Weekend Project: Why Panki Is One of the Most Nuanced Indian Dishes of All Time

My long road to cracking the recipe so you don’t have to.

Photo by Sonal Ved

My relationship with panki is a bit like my relationship with sourdough. I can eat both for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I couldn’t make either from scratch until last March. The lockdown pushed me into several culinary experiments that include pineapple rind tepache and dalgona coffee, but those are stories for another time. Like a good sourdough, panki should be adored for its simple appeal and complex flavors that only requires a handful of ingredients. So when I set my heart on learning how to make this dish, the place to go was undoubtedly Swati Snacks.

Swati, as it is colloquially called, is a hyper regional restaurant in Mumbai known for specializing in home-style Gujarati food belonging to the west coast of India, a rich shoreline state that remains predominantly vegetarian. It’s also the first place that Michelin-starred chefs like Julien Royer, Jason Tan, Garima Arora, or David Myers visit whenever they are in India.

Before Swati opened 20 years ago, the only way to get your hands on typical Gujarati dishes like khichu, a goop made of pearl millet flour that glistens with ghee, and panoli, a savory cake made of fermented lentils crusted with shards of deep fried garlic—was to invite a friend from Gujarat over and have them cook for you. But Swati has changed all of that.

Panki is one of their best dishes that they have been serving for over two decades. Unlike dal dhokli (lentil pasta) that made it to Deliciously Ella or dal-bhat (rice and lentil) featured in Bon Appetit, panki has never really gone mainstream. Essentially a rice pancake that shares the same color, thickness, and rice flour and turmeric as the Vietnamese bahn xeo, panki is cooked in banana leaves. And every year at Swati Snacks, over 60,000 pounds of banana leaves are cut into large rectangles that are well-oiled as if they are getting a deep tissue massage. A thin batter of flour is then poured on these leaves and cooked to perfection. Much like a tamal, where the leaf and dough leave each other once you pull off the husk, with panki, you have to gently peel off its sheets to reach a cheung fun-textured panki that is still steaming with water vapor. Once you bite into it, the faint hint of turmeric and crunch of cumin seeds becomes clear.

“When we started out, we only sold five plates a day,” says owner Asha Jhaveri about her number one selling dish. These days, Swati sells about 600 pankis a day across its four outposts. According to the restaurant’s manager Karan Shah, “Chefs are extensively trained to make this one dish and only an approved chef is allowed to make for guests.”

My own adventure trying to recreate this dish at home made sense until I realized that Swati’s recipe is completely untraceable. Besides relying on my palate memory, I was left with the next best thing and Googled the recipe. The internet threw up so many versions of this humble dish.

Some home chefs ferment the batter for a few hours before making the panki while others make it straight up after whisking. In some places, carom seeds are crushed and mixed into the batter while other recipes prefer cumin seeds. Some steam the final dish, while others call for pan-searing the banana leaves until they are beautifully charred.

I have tried about six versions of this dish, but they don’t say seventh time’s a charm for nothing: I finally cracked the recipe (that actually works) and I’m thrilled to share it with you.


  • 2 large banana leaves
  •  ½ cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 ½ cup rice flour
  • 1 green chilli
  • 2 tsp ginger (grated)
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • ¼ cup finely chopped coriander leaves or cilantro (optional)
  • Water as per need 
  • Salt, to taste


1. In a mortar and pestle, crush green chilli and ginger into a fine paste.

2. In a bowl, fold in rice flour to the chilli-ginger paste. 

3. Add cumin powder, turmeric powder, asafoetida, and yogurt. Whisk well. 

4. Add water and mix until it resembles a pancake batter consistency. 

5. Adjust salt and add coriander leaves and stir well. Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes on room temperature

6. Meanwhile, prepare the banana leaves by cutting them into neat squares. Four inches on all sides. 

7. Grease two leaves with vegetable oil and place them on your kitchen counter.

8. On one of the leaves, spread the batter as if making a pancake on a hot griddle. Spread it into a beautiful and bold yellow circle. 

9. Place the second leaf on top of this. 

10. Heat a griddle on high flame and place the leaf parcel on the pan. Lower the flame to low or medium and allow the pankis to cook for 3-4 minutes on both sides.

11. You know your panki is ready when dark brown spots begin to appear on the leaves, it’s a sign that the batter inside has cooked.

12. Allow it to cool down for 30 seconds and peel off the upper layer of the banana leaf. Underneath, you’ll find thin sheets of cooked rice flour batter that will also peel off like an easy face mask.

13. Eat the pankis with green coriander and mint chutney. 

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Sonal Ved is a Thrillist contributor.