A Vegetable Frankie is delicious street food from Mumbai, with a flaky, crispy wrap coated with an egg wash that melts in your mouth. This one has a delicious spinach and tofu filling and it's entirely eggless and vegan.
If you don't know what on earth a Frankie is, you're in for a treat.
In the days before burgers and pizzas descended on Bombay's food landscape, the Frankie -- a delicious, flaky wrap stuffed with veggies or meat -- was the fast food of choice for many. It was served on the streets and in restaurants that showcased food with a western flair, although it really is a uniquely Indian -- and even more uniquely Bombay -- wrap.
The Frankie is said to have originated at the Tibb's restaurant at Churchgate station in Bombay, and not surprisingly, it was especially popular with busy commuters rushing in and out of the busy railway station.
Eating a Frankie in this, one of the busiest railway stations in one of the world's most crowded, and hot, megalopolises, as commuters literally elbowed past you -- almost knocking the food out of your hands-- was a gastronomic experience that, through the lens of time and distance, appears almost perfect. And it is one I was lucky enough to savor over and over again.
I still remember those wonderful, tantalizing tastes: the smokiness of the spices and the soft, crispy texture of the wrap. There really was no flavor quite like it.
The Frankie's name owes itself to Frankie Worrell, a West Indian cricketer who, the story goes, was a favorite of the founder of Tibb's restaurant. And its origins lie in a pita wrap, which the founder ate in Lebanon and then adapted to make it more uniquely Indian.
But this is no pita wrap, as delicious as that is. One of the key reasons a Frankie tastes absolutely and mindblowingly unique is an egg wash that is brushed on both sides of the wrap, after which it is baked on a super-hot griddle. The eggs give the Frankie a distinctive golden-brown pattern on the outside and a crispy, flaky texture.
I've seen vegetarian versions of a Frankie that do away with the egg wash altogether, but then you are left with is a vegetable wrap that is not a Frankie. So when I made my vegan Vegetable Frankie at home, it was very important for me to find a substitute for that egg wash that would give me that perfect, tender crispness that makes a Frankie as delicious as it is.
The recipe I came up with was a mix of tofu, nondairy milk, and tapioca starch (corn starch is a fine substitute). This combo gives the perfect flakiness and color and crunch without that horrible eggy smell, and the cruelty.
But to stuff my vegan Vegetable Frankie, I used a filling that's not typical but mindblowingly delicious and not unlike a saag paner: a mouth-tickling spinach curry with tofu paneer cubes and cherry tomatoes fresh off the vine. You can try all kinds of fillings with this tasty wrap, and I do, but this one is hands-down my favorite -- and a favorite with Jay and Desi.
The tofu I used was the marinated and baked Indian style tofu I shared with you the other day, and it is quite perfect in this dish. The spinach itself requires very little prep: saute some onions and garlic, pour in the pureed spinach with some spices, add the tofu cubes, and you're almost there.
I used sundried tomato tortilla wraps for yet another layer of flavor -- spinach wraps or just plain tortilla wraps are excellent too.
I hope you'll try this recipe, because it's one I know you'll love. I stuff a few raw onions, tomatoes or cucumbers into the Frankie before I roll it up, for more crunch and texture, although you can leave them out if you'd rather. The spinach and tofu filling is sublimely delicious by itself. This is a very lunchbox-friendly recipe, especially for kids.
Here's the recipe now. Eat it, and let it transport you into a magical city, where the food is delicious, the atmosphere is dizzying and the energy is intoxicating. It's a place -- and a treat -- like no other.
More vegan wraps and rolls
- Curried Coconut Tofu Wraps
- Vegan Keema Wrap
- Oil-Free Lentil Tacos
- Cauliflower Tempeh Masala Tacos
- Vegan Sausage Rolls
For the wrap:
- ¼ cup tofu (any kind works -- I use extra firm because it's usually what I have around)
- ¾ cup nondairy milk
- 2 tablespoon tapioca starch
- 6 flour tortillas (use a gluten-free tortilla for a gluten-free dish)
For the spinach-tofu filling:
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 large onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed into a paste or minced fine)
- 2 medium tomatoes (finely diced)
- ½ pound spinach
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (or more or less per your taste)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- Salt to taste
- 16 oz marinated and baked tofu cubes (recipe link in notes below)
- Thinly sliced onions or tomatoes or cucumbers, or halved cherry tomatoes
Make the filling:
- Puree the spinach with ½ cup water.
- Heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes, cayenne and garam masala and cook until the tomatoes are very soft and pulpy.
- Add the spinach puree and the marinated and baked tofu cubes. Add salt and cook over medium high heat until the sauce is very thick and coats the tofu. If there's too much liquid in your sauce it'll be difficult to put it in a wrap.
- Turn off the heat and let stand while you prep the wraps.
Get the wraps ready:
- Make the tofu "egg" wash by placing the tofu in the blender with the nondairy milk and tapioca starch. Blend until very smooth, then pour into a large plate.
- Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a skillet that's large enough to hold the tortilla.
- Dip a tortilla into the "egg" wash and turn over to coat both sides with the wash.
- Place the tortilla into the hot skillet and let it cook until it is golden brown. Carefully turn over and cook the other side until golden brown.
- Remove the tortilla to a plate and place a fourth of the tofu filling inside it along with any of the other optional fillings. Bring in both ends of the tortilla, then roll into a tight wrap.
- Serve hot.
I tried this last night and totally loved it. I also added a little hummus for the sauce along with the tamarind paste you'd suggested. I've been trying quite a few recipes from your blog lately and they're all wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to put these up and I do hope you keep making such healthy innovations in the years to come.
Mathura, thanks for your very sweet and kind words. I am so happy you are enjoying the recipes, and feedback like this makes all of this worth the time and effort to me. Take care.
hi vaishali, vege frankie looks great, grt idea with tofu wash. going to try it out.
Ha ha! I recall how frankie stands made quick moolah outside colleges and theatres those days! They work now too but burgers and pizzas are bigger hit these days:).
Didn't know about the egg wash thing. The tofu wash seems a great substitute seeing those fabulous pictures!
Looks Yummy as always. I am always hungry after reading your blog. 🙂
and I just ate!!
We had a vegan Thanksgiving, it was great!
Coating with tofu looks exactly like egg! None will believe is purely vegan!
Trinity (of haiku tofu)
Cool, I've never heard of a Frankie. It looks delicious, and your tofu-instead-of-egg-wash idea is brilliant!
Looks Inviting to grab and eat.
Nice pictures Vaishali...I too made frankies for dinner yesterday..I went with the usual method...the tofu wash sounds very interesting...definitely a healthy alternative too...thanks for sharing this awesome idea 🙂
I remember eating these way back in time. 🙂 Were they delicious or what?
The tofu wash sounds like an excellent idea. Thanks.
Gosh...you brought back Bombay memories! I used to have mine at Linking road. I like the use of tofu..will try it out for sure the next time I make frankie, which I think is gonna be soon.
Brava! Tofu wash instead of egg, what a wonderful idea, Vaishali!
It looks delicious!
Those are some tempting pictures Vaishali. I have never tasted Frankies before. I think I'll be trying this very soon.
Sigh....if there's one thing I miss about Mumbai, its Frankie - and you know what makes it so tasty - Tibb's masala - there is nothing to replace that taste. Believe me, I have tried!
Jaya, the name of the cinema right outside Churchgate is Eros. It's still around and the last time I was in Bombay they thankfully hadn't converted it into one of those ugly multiplexes.
You can definitely use a tortilla for the wrap although wheat might taste more authentic. And yes, paneer would not be vegan 🙂
Pavani, Avisha, Thanks.
Debra, thanks, and I'll check it out.
Alka, that's a great tip. Thanks for sharing.
Sushma, Mansi, Voracious: Thanks!
Delicious frankie, looks prefect!
Thanks for sharing the Churchgate nostalgia...will try the tamarind chutney version when I make it the next time around.
The Voracious Vegan
This looks epic! I am going to have to make this for sure, I love wraps filled with delicious veggies, and the flavors you've got going on in here are just gorgeous. Thanks for another great recipe!
Applying tofu instead of egg is really a superb idea...lovely frankie and a nice recipe of it ...
Very Tempting recipe I must say..I love frankies and wraps, they are just too convenient for me to fix a lunch or snack when my kid demands for some deviation from regular sabzi-roti combo..any dry veggie, goes into the stuffing, and humble wheatflour roti turns into a wrap..kid happy, me happier...
I completely agree with the maida part, it gives such a crispy flaky feel to the frankie, but I got a tip from some Tv Show, that smearing the wheatflour roti with besan paste(besan+salt+red chilly powder+some water to make paste) and then cooking the roti, gives it the thick texture and body to hold the stuffing.I follow the same since then and am extremely happy with it.Though it do not taste as divine as maida roti but it do taste pleasantly different from the wholewheat rotis.
Dairy Free Betty
yummy... this looks sooo good.. must try!!
You narratives always bring back all my foodie memories of Mumbai. I used to go with a hostel girl friend to Churchgate just about every Sunday to eat a Frankie and later catch an English movie at the theater, the name of which escapes me.
I haven't had or made a frankie in years but yours is a cool idea. I am wondering if instead of rolling it out, it would work with fresh made corn tortillas I recently bought at Central Market.
Infact, I think I am going to try it now. I don't have any peppers so onions, potatoes and mushrooms will have to do. We also used to eat a paneer version, but that wouldn't be vegan, right?
It looks delicious!Debra @ Vegan Family Style
Thsi is a favorite oe for me. I love to make frankie.
Nice and simple recipe.
Wow.. Tofu wash is a great idea. Frankie looks delicious.
Looks spicy and delicious..this will be good for grab and go breakfast..