This is Ari Pathiri – the soft as feather rice flatbread. This gluten free bread goes by a few other names as well – nice pathiri , neriya pathiri and malabar pathiri , to name a few. As the last name on the list suggests it is very popular in the Malabar region of India. This delicate soft bread can easily be paired with spicy curries or sweet syrups.
The best pathiri that I remember was the one that my dorm mate’s mom made. Long long ago .. , on one Monday morning Sherri came back to the hostel late, but with an extra special treat- Pathiri and Mutton Roast. News like these travel fast when a bunch of teenagers are subjected to barely palatable mess food for any length of time. Suffice to say that she was very popular that day – I don’t think our gang of girls were ever as silent as during that meal ever. Sheri, this one is inspired by you !
When you or someone you love have gluten allergies or intolerance you go to a lot of lengths to adapt standard gluten rich recipes. Often times we forget that there are many delightful recipes around the world that are naturally gluten free . Jowar roti, ragi roti , Bajri roti , injera, corn tortillas and the south Indian dosa are all good examples. Some of these grains used are more environmentally viable as well – for example Bajra or pearl millet takes much less water to cultivate than wheat.
But all that seem unimportant once you taste one of these gluten free flat breads. The taste and texture of these breads wins your over. The rice pathiri is soft and very pliable. Serve with with a spicy side dish or thick coconut milk and a sprinkling of sugar/honey.
This gluten free aspect of rice is not a good news when it comes to bread making. Gluten is creates the essential structure of the breads, without which it will easily collapse and break apart. In gluten free flours part of all of the starches are cooked to increase absorption of water. The flour particles swell up and create a gelatinous mix which provides the needed structure and moisture. This is the secret to making and melt in the mouth pathiri.
Heat water with a pinch of salt until it comes to a rolling boil. Add the flour, stir and turn off the heat. The hot water gets instantly absorbed into the flour. If you have led hands you can dig in and and knead this into a smooth dough. Other wise cover and wait for a little bit for the dough to cool down and be warm enough to handle. Knead it well into a soft dough, if needed add more flour or warm water as needed. The dough should be soft so that you can break off a piece roll and flatten without any cracks.
Cover the dough to prevent it from drying out. Heat a griddle or tawa or any thick bottomed pan over medium hot fire. Pinch of a lemon sized piece of dough and roll it into a ball. Dust a rolling surface with rice flour, place the dough ball and turn to coat all sides. Sprinkle more flour and roll out into a thin circle – 6 to 8 inches in diameter. Sprinkle more rice flour if the dough gets sticky. Unlike flour tortillas ( or chapathy) the edges of pathiri will be jagged. Trim using a circle cutter if preferred. Don’t worry about waste – the excess can be rolled into the the next dough ball.
Place the pathiri on the hot pan. You can coat the pan with a thin layer of oil before cooking the pathiri. I don’t as the oil residue leaves brown traces on the pathiri and I am partial to pristine white pathiris. Let it cook for about 30 seconds, and you will notice the pathiri turning just a tad bit translucent or small bubbles beginning to form. This is your cue to flip. Cook the other side for another 30 seconds or so and flip one more time. At this time usually an undisturbed pathiri will puff up as a balloon, but if does not use a clean kitchen cloth to press on the top gently to help it puff up. Remove from the pan and keep covered.
You could brush a little coconut milk on top as you remove each. But that is optional. Some prefer to roll out all the pathiris before beginning to cook them. In that case coat each with a little bit of rice flour and keep covered to prevent them from drying out. After each pathiri is made wipe the pan with a kitchen towel to remove any excess rice flour.
- Do not let the dough or the flattened pathiri dry out.
- Wipe the pan after making each pathiri to remove excess rice flour.
- Lightly coat you palm with oil to prevent the dough from sticking when kneading it .