May 19, 2018 | 13 Mins
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Bread-making is an exceptional art that fascinates many but is mastered only by a few. While the French have their basket full of a variety of breads, India is not far off from boasting an extensive and far from exhaustive list of flatbreads. Every community, area, region and state have their own flatbreads that form an integral part of their cuisine. They have travelled with them through the length and breadth of the country and most of them resemble a national, even global, status.
There are many factors that influence the kind of flatbreads made and consumed in a region. For the ones consumed in the northern parts of India, wheat plays an important role hence most breads are made with wheat flour.
The flatbreads of North India feature a variety from Kashmir, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Unique cultural nuances define every State/Union Territory and these baked wonders of Indian cuisine only alleviate the richness and culinary value of North India.
From an infinite number of stuffings to choose from to the classic one spiced with red chilli powder and salt, we all have our favourite paratha. You can pair a paratha with basically everything - slather it with butter, dip it in curd or dunk it in a steaming hot bowl of your favourite dal, seafood curry or even butter chicken! The origin of a paratha can be traced back to the Indian subcontinent and the term ‘Paratha’ (derived from ‘parat’ and ‘atta’ which literally means layers of cooked dough) was first recognised in a 12th century Sanskrit encyclopedia which was compiled by Someshvara III (ruler of present day Karnataka). It is basically a thick Indian flatbread made with wheat dough and folded repeatedly (similar to the process of making puff pastry) to give it that thickness. Probably the most popular paratha choice is Aloo Paratha where a mildly spiced, mashed potato mix stuffed in the dough and then flattened again into a flatbread with a rolling pin. From a tandoor to a tava, warqi to laccha, the evolution and the varieties of Paratha are limitless - no wonder it is one of the most loved Indian dishes in the world!
Home chefs Sangita and Vivek’s traditional Amritsari meal in Amritsar. Check out their in-home dining experience here.
Made with maida (all-purpose flour), Naan is a slightly chewy but extremely delectable leavened flatbread and is an important accompaniment in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. The term Naan comes from the Persian term for bread, ‘Non’. The earliest recorded mention of Naan was made by Indo-Persian poet Amir Kushrau in 1300 AD while the English term ‘naan’ dates back to 1780 where William Tooke mentioned it in his travelogue. In the Imperial Court of Delhi, the naan had two variations: naan-e-tunuk (light bread) and naan-e-tanuri (tandoor bread) (Source). During the Mughal rule in 1500’s, it was a popular breakfast choice of the nawabs and was immensely enjoyed with kheema (spicy minced meat). Back then, it was a dish considered to be fit only for the royals and the rich due to the use of yeast and laborious kneading process. A revered flatbread even today, over the many decades it gave rise to a variety of other flatbreads such as tandoori roti and kulcha.
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On a crisp morning in the silent by-lanes of Kashmir and as the sun is rising up into the sky, a steaming cup of Noon Chai (salted tea) and Girda to dip into it, is a must. Also known as Czot, you can lather up some jam or butter on it or simply have it the way it is, Girda is delicious. In Kashmir, Girda (or Czot) can be found freshly in Kandurs (local bakeries). The baker indents the dough and then places it in a tandoor to give it a crispy and golden-brown exterior while it is soft and delicious on the inside.
Every Sindhi has a love-hate relationship with three flatbreads - Doda, Lola and Koki. While Doda is a thick flatbread made by mixing wheat flour with millet (jowar) flour or rice flour and adding in green chillies, onion, red chilli powder and water to knead it into a tight dough. The dough balls, when flattened, are quite thick so when cooked, the Doda/Dodo has a crispy exterior and really soft on the inside. Serve it with a bowl of curd and a dollop of white butter on the doda, your traditional Sindhi breakfast is set. Another great option for a Sindhi breakfast is Koki. Thinner than a Doda, the ingredients are pretty much the same. Koki is made with wheat flour, green chillies, red chilli powder, chopped onions, cumin and little water. Basically a Sindhi version of a Paratha, Koki can be paired with anything and everything - dal, curry, dry vegetable or meat preparation, chutney, pickle or simply enjoy on its own. Last but not the least, the highly addictive Lola/Lolo. It is a laborious process to make Lolo but the end result is as sweet as the flatbread itself. Jaggery is completely dissolved in water and this sweet water is used instead of regular water to make the dough. Ground spices such as cardamom and/or cinnamon are added in the process to add a touch of flavour to this delicious dish. It is cooked on a low flame in generous amounts of ghee but eat with caution - irresistible and delicious, Lola is considered slightly unhealthy but you won’t be able to stop once you start eating it!
Check all Sindhi in-home dining experiences at here
Believed to have originated in Purani Dilli (Old Delhi), Khamiri Roti was a staple in all meals enjoyed in the Mughal courts and is still frequently made in Muslim households and places such as Lucknow, Hyderabad and Jammu & Kashmir. Khamir is an Urdu word, meaning yeast. Traditionally, Khamiri Roti was made by keeping the dough overnight so that the natural yeast could do its work in the fermentation process and then baking it in a tandoor the next day. Today, to save time, yeast is manually added to the flour, dough is kneaded and immediately placed in a tandoor. Khamiri Roti is a soft and spongy flatbread with a slight hint of tang and is immensely enjoyed with curries, dals and korma.
Home chef Rizwana’s Bohri Thaal in Pune. Check it out.
A rare delicacy of Hyderabad and Lucknow, Sheermal or Shirmal is a sweet flatbread that is popularly consumed in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran. Its preparation and the way it is baked ranges from that of a roti to a naan - depending on the region, personal preference and the dish it is accompanying. Warm water gave way to milk in its kneading process, making it a more softer flatbread to relish. Similar to the Persian saffron bread, Sheermal has the exotic flavours of saffron and cardamom to alleviate the richness of the flatbread. The preparation of the bread itself - milk/warm water, sugar, eggs, ghee and spices. In Kashmir, Sheermal has a sweet and a savoury version where the sweet Sheermal is made with Kehwa while the latter is made with Noon Chai (pink, salt tea). Some may have fancy designs indented on the dough before its placed in an oven or tandoor. It is also a popular choice to flavour the dough with rose water or kewra (screw pine extract). The mark of a traditional and authentic Sheermal lies in the the elasticity of the flatbread and shine of the melted ghee/butter that is brushed on it once it comes out the oven/tandoor in a beautiful shade of golden-brown. It can be enjoyed with tea, as a stand-alone or with mutton nihari, kebabs, korma or a variety of vegetable curries.
Immensely enjoyed as street food in various parts of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan, Bedmi Puri is another popular flatbread from northern parts of India. It is often paired with a pickle, chutney or a spicy potato curry and hot jalebis (mouth-watering, right?), Bedmi puri is made with with a combination of wheat flour, grounded urad dal (split black gram) and spices, making it a bigger, heavier and crispier version of the original puri. Bedmi puri is believed to have its origin in the streets of Purani Dilli (Old Delhi) so consider this: the Muslim heritage had Paya for breakfast while the Hindus enjoyed their Bedmi puri with Dum Aloo.
Call it Taftan, Taftun or Taftoon - it does not change the fact that the bread is extremely delicious and comes from the same family as Sheermal/Shirmal. It is a Persian-origin leavened flatbread that made its way to the hearts and tummies of those in India and Pakistan. The flatbread is made with milk, yoghurt and eggs and baked in a clay oven. It is flavoured with saffron or cardamom and best enjoyed when hot from the oven.
From the sun-kissed deserts of Rajasthan to the streets of Uttar Pradesh, everyone has a soft spot for Kachori. A spicy snack, Kachori is an unleavened flatbread of India that is enjoyed in various forms. Kachori has been around even before the samosa became quite the rage. From a spicy potato stuffing to a stuffing of moong dal or besan or even a sweeter version made with a stuffing of mawa and then soaked in sugar syrup, Kachori is loved in its many forms. While Rajasthan is known for its Pyaaz Kachori, the street food of Delhi would perhaps be incomplete without the Khaasta Kachori and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh fill the kachori with seasonal produce. Dip it in sugar syrup, pour fresh curd and sprinkle red chilli powder on it or simply dunk it in a bowl of spicy vegetarian/meat dish, Kachori is delicious in every way!
Home chef Upma’s Mawa Kachori. Book your seats for her in-home dining experience here.
Bafla is basically a wheat-based hardened dough ball that is baked (can also be cooked in boiling water, like dumplings) and then served with a tangy or spicy curry or vegetable preparation. Similar to its Rajasthani cousin, Daal Baati, Bafla is local to the heart of India, Madhya Pradesh. Bafla can be enjoyed during any meal of the day - breakfast, lunch, dinner or even something to munch while travelling (thanks to its long shelf-life).
A meal is incomplete with the most common flatbread in India - roti and its counterparts, chapati and phulka. The foundation of every other flatbread, the origin of roti poses quite the question. Ramcharitramanas by Kalidas states that it existed during the Harappan Civilization and was a kitchen essential or a temporary container to hold your curries in and enjoy it with as well. Another theory jumps a few centuries ahead, to the Awadh rule in India where a Persian bread made with maida made its entry into the kitchens. But wheat much preferred and thus the roti was born. Even during the British rule, the Indian cantonment in the Indian British Army chose roti or chapati over rice. Centuries have passed but the roti still remains a constant in every household and every meal. May it be Rumali Roti, Makkai Di Roti, Missi Roti or Tandoori Roti, its various form throughout the country are loved. Although the origin is a matter of debate, aren’t we all glad that it exists today?
A popular bread during the Mughal era that still hold great value when accompanied with a variety of Indian curry preparations, Gakhar is made by combining whole-wheat flour, ghee, turmeric and oil to bind them together. The bread is first steamed and then roasted in an over with ghee slathered over it to give it a beautiful shine. The trait that stands out about Ghakhar is the centre is meant to be thick. Enjoy it on its own or tear a piece of to dunk into a bowl of Mutton Curry or Dal Tadka, it tastes heavenly in every way.
Know anymore unique flatbreads of North India? Comment below and we will add them in the blog! :D