The South African Poli is a crescent shaped pastry filled with a sweet cardamom and desiccated coconut – similar to the Indian treat Gujiya. Much like Gujiya, the South African Indian Poli is also fried, but unlike the Gujiya, the Poli filling is not cooked. Amma mostly made Poli for Diwali . Last year I celebrated Diwali with my son for the first time. Just like when I was a kid, Amma used to give my little sister and I a piece of dough to play with while she baked, my son too loved playing along. Poli is now one of his favourites.
How to Make Poli Pastry
Like most pastries, Poli dough is made with butter or ghee and flour. Recipes may vary according to individual family recipes, this was my mum’s recipe. Poli pastry is eggless and suitable for vegetarians. For a vegan alternative instead of butter or ghee you can also use oil as a substitute and use water instead of milk.
My tips for making good poli pastry is to mix flour and ghee until fine crumbs form, this will result in a finer pastry texture. The dough should not be rolled too thick otherwise it will not fry. Rolling it too flat will not hold the filling either so it has to be just thick enough to hold the poli filling.
What is in Poli Filling
Poli filling is essentially made with coconut, sugar and spiced with cardamom. For a more lush coconut poli filling (like the coconut filling in a nikki bar or bounty chocolate) use ghee or condensed milk to bind the coconut , and rose water a for a richer taste and fragrance.
Amma sometimes added raisins to poli filling. I like to add flaked almonds for a crispy filling.
How to Make Poli without a Poli Cutter
In Amma’s circles, most used poli cutters to shape poli, Amma had her own method by cutting the dough into circles, then folded into semi cirlces and pressed with a fork. Over the years I have adapted my own method by folding and pressing the dough.
1. Use a cookie cutter or cup to cut out circles from the pastry dough. The size of poli depends on the diameter of circle used to cut out shapes. I prefer small poli, a typical teacup is often the ideal size.
2. Add the coconut filling. Place in one side of the circle.
3. Fold over to form a semi circle.
5. Start at the ends, fold over then press, fold, press, repeat until the semi circle is completely sealed with a neat fold. Be sure to secure the fold otherwise the coconut filling will leak out causing coconut flakes to fill in the oil.
How to Cook Poli
Poli is essentially a fried pastry. I have yet to try a baked version, I am curious if it would work but somehow I doubt it yields the same results as the fried version. If you have tried it do let me know. Vegetable cooking oil is best for frying poli.
Tips for Frying Poli
1. To fry poli, make sure the oil is hot otherwise the poli will end up soaked in oil.
2. To test if the oil is hot enough, break a small piece of dough then place in oil. If the dough sizzles (bubbles appear around the edge) then the oil is hot enough to fry the poli.
3. Let each side fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown before turning.
4. Once the desired colour is achieved remove form oil and drain on kitchen towel.
South African Poli Recipe
Poli Recipe (South African Poli)
- Pastry Ingredients
- 125g flour
- 50ml milk (lukewarm)
- 50g ghee or 70g butter
- Poli Filling Ingredients
- Desired limit of sugar
- Half cup desiccated coconut
- Sliced almonds
- Half teaspoon cardamom powder
- Optional…you can also add sesame seed or raisins to your poli filling for a more moist filling add 2 tablespoons condensed milk.
- Other Ingredients
- Oil for Frying
- Sift the flour. Add the ghee and work the mixture into fine breadcrumbs.
- Add Milk. Mix into a soft dough.
- Break a small piece of dough. Roll into a circle, roll as thin as possible. Use scone or cookie cutter to cut out circle shapes.
- To make Poli filling combine desiccated coconut sugar and cardamom.
- Spoon one tablespoon filling into your circle cut outs.
- Fold circle into half. Press around the arc of the semi circle to seal the filling.
- Wrap the dough by pressing /overlapping the dough simultaneously to form a pattern. You can also use a fork.
- Once all Poli have been filled heat pan with oil. Fry Poli until golden brown. All to cool. Best served with a cup of tea.
Did you make this recipe?
Like Date Rolls, poli is best enjoyed with a cup of tea.