If you love crispy Indian snacks like samosas and vegetable pakoras, you will adore these flaky vegetable puffs. They are similar to the vegetable puffs usually sold in cafeterias that line railway tracks in Mumbai and the rest of India. A spicy vegetable stuffing is wrapped inside crispy, golden puff pastry.
Train journeys in India are the stuff of mystery, drama and good eats.
Mystery because you may have waited an hour in line to get your reserved seat but when you're actually in the train there's no guarantee that seat is going to be empty and waiting for you. And if you're the kind that shirks from some yelling and threatening and asserting, rest assured you will be standing for however long it takes to make the journey.
Drama because chances are the bathrooms are filthy, the taps will run dry by the time you are halfway into your journey, the window won't close, and, if you fall asleep despite all this, you will be jolted awake at 3 in the morning by someone hoping to make a buck by wailing a plaintive song in your ear.
And good eats because everyone on the train has packed an endless supply of homemade treats that they often don't mind sharing. If you are seated next to a Gujarati, you'd no doubt get to savor at least the aromas and usually the flavors of chickpea-flour-based treats like khandvi and dhokla. A Maharashtrian might pack kande pohe or sabudana khichdi (made with sago pearls). And a Tamilian would carry, in one of those multi-storeyed steel tiffin carriers, some tomato rice, lemon rice, curd rice and maybe a few delicious, fluffy idlis with spicy green coconut chutney.
Each railway station the train pulls into is also a delightful punctuation of treats so unique, sometimes, I think, I'd look forward to traveling just so I could eat them.
I remember drinking masala chai early one morning in little earthen khullads at Bhopal station en route to Delhi. The khullads added their own salty flavor to the tea which took some getting used to, but wasn't unpleasant at all. I remember wondering how anyone could eat deep-fried foods for breakfast, then nevertheless chomping down phapdas -- long, deep-fried chickpea savories-- at 7 a.m. on the way to Okha in Gujarat.
After Desi and I were married, we would travel at least once a year and sometimes twice to Madras in south India where his parents lived. The train journey to Madras from Bombay was a long one, stretching over 26 hours. But a great way to make the journey bearable was to line it start-to-end with food.
Soon after leaving Bombay, you could snack on batata wadas (deep-fried potato dumplings) in Karjat, or chikki (peanut brittle) in Lonavala. The next day, when you'd run out of your homemade food, you could buy dosa for breakfast at Guntakal and tamarind rice or curd rice for lunch in Renigunta. Even the watery coffee sold by tiny boys carrying oversized kettles and yelling "kapi, kapi," tasted amazing when you had the sliding landscape for company.
But it isn't just the vendors weaving in and out of trains who supplied you with food. Most railway stations around the country, including Bombay's commuter train stations like Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) and Churchgate and all the stops along the length and breadth of the city's railways, peddle their own treats at railway-run cafeterias.
When I worked for the Independent, a Bombay newspaper, our office in the Times of India building was across the street fromthe Victoria Terminus. Often, after putting the edition to bed, some of us who'd missed the last train home would find ourselves at the VT cafeteria that was open all night.
At that hour all the cafeteria offered, besides tea and coffee, was packaged foods like over-sweet, dense slices of Monginis cake, and donuts that looked or tasted nothing like, and were (seriously) spelled on the large price board hanging on the wall as "do nots."
Sometimes, if you were lucky, you might get a vegetable sandwich which was usually two slices of white bread slathered with a spicy green chutney and cradling thin slices cucumber and tomato, although chances were they were not very fresh. And. if you were really lucky, you might get vegetable puffs.
Vegetable puffs were, in fact, popular railway-station eats, although you could just as easily buy them at bakeries. These small, golden-brown packages filled with spicy vegetables and sometimes meats, were a delightful treat good for any time of day-- or night.
Desi loves them, so when I decided to make some vegetable puffs this past weekend, I thought of buying puff pastry, as I usually do (the brands available in stores are usually vegan), but then I got a little adventurous and decided to do something I'd wanted to do ever since I saw Michel Richard show Julia how to hammer some butter and flour together into crispy deliciousness.
So I made puff pastry from scratch and although I am no Michel Richard, I must say it was quite amazing. In fact, I discovered it was easy as ...well, puff pastry, although it did take some patience with all that rolling and folding and freezing and rolling and folding and freezing and so on. If you're the kind that likes to get things done at a single stretch (the way I usually like to), you might be better off going with the store-bought kind. (You can also find my vegan whole wheat puff pastry recipe here).
Here it is, then, a recipe for my vegetable puffs and my vegan puff pastry. It was all quite delicious, but you don't have to take my word for it-- try it instead!
More vegan snack recipes to try:
For the puff pastry:
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 16 tablespoon vegan butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Water as needed
For the vegetable filling:
- 3 medium potatoes (boiled and chopped into a medium dice)
- 1 cup green peas (frozen is fine)
- 2 green chillies (finely minced)
- 2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- A generous pinch of asafetida (hing, optional)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ginger (grated)
- 2 tablespoon cilantro (finely chopped)
- Salt to taste
Make the puff pastry:
- Place the two cold sticks of butter, straight out of the fridge, on a chopping board or the kitchen platform. Sprinkle ¼ cup of all-purpose flour over it and, using a rolling pin or something heavy, beat the butter until it flattens out quite a bit but is still quite solid.
- Pat the edges of the butter to form a square. Place in a container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- In a bowl, place 2 cups of flour, salt and, using enough water, knead into a smooth and pliable dough.
- Allow the dough to rest for a few minutes, then roll it out into a square large enough so you can wrap the square of butter in it.
- Once you have wrapped the butter, making sure it is well-sealed, then roll out the dough into a rectangle about 7 inches wide and 10 inches long. Do this preferably on a metal baking sheet so you have a cool surface and also so you can easily transfer the dough to the fridge. The rolling might take a little work because the dough can be resistant, but be patient.
- Now lift the edges of the rectangle along the long side and fold over one another so you have three layers. Place the sheet with the puff pastry in the fridge and let it stand for at least 15 minutes. Then remove and roll out again and fold again to make three more layers. Repeat four more times.
- After you've let the dough stand in the fridge for the last time, divide the puff pastry into two. Freeze half and use the rest for the vegetable puffs.
Make the vegetable filling:
- Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and asafetida. When the cumin sputters and crackles, add the ginger, stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the turmeric. Stir quickly to mix, stir in the chillies, then add the potatoes and peas.
- Saute, stirring frequently, for a few minutes until the potatoes are well-coated with the turmeric and oil. Add salt, mix in the coriander leaves, and set aside to cool.
- Roll out the puff pastry into a square of about 8 inches. Cut with a pizza cutter into six pieces by making one cut down the middle and then three cuts horizontally.
- Take one of the squares and roll separately into a slightly larger square. Place a couple of heaped teaspoons of the filling in the center, moisten two sides, and fold over the puff pastry in a triangle. Press down on the edges to ensure they are sealed.
- Repeat until you have 12 puffs.
- Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45-60 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet until they are crisp and lightly golden-brown.
- Serve hot with some chutney or even ketchup.
What is vegan butter?
Is it the same as a margarine or a different product. Margarine is soft and by the looks of this recipe would be too soft to make puff pastry?
Unsure where to buy it in Victoria Australia
Hi Deb, it is similar to margarine, but I am not certain what the exact ingredients in Australian margarine are so can't corroborate that with any expertise. If the margarine gets solid in the refrigerator, and is in the form of sticks, it should be okay to use it here as you will be focusing on keeping the "butter" cold at all times. Here in the U.S. the vegan buttery sticks are sold by brands including Earth Balance, Miyoko's, Country Crock and many others.
Hi this sounds amazing - Looking at the Wellington recipe you have. Can I make this GF ? I have a couple that are sensitive to Gluten.
Hi, gf puff pastry is a little harder to achieve--I've been meaning to try out a recipe and hope to soon. I would suggest adding some oil to the gf flour (and xanthan gum) to keep it from breaking.
Great recipe! Can we substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour?
Yes. But use half all purpose and half whole wheat for best results.
Exactly how much water? It says “as needed” I don’t know how much that is....
Please modify the instructions to include the peas
Step 1 of vegetable filling!
Hi! This brings back childhood memories, thank you so much for sharing a veganized version! How many carrots should we use and do they need to be precooked like the potatoes?
Excellent recipe Vaishali! Going to try it.
I think you forgot to mention at what stage to add frozen green peas. I am assuming it has to be added along with potatoes or little bit after potatoes are half done.
Take it easy. You are doing good.
Made these yesterday to freeze for Xmas new year nibbles. My neighbor and I ate most of them when they were just out of the oven. I’ll certainly make these again
Delicious! Thank you for the recipe. I can't wait to make more of yours. They all sound delicious!
This sounds really interesting dear. Just wanted to know if I could use this puff pastry for our karanjis or gujiyas as we call it. Me having a party and would love to bake them.
Thank you and God Bless You.
Hi Smita, yes, you can definitely use it for karanjis. Hope you try!
I cant find the recipe! Is there another link?
Hey Palak, the recipe had disappeared for some reason -- maybe during reformatting. I have added it back in. Thanks for alerting.
a suggestion : brush the puffs before baking with a milk wash ( milk ) instead of egg wash for vegan flaky puffs 🙂
Hi Kavya, thanks for the suggestion, but this is a vegan blog, so there's no milk -- or eggs-- here.
Your recipe looks delish! I have one question though: can I fill the pastry shells and refrigerate this overnight, and bake them the next morning? Will it affect the texture or taste in anyway? I have a party of 12 for Brunch tomorrow!!
MeenMolly, you absolutely can refrigerate them overnight and bake the next morning.
Vaishali I am so glad I stumbled across your blog. I have been vegetarian all my life and sometimes I wonder how nonvegetarian fare tastes. And here I have answers to all those questions! I'm going to keep following you..
I recently asked my Sis-in-Law who is in New Jersey to bring me a packet of Puff Pastry sheets. She bought me a packet of Daily Delight Puff Pastry sheets all the way from the US. Imagine my surprise and hers when we found from the pack that these puff pastry sheets were made just a few kilometers away from my home in Cochin and exported to the US. Unfortunately, they do not market it here in India.
Zo-Ya, I am not sure where you can find it in Bombay, but I'll throw out that question to readers when I post the next edition of the "You Asked For It" series, in case any readers who live in Bombay have any pointers. One possibility is going to one of those Irani restaurants or bakeries that use puff pastry in their recipes, and see if they might be willing to sell you some. Just a thought.
Could you let me know where in Mumbai can I get ready made puff pastry sheets?
These look yummy!!!
r4 revolution gold
I love that they are made in the oven. Perfect finger food. Great idea.
I was in train for sometime reading ur write up dear...I like train journey's but hubby avoids the journey by flight...those puffs look amazing n home made puff pastry,double awesome
Love is Green!
I am sooo excited I found your blog today while searching for vegan dosa recipes. Vegan and Indian...food doesn't get any better than this for me.
I just photographed a wedding in Surat and we took the train back to Delhi for the reception two days later. An amazing experience.
And btw, the loos are much much better now -but Southern railways scores over the North anyday!
We travelled by train every year from Mumbai to Chennai and then on to Trichy - long long journeys and by second class - what fun - shared food, comics and games!
I recently travelled from Delhi to Bhopal to go to the Satpura Forest Reserve and the train was delayed by 12 hours - unfortunately you no longer get all those exciting snacks which change from station to stattion - not even fruits like ber and cucumbers. Just the Lays and Haldiram rubbish 🙁
Thankfully I had anticipated a delay and packed parathas, pickle and idli and molagaipodi - it tasted even better on the train! 🙂
The puffs look amazingly tempting and how great that you made the dough from scratch!
Hi Vaishali, how r u doing? Loved reading the post about traveling in train in India...so many aromas to entice you throughout the journey:)Loved the veg puffs!
Indianapolis accident attorney
Great post! I loved reading this.
I like the story about the train and tidbits as well. I have never made puff pastry at home, this gives me a reason to do it soon. Looks yummy as always.
Totally agree with your train journey concept......Puff pastry from scratch is little tedious but by seeing those gorgeous and yummy veggie puffs....iam drooling....
Your description of the VT (now CST hmmm) station is so accurate! These pastries look beautiful. Tedious, but probably much healthier when made at home.
Wow, home made puff pastry...I have yet to be brave enough to try that. The filling sounds really tasty...I'll have to make that for dinner one night this week!
I always use store bought pastry sheets too to make vegetable puffs at home. This looks awesome, and you make the process of making puff pastry at home sound simple, hope to try it sometime !
Oh, those wonderful train journeys. When I was working in Mumbai, I travelled at least 3-4 times a year to Indore in an overnight train. Even now, when we go back, my son and I prefer the overnight train rides from Ahm to Indore. It is dirty but fun at the same time. And all the aromas of food, inside and outside are wonderful.
Like everybody else, I have to say hats off to you to make the puff pastry sheets. I think I'll stick to the store bought ones. 🙂 You reawaken so many memories. Thank you,
Puff pastry u made at urself ... veggie puff looks very spicy
Vaishali, I remembered my railway journeys while reading yours. I still get to do this when I go to India. Its very interesting to see what special foods every train station has to offer.
and hats off to your creativity! I have seen the episode when Jacques Pepin showed how to make the pastry and amount of elbow grease is takes.
Looks so good!
Debra @ Vegan Family Style
Your write up reminded of the time when we used to travel in train to my mom's native place in gujarat, the journey was close to 24 hours and at every station the train halted we used to enjoy the delicious local delicacies 🙂
Veggie puffs look lovely and perfectly baked!
I always envy your writing style vaishali.You made the so considered monatonus train trip very interesting in ur write up.I should say you have patience at its best to try the puff pastry sheets.Love the puffs.Some day I will get the guts to make my own pastry sheets. 🙂
This is awesome and mouthwatering. Do visit my blog when time permits.http://shanthisthaligai.blogspot.com/
Puff pastries are not that easy :):)Sure, takes an effort, but ur pics were too tempting and inviting that I have forced myself to make some. Write-up was wonderful, enjoyed every word of it.
Loved the train journey write up.. the puff pastry looks pacca perfect.. wish i could get one from you.
wow...homemade puff pastry sounds awesome...love your vegan version...looks so good! We too used to make a lot of train trips from Hyderabad to Chennai...I loved the way you described people carrying foods for the trip...we too sometimes used to carry packed idlis and chutneys 😉
Loved the train journey write up, though making puff pastry from scratch sounds like a strenuous uphill climb-think I'll stick with the frozen kind!
wow...now that is quite an achievement vaishali! It is come out execellent and I am drooling right now!
your description of the train journey and the food made me want to get on a train in India immediately 🙂
even the watery kaapi tastes good.. like you said!
homemade puff pastry! When I master aloo paratha, maybe I will give this a shot!
Your description of Train Journey really reminds me of India, homemade food and also the veg cutlet etc served during Pune-Mumbai Journey 🙂
You are really very patient and hardworking when it comes to bake pastry puffs, pie crust etc. Keep blogging 🙂
Trinity (of haiku tofu)
homemade puff! you inspire me.
These puffs look delicious! They are my all time favorite.
I only travelled once in train and it was after marriage! Your post made me like I travelled Mumbai to Chennai , now 🙂
Puff pastry from scratch quiet daunting task for me 🙂
I always associate puff pastry with Monginis! I loved it and years later, discovered puff pastry sheets in the stores here and delight in making these.
But unlike u, i don't think i am adventurous to make it at home! The filling yes, the cover, umm.. i'll pass 😉
Hats off to u!