Parāoa Parai (Māori Fried Bread)
Friends and ʻohana gather close as the cool ocean breeze blows in to the bach (pronounced batch; a beach house). The light of the last glowing rays of the sun are replaced by the warm crackling flames of a fire. ʻUkulele and guitar are taken out of their cases and folks start to sing the old favorites. Aunty turns on the burner under the outdoor wok, which is soon hot enough to drop squares of batter into bubbling oil. Out of the oil come crispy puffs of golden bread, which are passed around, still steaming, to each person. A liberal pour of sweet golden syrup tops off each square of paraoa parai, Māori fried bread.
Fry bread is a favorite in Aotearoa that can accompany other kai (food), and it’s a special once-in-a-while treat that might make a great addition to your holiday table! This recipe was shared with us by Aunty Gina Harding (Ko Whatatiri te hapū, ko Ngāti Whatua te iwi) of Aurere. We’ve included the recipe below!
This recipe makes 12-14 pieces.
½ cup water + ½ cup milk at room temperature (or can substitute 1 cup of water)
½ tbsp dried active yeast
½ tbsp white sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 cups of flour
Lots of extra flour for dusting
2 tbsp melted butter (can substitute 2 tbsp veggie or canola oil)
4 cups veggie or canola oil for frying (or enough to fill 1” of the bottom of your pot)
Mix the water, milk, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl; set in a warm place for 10 minutes to activate yeast. After 10 minutes, the mixture will be bubbly!
Mix the flour, salt, and melted butter/canola oil. Slowly add the yeast mixture to the dry mix. Fold together gently; lumps are okay…don’t overmix!
Knead lightly until dough is less sticky and forms a ball. Cover the dough with a wrap or a towel to prove in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes; it should double in size.
Place proved dough onto a lightly floured surface (it’s also helpful to flour your hands and rolling pin!); knead lightly. Roll dough to a 2cm/¾” thickness and cut into 6cm/2” squares. Cover your cut dough again to prove for another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a medium size pot of oil to 165°C/350°F.
Gently place dough one or two at a time in the hot oil and cook until golden brown (roughly 1-2 minutes per side; flip bread after one side cooks).
Place cooked bread on a paper towel to soak up excess oil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve hot with honey, jam or jelly, maple syrup, or powdered sugar. Or, if you have recently come back from Aotearoa: golden syrup, manuka honey, or New Zealand butter! Paraoa parai can also be served savory; we had a delicious boar burger in Waitangi using this bread!
Notes: Be sure to use a heavy pan that can withstand high heat! It’s also easy to make substitutions to make this bread vegetarian. Although it is best enjoyed hot and fresh, it can also be refrigerated and reheated!