Ultay Pultay Recipe (Indian Chana Pancake Curry)


Ultay pultay is what my father-in-law (I call him “Daddy”), who’s a vegetarian, considers a festive dish. This dish is composed of thin, firmly pressed chickpea pancakes soaked in spicy gravy. The cooking time was a bit a long but seeing Daddy enjoy his meal was so rewarding.

I learned to make ultay pultay from husband’s paternal grandmother’s sister. The entire family calls her Muni Baji in Urdu, which translates to “little sister” in English and she’s indeed the youngest of a large brood; Lulu’s grandmother was the eldest.

It was a lot of fun learning the curry dish from Muni Baji. She told me a lot of stories about her life in Hyderabad. For instance, the gravy calls for fried onion paste and back in the day, there was no blender so it was puréed by hand!

1. Info for Ultay Pultay Recipe (Indian Chana Pancake Curry)

  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Servings: 10
  • Calories: 462kcal

2. Ingredients for Ultay Pultay Recipe (Indian Chana Pancake Curry)

  • 4 cups besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons ginger garlic paste (see tips)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1¼ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder, to taste
  • 1¼ teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
  • 5 yellow onions, chopped
  • 7 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon homemade garam masala
  • 1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick, to taste
  • 2 whole black cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • juice of half a lime, freshly squeezed
  • 6 red dried chiles, to taste
  • 8 fresh green chiles, to taste

3. Directions:

3.1 Making chickpea pancakes (ultay pultay)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chickpea flour, 1 teaspoon turmeric, ¾ teaspoon ginger garlic paste, 1¼ teaspoons salt, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon red chili powder, ¼ teaspoon curry powder and 1¼ teaspoons paprika. Form a well in the center of the bowl. Pour in 2½ cups of lukewarm water. Mix by hand for about 3-4 minutes until the batter is smooth. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes. Thin the batter with about ¾ cup of water (up to 1 cup). It should have a consistency similar to crêpe batter (thin pancake batter).

Place a crêpe pan (or any flat pan) over medium heat. Grease it with a little oil using a silicone brush. Pour about ½ cup of the batter in the center of the pan. Lift the pan and then tilt and rotate it until the batter is evenly spread and forms a nice thin disk. Put it back on the stove. It should start bubbling after a few seconds. Lower the heat to medium-low low. Once the edges have dried and the thin pancake becomes golden, lift the edge and fold the chickpea pancake into 2″-thick piece (about 4-5 folds), making sure to press firmly in between the folds so the ultay pultay doesn’t fall apart once added to the gravy. Repeat until all the batter is used. Stir the chickpea pancake batter as you go for uniform consistency. You might want to add more lukewarm water to thin the batter towards the end. Transfer the folded pancakes to a cooling rack and set aside until ready to assemble.

3.2 Making the spicy gravy

In a large deep pot, heat the remaining oil. Add 4 onions and fry in the oil for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Transfer the onions to a blender, leaving as much onion-flavored oil as possible in the pot.

Add 1 chopped raw onion, ½ teaspoon cardamom powder, 5 cloves and 1 cup water (for a smoother flow) to the blender and pulse until very smooth.

Return the puréed fried onion paste to the pot. Add 4 green cardamom pods, the remaining ginger garlic paste, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoons curry powder, 2 teaspoon paprika (for color), ½ teaspoon turmeric. Add about 1 cup of water to the blender to rinse the remaining onion paste and transfer to the pot. Add the whisked yogurt, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon red chili powder, ¾ teaspoon garam masala, 1 small cinnamon stick, 2 whole black cardamom pods and 2 cloves. Cook over high heat until red oil comes back to the surface. Complete with 2 quarts of water. Add the lime juice. Cover with a dome-shaped lid to enable the steam to fall back in the pot and cook for 30 minutes over high heat.

Stem, seed and finely chop one of the fresh green peppers, if you like the gravy to be very spicy. Otherwise, using a paring knife, create a 2-inch incision in the whole green peppers. Note: remember not to rub your eyes after touching the pepper seeds. Add the dried and fresh chiles to the spicy gravy. Adjust seasoning (I added 1 more teaspoon of red chili powder). Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

3.3 Assembly time

Transfer the folded chickpea pancakes onto a cutting board. Cut them crosswise into 1½”-thick pieces. Add them to the gravy. Gently stir until they’re all submerged into the spicy gravy. Cover and let sit until ready to serve. Sprinkle the top with ¼ teaspoon flavorful garam masala.

Serve warm with naan (Indian flat bread), Barbari bread (black sesame-dotted Persian bread) or saffron and butter-flavored basmati rice.

3.4 Suggestion (per Muni Baji’s advice)

When serving the ultay pultay, swirl the top of the dish with a large serving spoon and reach the gravy at the bottom of the dish to have as little red oil (see tips) as possible and transfer to the plates of your guests.

Bon appétit!

4. Tips and advices:

  • Indian cuisine almost always calls for ginger garlic paste. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger to remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender and add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a small jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.
  • Whisking the yogurt prior to adding it to the ultay pultay prevents it from curdling in the gravy.
  • Add just a small amount of turmeric powder so as not to alter the flavor of the curry. It’s used as a natural food coloring to make the dish look more vibrant.
  • Chickpea flour is common in savory dishes in Indian cuisine and is the main ingredient in paratha, a flat Indian bread.
  • In general, traditional Indian cooking calls for a layer of red colored (chile) melted ghee (or oil) on top of the dish. This is considered an attractive decoration; in times past, ghee (clarified butter) was considered a luxury in India. It was also a great way to preserve the dish since no refrigeration was available in those days.
  • You can find the ingredients listed in most Indian markets.

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