Sourdough Phulka (Indian Flatbread)

Clicked by me but not in my kitchen.

A phulka (pronounced Fulka), is one of the most common among Indian flatbreads (generically called Rotis) and is a staple food in many Indian states especially in the North. This is an unleavened bread and is oil free, light, soft, thin and circular and designed to easily mop up gravies and other side dishes. It gets its name from its property of puffing up when it is cooked. Phulna is the verb which means to puff up, in Hindi.

Now the phulka may as well be unleavened but when the matter comes into the hands of a Sourdough (SD) maniac like yours truly who is on a constant quest to incorporate her SD starter into anything and everything that will docilely obey, then the phulka becomes one more casualty along her murderous SD path 😀

As I have mentioned in my earlier post, which I will urge you to read before proceeding further, I began my SD journey 3 years ago and then after abandoning it after a while, I have now resumed it in earnest during this corona lockdown.

The earlier dalliance saw me using up the starter in crackers and phulkas and not so much in the regular breads that it was intended for. Well at that point it suited my hectic lifestyle of travel blogging because I was too busy to be tied down to babysitting SD bread dough or at least that was my excuse 😀

Anyway, what came out of it, was a very good version of the phulka and I would say that I liked it better than the regular phulka and found it far more fool proof (phuul proof?) too because in the hands of the unskilled, phulkas do tend to misbehave and not rise as God intended them to 😏 But in the case of these SD ones, I found the failure rate to be much lower.

Clicked by me but not in my kitchen.

Recipe for Sourdough Phulka –

Ingredients for dough –

Sourdough starter or discard – 60 gm

Water – 120 gm

Kasuri Methi (dry fenugreek leaves) powder – 1 teaspoon (optional, see Notes)

Whole Wheat Flour (WWF) – 260 gm (any brand, see Notes)

Additional water – 60 gm (or sufficient to make a soft dough – see Notes)

Oil – 1 teaspoon (optional)

For coating –

Oil – 1 teaspoon  (optional)

For dusting – 

Dry WWF – as needed

For smearing – 

A dash of oil dash of oil or butter or ghee per phulka (optional)

Method –

Mix the starter and 120gm water and keep aside for 5 minutes.

Add the kasuri methi powder (if using), the whole wheat flour, oil (if using) and the remaining water (or sufficient to make a soft dough).

Knead it into a soft pliable dough. Coat it with 1 teaspoon of oil and cover and set aside for 1 – 6 hours depending on when you want to make them.

If it is going to be beyond 6 hours, then cling wrap and refrigerate the dough in an air tight container. This will stay good in the fridge for 2 days.

Divide the dough into 12 equal parts by weight (around 42 gms each). You can make the rotis as big or small as you want. 42 gms works well for my family.

Roll each part into a tight ball and set it aside in the bowl. Keep the balls covered or they will dry out.

Dust a clean counter with dry flour. You can also use a circular rolling board that is traditionally used to roll the rotis on.

Roll out each ball into a thin, flat circle of around 1mm thickness. Do not worry if your circle defies definition 😀 This comes (or not) with practice.

You can use some dry flour while rolling in case your dough tends to stick.

It is important to roll the disc evenly. Thinner and uneven spots may tend to break while puffing up and though the roti will still be edible, it may not be as soft as an evenly rolled and puffed one.

Experts usually roll and fry simultaneously but you can choose to roll all the circles first and keep them ready before frying. Make sure to place them on a lightly floured surface to prevent sticking and cover them with a slightly damp cloth to prevent drying.

A non stick or thin Sheet iron tava (griddle) is used for frying the rotis. It is also handy to have a ‘roasting net’ to use on the direct flame but skilled people manage with tongs and the direct flame.

Heat the pan to a medium temperature. Reduce the flame and carefully drape a dough circle onto it. In a minute or two there will be bubbles appearing on the surface. Flip the circle over and the raise the flame to maximum.

Remove the pan from the flame, and slide the circle onto the roasting net. Immediately place the net over the direct flame and move you arm so that the roti gets evenly heated.

The roti should ideally puff up fully now.

Gently flip it over with the help of the pan and then hold it to the flame again. It will puff up once more.

Place it in a box or casserole which is lined with a kitchen tissue on the base. The tissue will prevent the roti from sweating and getting soggy.

If you wish, smear a dash of oil or butter or ghee on the roti and cover the container.

Or you can avoid the oil if you wish to.

Place the pan back on the flame and continue this process with the rest of the dough circles.

Rotis of course are best had fresh and there are many people who will not eat them any other way.

But making them hours before eating, is also acceptable in the interests of convenience. They will stay good at room temperature for 8 – 10 hours (depending of course on the ambient conditions) and will stay unspoiled in the fridge for 2 – 3 days.

Phulkas can also be frozen for 3 -4 weeks. Store with butter paper between each phulka to prevent sticking and a paper towel completely covering the pile, before placing in a zip lock bag.

Make sure to reheat lightly on a tava or on a direct flame before eating. Over heating may cause them to get really stiff and hard.

Phulkas are eaten with a wide range of accompaniments, the most common being dals, gravies, veg and non veg side dishes etc.

Notes – 

Kasuri Methi powder is the powder of dry fenugreek leaves and it is optional. I add it just to enhance the nutritive properties of my phulka and because it does not interfere much with the texture.

You can use any brand of WWF or even that which is milled freshly. I use local Indian brands like Aashirwad, Pilsbury, Annapurna etc.

We aim to get a soft, pliable, non sticky dough. The amount of water may vary based on the type of flour used.

I hope you will successfully try this recipe and I would really appreciate if you leave your feedback in the Blog comments.

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About Currylines

A food and travel enthusiast who plays with words
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4 Responses to Sourdough Phulka (Indian Flatbread)

  1. Joyce Rowberry says:

    I love this!!!

  2. Linda says:

    Thank you for this beautiful recipe!
    Does this work with an electric burner?

    • Caroline Radhakrishnan says:

      Thank you so much. Well this works on a flame but a burner should also be possible. You will have to be careful though because you will have to drop it on the open burner with no net/mesh.

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