Step 1: Gather tools and supplies.
Find a package of papadums. At our local Indian grocery stores, we have a choice of what seems like a dozen brands to choose from. The two types shown are ones that we regularly get. The one with the scary looking pink bunny has no added spice whatsoever, and we use it whenever the spice-challenged come over for dinner on a day that we're making Indian food. The other one has added spices including Jeera, aka cumin seed. (You can also get papadums in other flavors including garlic, black pepper, and a number of very spicy varieties.) The wood-grain texture on these is quite tasty looking (up close), and those are the ones that we'll be cooking today.
There are a number of ways to cook papadums. The package with the scary pink bunny says "INSTRUCTION: TO BE FRIED OR ROASTED BEFORE CONSUMING." (Thanks, guys, that helps a lot!) There are actually quite a few ways to do this. One way is to deep fry them, which is a heck of a lot of work, and another is to microwave them. A better method is to cook them directly over an open flame. You can use a charcoal or propane grill, a camping stove, a blow torch, or cook them directly on the burner of your gas stove. Remarkably, this last method is both common and practical.
Finally, you'll need a pair of tongs and quick reflexes-- these cook quickly.
Step 2: Open the package & separate the papads
Papads come packed something like a dozen to a package, which usually costs around $1.50. Depending on which brand you have and how fresh they are, it's possible for them to stick together slightly, a little bit like tortillas sometimes do. Figure out how many you'll be cooking, and put the rest away. We usually go through a whole pack every time that we make some.
(Can you make your own papads from scratch, rather than buying these pre-made blanks? Well, yes you can. However, it's probably not worth the effort. These are very inexepensive, quick to prepare, and quite good. Even our Indian food cookbooks say that you should do it this way.)
Step 3: Get your stove on.
If you're timid, you might want to start with a medium-low flame to begin with. Don't worry too much about cleaning the grates; that high flame will sterilize them pretty quickly.
Step 4: Put Papadum in Peril.
Step 5: First bubbles
Step 6: Wait until it's cooked on one side...
Step 7: Flip it good.
Take the papadum off the stove and put it on a plate for serving or to cool.
Once you've had a little practice and are comfortable turning up the flame, the total cooking time can be under 30 seconds per piece. I budget about five minutes to cook a dozen papadums.
Step 8: Serve and eat
Simply stacking the papadums works well to get them out of the way and let them cool. They're especially nice when they're fresh and still warm, so serve them that way if at all possible.
Step 9: Making it more interesting
Step 10: Cooking a reshaped papadum
Step 11: Serving suggestion
Have fun cooking and eating these things, and see some of our other projects at http://www.evilmadscientist.com/