Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

These Methi Theplas Kept My Husband Warm When Norway Froze Over

by 
Kavita Kanan Chandra
March 21, 2022

My children are of the view that traveling should not merely mean sightseeing. Instead, one should experience the culture and cuisine of the locals to get a true sense of the place. But most Indians traveling abroad crave food from home, including me.

So, when my husband had to visit a bunch of European countries for work, I insisted on packing some savories that would remain fresh for a few days, theplas being at the top of my list. Little did we know that these very theplas would be a sort of savior in the freezing nights at faraway Oslo, providing him with the warmth of home.

Though methi ka paratha (wheat flour and fenugreek flatbread) is very common in North India during winter, it is the western state of Gujarat that has elevated it to a delicious travel food. By adding more oil, besan (gram flour) and spices, thinly rolled out dough becomes theplas. The Gujaratis and theplas go together, literally, on travels abroad.

It makes sense. As most of the Gujaratis are vegetarians, these make for a nutritious go-to meal when hunger pangs strike. They last for up to a week, and are a very cost-effective snack or mini-meal when paired with pickles, sauce, or jam, or even eaten without accompaniment.

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But I had not imagined how theplas could bring so much warmth and contentment on the dark cold snowy nights in Norway. My husband was there in March 2018 when a second arctic wave of the season hit the UK, with its freezing temperature spilling over into the Scandinavian countries and most of northern Europe. It wasn’t quite as severe as a similar cold snap that hit the area a month before – which the media dubbed the “Beast from the East” – but it was bad enough to be its little sister, the “Mini Beast from the East.” 

My husband would have breakfast at the hotel and lunch at his overseas workplace, but the cultural differences and inclement weather jeopardized his dinner at night. Norwegians have their dinner by 5 p.m., which is teatime for Indians. We usually have dinner between 8-9 p.m.. To make matters worse, it snowed heavily, making it difficult to venture outside. Most dining options were closed.

It was the rustic methi theplas that bailed him out. He had thepla dinner in Oslo for four nights in a row while it was freezing outside.

I would wait until midnight to video call him to hear about his day, which was around 8 p.m. in Oslo, and seeing him relishing theplas in his cozy hotel room was so comforting, especially when the weather reports were so gloomy.

Traveling Methi Theplas

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Makes 6 portions

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling

1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)

2/3-1 cup Fenugreek leaves (Methi), minced

1 tsp coriander powder (Dhaniya)

1/2-1 tsp lal mirch spice, cayenne or ground chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric (Haldi)

Pinch of asafoetida (Hing)

1 tsp cumin (Jeera) optional but recommended

1 tsp amchur/amchoor, optional but recommended. Be careful not to use American dried mango powder, which is different

3 tbsp cooking oil plus more for pan

2 cups water, divided

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ginger-garlic paste, optional but recommended

 | 
 | 
Makes 6 portions

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling

1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)

2/3-1 cup Fenugreek leaves (Methi), minced

1 tsp coriander powder (Dhaniya)

1/2-1 tsp lal mirch spice, cayenne or ground chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric (Haldi)

Pinch of asafoetida (Hing)

1 tsp cumin (Jeera) optional but recommended

1 tsp amchur/amchoor, optional but recommended. Be careful not to use American dried mango powder, which is different

3 tbsp cooking oil plus more for pan

2 cups water, divided

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ginger-garlic paste, optional but recommended

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling

1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan)

2/3-1 cup Fenugreek leaves (Methi), minced

1 tsp coriander powder (Dhaniya)

1/2-1 tsp lal mirch spice, cayenne or ground chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric (Haldi)

Pinch of asafoetida (Hing)

1 tsp cumin (Jeera) optional but recommended

1 tsp amchur/amchoor, optional but recommended. Be careful not to use American dried mango powder, which is different

3 tbsp cooking oil plus more for pan

2 cups water, divided

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ginger-garlic paste, optional but recommended

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix the wheat flour, chickpea  flour, coriander, red chili powder, turmeric, asafoetida, salt, and any optional ingredients.

2. Add the fenugreek leaves and ginger-garlic paste (if using) to the mixture and lightly toss to incorporate.

3. Add the oil and 1/2 cup of water to form a tight/stiff dough, adding more water one tablespoon at a time as needed to result in a smooth, pliable consistency.

4. Divide the kneaded dough into 6 equal portions and roll them into balls.

5. Take a ball of dough, sprinkle some dry wheat flour over it and roll it into ¼-inch thick round flatbreads with the help of a rolling pin on a smooth flat surface. If you have it, use a chakla-belan (Indian flat, circular board made of wood, stone or steel) with the rolling pin.  

6. Heat a bit of oil in a tawa (Indian griddle), non-stick, or cast iron skillet on medium. Once hot, cook the thepla for about 90 second until tiny air pockets are visible on top. Spread a little oil over it and flip it with a spatula, using it to press the flatbread while applying oil. In the end they should be golden brown and evenly cooked. 

7. Remove from the griddle, add additional oil, and repeat this with the other balls of dough.

9. Serve hot, or allow them to cool and store them in an airtight container to serve later. They last for 5-6 days.

About the Author

Kavita Kanan Chandra

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