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DAL PURI ARE DEMANDING 'GOURMET' ROTI

May 18, 2003 – Say the word roti and many people think of a hot sandwich with a curried meat or vegetable filling. In actuality, "roti" refers only to the bread of this dish. But, like a hamburger in a bun, one just isn't as much fun to eat without the other.
Flat like a tortilla, roti were introduced by East Indians into Trinidad and are now popular in the Virgin Islands thanks, to Trinidadian immigrants. Everyday roti is made out of such simple ingredients as flour, baking power and oil or margarine. A "gourmet version" called dal puri has cooked split peas and a variety of seasonings incorporated into it and is made by a lengthy, special process.
For dal puri, well-worked dough balls made out of flour and water have a teaspoonful of cooked split-pea paste tucked into the center. The dough is then rolled out like a pancake. This takes great skill, for when the roti is laid down to cook on a special hot griddle called a tawa, the two sides of the dough will lift slightly off the seasoned paste of split peas so that there are three delicate, light layers which have separated cleanly from each other but which are still firmly closed together around the edges.
Filled roti are what most people look for in their meal. The most popular locally is a filling of boneless curried chicken.
Traditionally, roti are finger food, normally eaten unwrapped, with the filling on one side of the plate and the bread on the other. Nowadays, however, it is common to serve roti with the bread enclosing the curried filling as an all-in-one sandwich.
Dal Puri

1/4 cup yellow split peas
1 large onion, chopped
2 green chilies, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt, to taste
1 ½ cups flour
Water for kneading
Oil for frying
Clean and wash the split peas and soak them overnight. Next morning, grind peas to a fine paste. Add chopped onion, chilies, chili powder, cumin seeds and salt to taste. Sift flour and add all of the ground ingredients; mix well. Add very little water to make stiff dough. Knead the dough well for 10 minutes until smooth, non-sticky dough forms. Divide this dough into equal balls. Roll out each ball into small round shapes.
Heat oil in a pan until smoking hot. Lift one flattened dough circle, or puri, and place it on the surface of the hot oil. The puri will rise within seconds and begin to sizzle. Gently press the center down into the oil, as this will help the puri to puff up. Once cooked, remove and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Keep cooked puri hot while cooking the remaining dough.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 135 calories, 0.5 gms fat (3 percent fat calories), no cholesterol, 180 mg sodium.
Curried Chicken Filling
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chopped hot pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon curry powder
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
Combine all ingredients except oil and water in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. Marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, in the refrigerator. When ready to prepare, heat oil medium-high in a fry pan. Add the chicken mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add water, then cook on low for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is tender. Fold 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling inside each roti bread; serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 150 calories, 7 gms fat (44 percent fat calories), 48 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium.

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