In Bombay, we’re so used to sliced bread or the pav that we often think of only these two and their variations – like the gutli pav and the chappatti, when it comes to bread. In fact though, there’s a world of Indian breads to discover. In my search to keep lesser known recipes alive, I discovered the PANGI Bhakri! And I really didn’t have to look too far. My mother in law’s community still make it!
The Pangi Bhakri is a unique rural Indian bread. And it’s preparation is a labour of love. If you look closely you’ll see faint lines on the crust. Those are the indents left behind by the veins of the banana leaf – hence the name Pangi or made off the leaf! Such beauty in bread.
For about a week or more, the woman of the house will diligently remove the cream of the milk that she boils everyday for the morning tea. Once she’s managed to fill up a small bowl, she makes this special bread. It’s well timed to coincide with a Sunday… a day of gluttony even in rural India. And what a way to sink under the table with greed.
Pangi uses milk, rice flour, jaggery or gud, whole fat cream and what I can only quantify as embarassing amounts of ghee! Once the dough is kneaded, it is pressed into a circle by hand onto a young banana leaf (bought or usually stolen from the neighbour’s tree) and slow cooked on a griddle or tawa, flipped once and allowed to take in the flavours of all the ingredients- including the leaf. I find the Pangi rich in flavour- sweet, earthy, leafy and smokey. It puffs up just a bit and the charring leaf that it’s enveloped in, mildly burns the jaggery to give it a lovely caramelly flavour.
You’d think that it makes a delicious tea time snack- and you wouldn’t be wrong. But the most indulgent way to have this bread and to open up all its complex flavours is to eat it with something savoury- an egg simply sauteed with a green chilli. What a combination! Take the sweetness of the bread and the salty, sharpness of the egg and your tastebuds will soon indulge in a welcome battle of supremacy.