American

Paratha Tortillas (Parathatillas)

by:
May 18, 2020
Photo by Anna Billingskog
Author Notes

Growing up, on Sunday mornings before church, my parents and I would steam mantou, microwave custard buns, or—my favorite—reheat frozen paratha. I loved dropping the hard discs into a hot pan and watching them transform. One night I made one for Teresa, my babysitter, and from then on, we only ate her chicken molé with paratha.

Fast forward to a year or so ago: A new, local tortilla factory started selling flour and corn tortillas at my go-to grocer. I remember picking a bag up, holding the stack in my hands, and instantly being reminded of those childhood parathas. Homemade flour tortillas are softer, with greater wrappability, but still have that unnatural flakiness. Which got me thinking: Could there be a way to combine the two?

Here we have a dough that’s tortilla in content, paratha in form. Softened lard gets mixed into flour, salt, and baking powder until pebbly. Using both all-purpose and pastry flour keeps protein levels low (read: less tough torts). If you don’t have pastry flour, sub in 1/2 cup cake flour. If you don’t have either, simply omit the pastry flour, increase the all-purpose by 6 tablespoons, and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

This piecemeal mixture gets coaxed with warm water into a dough so pillowy, you’ll want to go cheek-to-cheek (and hey, who’s stopping you?). Divide into balls and roll out. If you were making tortillas, you’d go straight to a hot pan—but here’s where we veer into paratha territory: Smear each dough round with a thin layer of lard. Then roll up and coil. These coils, rolled out once more, turn into layers and layers of flakes.

The tortillas cook quickly, blistering after just 30 seconds on each side. Keep them warm, wrapped in a towel; or, let them cool thoroughly before storing in the fridge in an airtight container or bag. They come back to life after a quick toast in a hot pan (I would know, because I’ve been making breakfast tacos most mornings since the parathatillas were born). Try them bundled around shredded Bo Ssam meat, soft-scrambled eggs, tempeh nuggets, or simply drizzled with olive oil and seedy sprinkles. —Coral Lee

  • Prep time 3 hours
  • Cook time 6 minutes
  • Makes 12 paratha tortillas
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups (192 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (54 grams) pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons lard, divided
  • 2/3 cup cup (158 grams) warm water
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add both flours, the salt, baking powder, and 2 tablespoons of the lard. Mix on low until evenly pebbly. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the warm water, then bump speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. (Alternatively, knead by hand for 7 minutes.) Cover the stand mixer bowl with a damp towel, and let rest for at least 1 hour.
  2. Plop the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 12 portions. Working with one portion at a time (and covering the rest with the damp towel), use a dowel or rolling pin to roll out as thinly as possible (I like to aim for a rectangle shape). Spread with 1/2 teaspoon of lard, then roll up tightly—you should have a long, horizontal rope.
  3. Coil the left end clockwise and to the right, stopping in the middle. Coil the right end clockwise and to the left, again stopping in the middle. You should now have a coiled ‘S’ shape (like those Superman “S” drawings). Fold so one coil stacks atop the other. Cover with a damp towel, and repeat with remaining dough. Allow coiled balls to rest for another hour, covered, at room temperature.
  4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. On a lightly floured surface, gently flatten a coiled ball into a disc with the heel of your hand, then roll into a 7-inch round. (Rotating the dough 45° each time you roll up and down helps with evenness.) Carefully transfer to the hot skillet; the tortilla should bubble and blister within 30 seconds. Flip, cooking another 30 to 45 seconds until the underside is just warmed through, then remove from the skillet and wrap in a cloth napkin. Roll and repeat until all parathatillas are cooked.

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Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga. When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.