Daikon radish, called mooli or mullangi depending on where you are in India, packs a mean health punch.
Extremely low in calories, this white root vegetable is said to aid digestion and contains tons of fiber. Its spicy pungent taste also makes it ideal for salads.
The root is usually sold along with the leafy green tops which have the same peppery taste, although milder. The greens make a great side dish by themselves if sauteed in a little oil with mustard seeds and green chilies and salt.
I sometimes add the root, chopped, to the greens when I saute them, or use it to make sambhar. But this time I decided to go with an old family favorite– mooli parathas, which translate in English to radish-stuffed flatbreads.
Anyone slightly familiar with Indian food has likely had a paratha- and most likely it’s been the popular aloo paratha, or a paratha stuffed with a potato filling. But other veggies can just as easily be used to make parathas, either as a stuffing, or incorporated into the dough itself while kneading.
Parathas are great because they offer a chance to eat more vegetables without seeming to make an effort (although neither Desi nor I need any convincing to eat our veggies!). The stuffings I make are also always oil free and since a minimum of oil is required to actually cook the parathas themselves, they are inevitably a healthy as well as delicious choice.
For the paratha dough, I use durum flour, which is a wheat flour with wheat bran added to it, but you could substitute with whole wheat flour without changing the taste results. Also, you could vary the amount of spices like the chili powder and chat masala based on your individual taste. Don’t be afraid to experiment- there’s not much that can go wrong here. The one important thing to remember, though, is to squeeze every last bit of water out of the grated radish (instructions below) because even the tiniest bit of water in the stuffing can make it difficult to roll out the parathas.
Mooli Parathas are a great way to try out a veggie that very rarely gets the spotlight, but which is quite a star in its own right.
I’d love to hear from you if you decide to try it out- also feel free to ask any questions.
Hot and Spicy Mooli Parathas
(Makes 4-5 parathas)
1 cup durum flour or whole wheat flour
1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
Mix the dry ingredients and knead with enough water to form a stiff but smooth dough. Add just a little water at a time. If the dough gets too sticky, add some flour. You can either do this by hand, in a stand mixer, or in a food processor.
For the stuffing:
1 large daikon radish or 2 medium-sized ones, grated fine, mixed with a pinch of salt, and placed in a colander to let the water drain out.
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp chat masala (available in Indian grocery stores)
2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
Squeeze all the water out of the grated radish so it it very dry (be thorough with this step)
Mix the radish with the remaining ingredients (from the ginger to the salt)
Divide the dough into large lemon-sized balls (about 4-5) and then divide each ball into half.
Roll each half into a round about 5 inches in diameter. Place about a tablespoon of filling into half the rounds.
Moisten the edges of the remaining rounds with water and then place them on top of the rounds with the filling in them.
Press down the sides to seal them well.
Flour both sides of the paratha and roll it out into a slightly bigger round, about 6-7 inches in diameter. Be gentle and turn the paratha often while rolling to make sure it doesn’t stick to the surface.
If there is a tear in the surface, just patch it with your fingers, put some flour on it, and keep rolling. It won’t make any difference to the taste!
On a heated griddle, smear about 1 tsp of oil. Place the paratha on the griddle and cook each side until golden-brown spots appear all over the surface. You can brush the surface lightly with oil, if desired.
Serve hot with any chutney or even simply with a vegan butter-substitute spread. An Indian mango pickle (available in Indian groceries) would be great with this dish.