India's cuisine is extremely diverse, with many regional specialties. Among these are many different types of flatbread. The term "roti" is sometimes applied collectively to all types of flatbread, although it also has a specific meaning. Some of the most common types of Indian flatbread are chapatis, naan and dosas. In addition to these staples, flatbreads such as malpua can also be eaten as desserts.
Roti and Chapati
Roti, a traditional flatbread made with whole-wheat flour, is such an important part of Indian cuisine that the word is sometimes used as a synonym for food. The cooking process is simple: after rolling out a circle of dough made from flour, water and salt, you place it on a thin metal skillet called a tava and hold it over an open flame. The finished bread may be held directly over the fire briefly to make it puff up. A thin version of roti is called chapati and the terms are often used interchangeably.
Familiar to most fans of Indian food, the naan, unlike the roti, is made with yeast. The dough mixture can also include sweeteners, such as coconut, or other ingredients, such as garlic. After mixing and kneading the dough, it's left to rise for about an hour, then rolled it out into balls and flattened into the characteristic teardrop shape. A tandoor oven bakes the bread at a high temperature, giving it its light, fluffy texture.
Dosa is a traditional favorite in southern India. This flatbread resembles a crepe or pancake more than the more substantial roti or naan. A batter made from rice, lentils, water and salt is poured onto a hot tava and cooked. A little oil around the edges helps to make them crispy. Dosa can hold a variety of fillings -- one of the most popular is masala dosa, a spicy potato filling.
Other flatbreads include the puffy paratha, made from whole-wheat flour like the chapati. Idlis are made from the same type of batter as dosas, but steamed rather than fried. The appam, a flatbread from the Kerala region of southern India, has a variety of subtypes.
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Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.