Welcome to The Storied Recipe!
My podcast guest, Rai Mukhopadhyay shared this Bengali Malpua recipe with us in her episode All About Holi! As you make her Instant Malpua, I invite you to learn about the origin, history, and traditions of Holi, as well as Rai's personal memories of the Festival of Colors!
Malpua are fluffy, light, deep fried pancakes, one of the most famous of all Indian desserts.
This easy malpua recipe comes from Rai of West Bengal. It’s an authentic Bengali recipe Rai’s grandmother made, but quick enough for a modern audience.
Rai’s recipe does not call for milk curds (Khoya) or fermentation time (although Rai recommends a brief rest). After frying, the fennel flavored malpua are soaked in a cardamom and saffron syrup and topped with chopped pistachios.
Here’s what Rai says about this “Instant” Bengali-style Malpua recipe:
“There are tons of different ways of making malpuas and they vary from region to region. (p.s. Lots of these variations are discussed below!)
Many use Khoya (curdled milk solids), desiccated coconut, even mashed bananas in the batter.
The recipe I am sharing is how we usually make it in my state, West Bengal. Since it is such a traditional recipe, I have seen my grandmother make it without measurements, just throwing together measurements of flour and milk by eye.
The recipe I am sharing has been tweaked my me as I have made it over the years but I believe I originally found it in an old Bengali magazine.”
Table of Contents (Jump To Section)
What To Expect (Flavor, Texture, and Look)
- Rai says, “This is a pretty foolproof recipe and will taste absolutely delicious despite how thin or thick they are. However, the perfect fried malpua is soft and a little thick in the middle with thin, crispy edges.“
- For crunch and richness, include pistachios, cashew nuts, or dried fruit on top.
Why is this version considered "instant"?
- Many versions of malpua call for dried milk curds/solids (called Khoya) or soft paneer. These are added to the flour (maida) along with the other ingredients. Then, the malpua batter is fermented for at least an hour to sometimes even overnight. In these recipes, you can’t skip the fermentation. The fermentation is critical to the malpua’s rise and light/fluffy texture.
- However, Rai’s recipe uses milk powder and milk instead of Khoya or paneer. Baking powder create the rise and lightness in Rai’s version.
- She does suggests resting the thin batter while you make the syrup and before deep frying, but it’s not necessary to add any time to the process for resting/fermenting.
Tips for Frying Malpua
One of the glories of malpua is that they’re fried! But that process can be a little tricky, so here are all the best tips:
Ghee vs. Oil
- Ghee is the more typical choice.
- Ghee has a higher smoke point than vegetable oil (482 degrees to 400), which is more forgiving when frying.
- Ghee has that beautiful rich, nutty flavor.
- Oil is called for in Rai’s recipe. (Although I used ghee.)
- Oil is sometimes more accessible in some parts of the US.
- I prefer to buy this Nanak Desi Ghee from Costco or even Amazon.
How big should I make my Malpua?
- Rai suggests making Malpua roughly the size of a teacup saucer; about 4 inches in diameter.
- Personally, as a newbie at making malpua, I agree with Rai. I found the smaller the malpua, the easier it is to control the frying time. I was having a little trouble geting them to cook through the middle before burning around the edges. Keeping them small was the best way for me to manage this issue.
How to make sure the malpua are cooked through in the middle and crispy on the edges:
- To make sure they are cooked perfectly, make sure your oil is hot enough before pouring the batter. To check the temperature of the oil, you might put a small drop of the batter in and if it sizzles and floats to the top, the oil is ready.
- Pour about ¼ cup of batter (or less) and immediately spread it around, making sure it is neither too thick or thin, it should be a little thinner around the edges.
What’s the best way to safely fry Malpua?
- Rai reminds us to flip away from ourselves while using hot oil!
- If you’re using a pan, I’d suggest shallow frying, using only enough oil to match the height of the malpua (about a half inch or so).
- If you truly want to deep fry the malpua, I do find a fryer to be safer (and cleaner) than a pan. This is my favorite fryer.
Proper Syrup Consistency
What does “one string consistency” mean?
- I checked Rai’s recipe against quite a few (about 2 dozen!) Malpua recipes when updating this post. One thing I found again and again is that the recipes instructed us to boil the syrup to “one string consistency”.
- This was a new phrase for me, but I found it enough times I knew it was a hole in my knowledge!
- I found the best answer in this post A Guide to Syrup Consistency written by Sanjeev Kapoor. I’d suggest you read it in full.
- However, in brief “one string consistency” occurs BEFORE the soft ball stage (two thread consistency) and the hard ball stage (three thread consistency).
- To safely test without burning, dip a silicon or wooden spatula into the hot sugar syrup. Give it just a few seconds to cool then pinch a drop between your finger and thumb.
- Pull your thumb and index finger apart. If a string forms – and does not break! – then the syrup is ready.
- Rai lives in West Bengal and was the National Spelling Champion in ALL of India in 2019!
- As you can imagine, Rai is a hugely knowledgeable guest!
- In this episode, she teaches us about the religious and cultural aspects of Holi
- Rais also details the fun she had spraying colors on her friends and how her celebrations changed as she grew into adulthood.
- Finally, Rai discusses malpuas at length - the memories she associates with them, lots of tips for making them perfectly, and how they relate to Holi.
Rai's Memories of Malpua
The earliest memories I have of malpuas is going to my grandmother's sister's house in Durgapur and enjoying them as she made some terrific malpuas. Back home, I would plead my grandmother to make them and eventually, I learned to make them myself.
Malpuas orginated in India and Bangladesh and is enjoyed all throughout our country and is definitely my favourite among Holi desserts, although we enjoy them all year round.