Khari Biscuit And Vegetable Patties: India Loves Its Puff Pastry

Light and flaky, puff pastry is made by laminating dough with butter to form a layered dough that fluffs up in the oven. French cook Claude Gelée accidentally created puff pastry in 1645 while trying to make a rolled butter cake for his father who was sick. Later, Claudius moved to Paris to work at the Rosabau Patisserie and his invention made the shop famous. Some food historians believe that puff pastry was influenced by the Middle Eastern phyllo dough.

India has its own versions of puff pastry. Khari biscuits were a part of the cuisine of Zoroastrian Iranians who fled to India. These people established Irani cafes within the country, where they served Irani chai with bun maska and khari biscuits to hungry Indians. Today, khari biscuits are available in a variety of flavours, from jeera and methi to cheese and ajwain. They are essentially a teatime snack. ‘Khari’ means salty and so these biscuits are always savoury. Paris Bakery near Parsi Dairy Farm in Mumbai, and New India Bakery and Rajkamal Bakery in Gujarat are among the few places that serve khari biscuits in India.

Vegetable patties are another type of snack that Indians adore. They are made of a crisp, flaky shell and spicy filling. Bakeries like Wenger’s and Nathu’s Pastry Shop in Delhi stock patties, although they are slowly disappearing from most shelves. Patties from Wenger’s have achieved iconic status, with most chefs and food critics raving about them. In 2015, patties from Wenger’s were even mentioned in a list with the headline “15 best eats in Delhi under ₹ 500" in GQ magazine.

At Wenger’s, patties go beyond the vegetable version and include mushrooms, chicken and mutton. In 2014, Hindustan Times did a Delhi food face-off where patties from Wenger’s and Sugar & Spice in Khan Market were compared. “The patty at Wenger's wins hands down,” said the article titled ‘The ultimate food face-off in Delhi!’. “The crust is flaky and the filling moist and creamy, unlike at Sugar & Spice which was too dry,” it said. 

Both khari biscuits and patties are snacks that, despite their rarity, have been irreplaceable in the minds of Indians. Even if these treats may slowly be becoming difficult to mind, they have managed to create a stir that is likely to outlive several generations.