Friday, June 19, 2009
In the days before burgers and pizzas descended on Bombay's food landscape, there was the Frankie.
The Frankie is a delicious, flaky wrap stuffed with veggies or meat. It was ridiculously popular, especially among the city's modern young crowd, perhaps because -- with a name like Frankie-- it appeared less homely than a vada-pav or a pav-bhaji, other popular street snacks.
My favorite place to grab a sizzling hot, just-made Frankie was at the super-busy Churchgate station, before I could hop on the train home. Eating a Frankie in this, one of the busiest railway stations in one of the world's most crowded megalopolises, as commuters literally elbowed past you -- almost knocking the food out of your hands-- was an experience by itself.
I still remember those wonderful, tantalizing tastes: the smokiness of the peppers and the spices and the soft, crispy texture of the wrap. There really was no flavor quite like it.
One of the key reasons a Frankie tastes as unique as it does is an egg wash that is brushed on to both sides of the wrap, after which it is baked on a super-hot griddle. The eggs give the Frankie a distinctive brown pattern on the outside and its crispy, flaky texture. I've seen vegetarian versions of a Frankie that do away with the egg wash altogether, but, frankly, all you are left with is a vegetable wrap that is not a Frankie.
So before making a Frankie at home, I spent a lot of time wondering what would make a good egg-wash substitute. Then it hit me.
Tofu. Tofu is high in protein like egg which would help with the browning and the texture and, when beaten, it has about the same thickness that makes it spreadable without being too drippy. So tofu it was, mixed with a tiny bit of oil to make it more spreadable, and I think it did a great job of emulating the egg without the eggy smell.
To stuff my Frankie, I used a mouth-tickling, tangy tamarind chutney and a mix of colorful, healthful vegetables including red bell peppers, potatoes, carrots and mushrooms. You can try almost any vegetable that cooks fairly fast but retains a nice bite. I would have preferred the flavor of green bell peppers in the Frankie, but I used red since I had those on hand, and they were quite delicious. But if you have a choice, go with the green.
So here's the recipe. Hope everyone had a great, meat-free Thanksgiving and here's looking forward to the holiday season. Enjoy, all!
For the wrap:
2 cups all-purpose flour (resist the urge to sub with whole-wheat because you won't get the right texture)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp salt
Mix the flour, oil and salt by hand until you have a grainy texture.
Now, adding a little water at a time, knead the flour until you have a firm dough. Cover and set aside.
For the filling:
1 large bell pepper (capsicum, cut into thin, long strips
2 small carrots, julienned, or cut into thin, long strips1 red onion, sliced lengthwise
8-10 button or crimini or portabella mushrooms. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices. If using portabella, cut the cap lengthwise into long strips.
1 large potato, cut into skinny, french-fry-like strips
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp chaat masala
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or more or less per your taste)
1/2 tsp or more of ground black pepper1 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Heat the canola oil in a skillet.
Add the onions and potatoes and cook, stirring, until the potatoes start to turn golden-brown.
Add the remaining veggies and stir-fry for a few minutes until they are tender enough but still have a good bite. You don't want mushy vegetables in your Frankie.
Add the powdered spices, stir together to mix well, add salt, and turn off the heat. Stir in the coriander leaves. Set aside.
To make the tofu wash, beat together 1/4 cup of silken tofu with 1 tsp vegetable oil. Set aside.
To make the wrap, take a ball of the dough around 1-inch in diameter. Using some flour, roll it into a circle about 7-8 inches in diameter.
Transfer the circle to a hot cast-iron or non-stick griddle brushed lightly with oil.When bubbles begin to appear on the wrap, flip it over. Brush the top with the tofu wash-- you want a thin layer and you want it to spread as evenly as possible without lumping in places.
Now flip over the wrap again and brush the other side similarly with the tofu wash. Wait until the underside of the wrap is nice and golden brown and comes off easily with a spatula before you flip it one last time.
Spread a little tamarind chutney (recipe follows) in the center of the wrap. Now place some of the vegetables in the center. Then, working carefully and using the spatula, fold the edges of the wrap over the filling. Press down on the top of the wrap with the spatula for a minute to ensure it stays in place.
Remove from the griddle and eat hot.
2 tbsp tamarind extract (bought at the Indian store)
1/2 cup water1/2 tsp finely powdered fennel seeds
1/2 tsp finely ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp finely ground coriander seeds
Salt to taste
2-4 tbsp grated jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar)
Place all the ingredients in a small skillet and, over medium heat, bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for another 8-10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Taste and add more jaggery or salt if needed.
Turn off the heat before the sauce is too thick-- it will thicken more on standing.