Cheela, or the Vegetarian Omelette

The simplest of breakfasts, one of the most versatile snacks. And great for a cold apparently.

Essentially a besan pancake.

(For the quick and impatient: besan batter, mix in diced onions and salt/spices, fry like a crepe/dosa/omelette)


(Besan = gram flour, preferably with the husks milled in)

What do you need:

A mixing bowl, a flat pan, a spatula and a deep spoon (haata/karchhi)
a fistful of besan for each cheela pair (to make 12, take 6ish fistfuls), water to mix in
Salt (essential), paprika or red chilli powder, garam masala (a pinch each)
Diced onions (one large onion will do for a dozen cheelas)
Very finely chopped green chillies (I avoid, essential for sticklers)
A teensy pinch of soda (but I avoid that)
A bit of kasoori or home dried methi (a delightful version-ator)
Loads of oil (don’t skimp here till you are a pro)

(Summary so far: bowl, besan, salt, water)

Mix: Mix the besan, salt, spices and water to batter consistency.

(Mix it to dosa consistency if you want them thick and have the patience to cook them on a slow flame, thin the batter a bit if you like them coming crisp and fast)

Add in the onions and other stuff.
Put aside (protip, 2 mins is good but I hear an hour is better for batter)

Heat the pan ( I often have 2-3 pans on simultaneously)
Once hot, pour the oil for shallow frying, wait a min for it to heat, ladle the batter in the centre of the hot oil.

Most people use the ladle to spread the batter.
I have never been able to – the onions get in the way
So, I lift the pan and rotate it to spread the batter, patting it down and smoothing it in a friendly way where it tries to stay thick.

Wait, as it cooks. Impatient people like me use two pans, start the next one.

When the top (visible) dries, use the spatula to lift and flip. Cook on the other side. Some like them soft, some like them crisp. Do it your way. Just make sure the insides are not squishy.


Oh! And don’t forget the adrak chai and pickles that go with it.. (or ketchup, if no pickles)

Healthy mums: Grate tons of carrots and beans into the batter to sneak veggies in. NEVER coconut, that is yucky. Paneer works well to make a roll using the cheela, but is not traditional.

One thought on “Cheela, or the Vegetarian Omelette”

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