grate in the ginger. Mix in the water removing any lumps that may have formed. Tactile is best – I just do this with my fingers! When you have an even smooth mixture, leave it to sit for at least half an hour or if you can for up to two hours.
When you’re ready to eat, get a tawa or frying pan to a very high heat with a drizzle of oil or a spray, then reduce the heat to medium high. Using a ladle, spoon one helping of the batter into the centre of the tawa, swirling it round gently with the handle to get it to spread as evenly as possible in a circle.
Cook it for 10 seconds on one side, then flip it over with a spatula and cook on the other. Remove the Pudla and start again with another one. The key is to drizzle oil on the edges of the pan before you cook the next Pudla. It can become a greasy affair, hence I prefer to use an oil spray.