Breads are an integral part of traditional Indian cuisine, and the wide range of types of Indian flatbreads is a testament to the diversity of flavors and food traditions in the country. Indian breads are typically unleavened mixtures of wheat flour and water, cooked in an oven or in a pan. Flatbreads vary in thickness and taste, and most are paired with specific types of Indian dishes.
Tandoor ovens are made of clay and are used to make naan bread. Naan is one of the few types of Indian flatbreads that is leavened. It is a combination of wheat or white flour, yeast and milk. The dough is kneaded into a circle before being placed in the tandoor and cooked until the outside is crispy and the inside is chewy. Naan may be served plain with butter, or may be seasoned or flavored with garlic, basil, coconut, cashews or raisins. Naan usually accompanies meat dishes and is used to scoop up thick sauces.
In India, the most common flatbreads are baked on a hot griddle and served fresh. Most homes don't have a tandoor oven. Chapatis and rotis are made from a simple mix of whole-wheat flour and water, cooked in thin sheets on a hot pan over a stove or fire. Some versions are enhanced with other grains, beans or seasonings. They are commonly served with butter and are used instead of utensils to pick up rice, beans and meats. They are thinner than naan and are usually served with every Indian meal.
Several varieties of Indian flatbread are fried in ghee or oil on a hot skillet. Parathas are the most common type of pan-fried flatbreads. The flaky flatbread is a simple variation of a standard roti that can be served alone or stuffed with potatoes, eggplant, chickpeas or other seasoned foods as a complete meal. Dosas are also pan-fried and these thin, tortilla- or crepelike flatbreads use a base of rice or lentils that are soaked, fermented and ground into a batter before being lightly fried in a skillet. Uttapams are similar to dosas, but thicker and similar in texture to naan.
Puris are not flat when they come out of the deep fryer. These balls of whole-wheat flour, water and salt puff up into large, hollow rounds of flaky, thin dough. Once punctured, the dough collapses into a thin sheet that can then be used to scoop food. Luchis are similar in form and structure, but they use a different type of refined flour, called maida, which has a smoother grain than whole-wheat flour.
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Hannah Wahlig began writing and editing professionally in 2001. Her experience includes copy for newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as book editing. She is also a certified lactation counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Holyoke College, and Master's degrees in education and community psychology from the University of Massachusetts.