Besan Cheela| Pudla| Savoury Gram Flour Pancakes

When you think about pancakes, the picture that almost always comes to mind is that of a stack of pillowy, sweet discs, topped with loads of maple syrup or honey, sometimes with whipped cream and fresh fruits. There are, however, SO MANY other variety of pancakes out there! Today, I’m going to share with you all one such pancake recipe – Savoury Gram Flour Pancakes, more commonly known in North India as Besan Cheela. The Gujaratis know these as Pudla.

So, what exactly is a pancake?

A pancake is a cake – thick or thin – made on a griddle or pan of some sort. Batter, either sweet or savoury, is poured over a pan and allowed to cook. The batter may be of the instant variety – prepared just before cooking the pancakes – or it may be readied in advance and allowed to ferment.

Pancake varieties from around the world

Different countries have different versions of pancakes. The sweet pancakes described above are hugely popular in the USA, for instance. Then there are French Crepes, Italian Crespelle and Farinata, Vietnamese Banh Xeo, Jewish Potato Latke, Malaysian Apam Balik and Banana Roti from Thailand.

India has several varieties of pancakes too. Pudla or Besan Cheela, as mentioned above, Appam and Pathiri from Kerala, Patishapta from West Bengal, Dosa, Adai and Uttappam from Tamilnadu, Pesarettu and Sarvapindi from Andhra Pradesh, Alle Belle from Goa and Pitha from the North-East are some examples.

More about Besan Cheela or Pudla

These Besan Cheela or Pudla are savoury pancakes, extremely delicious ones at that. They are made with gram flour aka besan (usually powdered split Bengal gram or chana dal), which is slightly different from chickpea flour or garbanzo flour (powdered black or white chickpeas). I believe besan and chickpea flour can be used interchangeably, but I have never used the latter. Besan is what is commonly available in India, and is used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes.

Coming back to the Besan Cheela or Pudla, they are super easy to make and quite nutritious too, full of the goodness of gram flour. Here, I have added veggies too, to make them more flavourful and healthy. These gram flour pancakes are completely vegetarian and gluten-free. I have used some curd here, but you can skip it completely in case you want to prepare a vegan version.

Savoury Gram Flour Pancakes for Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

This post is brought to you in association with Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, a fantastic group of food bloggers that I’m part of. Members of the group cook as per a pre-determined theme every month. We form pairs, and each pair exchanges two ingredients which should be used in the dish. Isn’t that so very interesting?

The theme for the group this month is ‘Pancakes’, wherein all of us are presenting different types. The theme was suggested by Archana of The Mad Scientist’s Kitchen. Archana has a wonderful blog, full of recipes for healthy foods, traditional Goan dishes and various baked confections. Her Mango Fool recipe has been on my to-do list for quite some time now, as has her Kande Pohe and Chana Cho Ros.

Archana happens to be my partner for the month too, and she assigned me the ingredients ‘gram flour’ and ‘onions’ to work with. I chose to use them in these Savoury Gram Flour Pancakes. You must check out the gorgeous, fluffy Japanese Souffle Pancakes Archana made using the two secret ingredients I gave her – vanilla and milk!

How to make Besan Cheela aka Pudla or Savoury Gram Flour Pancakes

Here’s how I go about it.

Ingredients (makes about 10 pancakes):

  1. 1 cup gram flour (besan)
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. Red chilli powder to taste
  5. 1/2 cup thick curd
  6. 1 small onion
  7. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  8. 1 small carrot
  9. 1 small snack pepper
  10. 3/4 to 1 cup water
  11. Oil, as needed to make the pancakes
  12. Tomato ketchup, as needed to serve the pancakes (optional)

Method:

1. Take the gram flour in a big mixing bowl. Add in the salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder.

2. Chop the onion finely. Reserve some chopped onions for garnishing later. Add the rest to the mixing bowl.

3. Reserve some chopped coriander for garnishing later. Add in the rest to the mixing bowl.

4. Peel and grate the carrot. Reserve some for garnishing later and add the rest to the mixing bowl.

5. Chop the snack pepper finely. Add to the mixing bowl.

6. Add the curd to the mixing bowl too.

7. Now, add 3/4 to 1 cup water to make a lump-free batter that has a pourable consistency. The batter should be runny, but not watery. Let the batter sit, covered, for 10-15 minutes.

8. When the batter has rested, we will start making the pancakes. Place a heavy pan on high flame and get it nice and hot. Now, turn the flame down to medium. Pour a ladle full of the batter in the centre of the pan. Spread it out using the back of the ladle. Drizzle some oil all around the pancake. Cook till the pancake starts browning on the bottom and appears mostly done on the top. Take care to ensure that it does not burn. At this stage, flip over the pancake and cook for about a minute on the other side. Now, transfer to a serving plate.

9. Drizzle some tomato ketchup over the pancake (optional). Garnish with the leftover grated carrot and finely chopped coriander and onion. Serve immediately.

10. Prepare pancakes from all the batter in a similar fashion.

Tips & Tricks

1. Use curd that is sour but not overly so. I used home-made thick curd.

2. I have used home-made tomato ketchup here. You can use a store-bought version, instead, too.

3. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the pancake batter.

4. I have used a snack pepper from Gourmet Garden here. Gourmet Garden is a farm that grows zero-pesticide vegetables and greens hydroponically, and delivers all over Bangalore. I have been using some of their veggies, and marvelling at how very fresh and delicious they are. To read my review of Gourmet Garden produce, on Instagram, head here. I would highly suggest you check them out! Use my code TGND30 to get a 30% discount on your first order with Gourmet Garden!

5. You may use finely chopped capsicum instead of the snack pepper.

6. Finely chopped green chillies can be added to the batter too. I chose to use red chilli powder instead.

7. The turmeric and red chilli powder in the batter can be substituted with dried Italian herbs. You may or may not use the curd in this case, making the batter entirely with water.

8. Some people add a little baking soda or Eno Fruit Salt to make the pancakes softer. I don’t.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!