Dhebra are a savory cross between a flatbread and balloon bread. Also known as bajri na vada, they are little fried flatbreads made from bajri no lot, which is pearl millet flour, a Gujarati specialty. Dhebra are a Gujarati snack most often made for the festival of Kali Chadush. Kali Chadush is the day before Diwali. It is the Indian version of Halloween, the day the spirits come out.
Bajra flour (or bajri) is a commonly used flour in Gujarat. That is because millet grows well in Gujarat and is a major crop. India is the world’s largest producer of millet, and millet grows in the Northern and Western parts of India. Pearl millet is particularly adapted to a very hot, dry climate.
As a dough, bajra is clay-like and forms a denser crust, chewier than wheat. Bajra flour tastes best when it is fresh. Over time it becomes bitter. I recently learned about an Indian grocery store that actually mills bajra for their customers.
There are many Gujarati foods made with bajra, dhebra is one of my favorites. Dhebra is known as a traveller’s food because it travels well. It will last for a long time and provide easy nourishment for the traveller.
My grandparents made many trips from India to London, by ship around the Cape of Good Hope. The journey would take them about 3 months. Dhebra was one of the foods they relied on most.
Dhebra isn’t just a travel food. It is a much loved food, served to guests. It is often made for the festival of Kali Chaudas. Kali Chaudas is the day before Diwali, and sometimes called “Indian Halloween.”
This specific recipe is used for Kali Chaudas. This is the day when you remove all inauspiciousness in your home. You make these and doodh pak, and you go and place it at a four corners, the middle of a square. That would symbolize removing inauspicious energy from your home and putting it out into the world.
Tips for making Dhebra:
- Its really important to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes. This lets the moisture absorb evenly into the dough, and helps keep it from falling apart when frying. Make sure it is covered really well with plastic or a plate with a tight seal so it doesn’t dry out.
- When rolling or pressing it out, wet fingers and a plastic sheet are helpful to keep the dhebra from sticking to your surface. Also, be sure to keep your dough covered as bajra no lot likes to dry out. You can sprinkle water if this happens and work it into the dough to rehydrate.
- When you fry the dhebra, make sure the oil is very hot. When you put a little drop of batter in, it should bubble and rise right away.
What to eat with Dhebra
Dhebra are delicious on their own. A good way to eat them is with a simple yogurt dip. Just add some salt, cumin, and chili powder to yogurt, and you have a delicious dip for your dhebra.
Dhebra is also a great bread to eat with chundo (sweet mango pickle).
Dhebra is often eaten alongside a cup of chai and makes a lovely Gujarati breakfast.
Dhebra, A Traditional Gujarati Bread (Bajra na Debhra)
- 1 ½ cup Bajra no lot pearl millet flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
- 1 bunch chopped methi bhaji fresh fenugreek leaves
- 1-2 green chillies
- 1 ” ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp red chili powder
- ¼ cup yogurt
- 2 tbsp jaggery
- 1 ½ tsp sesame seeds
- 2 garlic cloves
- In a wide bowl, add wheat flour and ghee. Mix well.
- Add bajra flour. Mix.
- Add the dry masala (spices).
- Make a paste with garlic and ginger by crushing or grating them together. Add the garlic-ginger paste and yogurt to the dough.
- Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic or covered with a damp towel.
- Roll all of the dough into a cylinder. Break off pieces and roll into golf-ball size pieces.
- On a piece of plastic, flatten the balls by patting them down or rolling them out. Add small amounts of water if needed. Top with sesame seeds and fry.
- To fry, add the discs you created in the last step to heated frying oil. Take them out when they are brown, they should puff up. Place them on a cooling rack or paper towels.
Dhebra are made from the whole grain of pearl millet. Pearl millet is especially popular in the health food community because it contains no gluten and is easy to digest. However, it is a fried bread.
The traditional recipe has jaggery in it. If you want to leave it out, you can. The jaggery helps counter the bitterness of the bajri. But good bajri won’t be bitter anyway.