India is a land of myriad delicacies – from curries to kebabs to kulfis (a type of Indian ice cream). The cuisine of India is as diverse as its people and unfolds as a bouquet of everything palatable. In India, you find one dish with plenty of variants. And amidst the host of dishes, one food item that stands out is Bread – due its vibrant varieties and sumptuous flavours.
Bread is the staff of life and has a basic necessity in almost every food culture. And in a nation like India with so many contrasts in culture & traditions, isn’t it interesting to assort the kinds of breads made here?
The bread is an essential part of India’s food bowl and has garnered such a prominence that for Indians no meal is said to consummate without bread on the platter.
Almost every gravy or curry found here is consumed with a specific type of bread and then only it completes the dish. Whether in small get together or grand functions, Bread even plays a decisive role while listing down the menu. The bread here also renders a sense of contentment to the diner and it is at the sometime certainly gratifying.
In India, breads cannot be confined to a certain definition because they come in a wide variety, such as – flat, unleavened, yeasted, fermented, stuffed, crepes prepared in different creative textures & sizes.
Some of them are cooked on an iron griddle (tawa), or in a cylindrical clay oven, known as Tandoor in India, or are deep-fried in a kadhai (a deep cooking pot).
Bread in India even finds place in Hindu Epics. The roti, a round flatbread native to the Indian subcontinent made from wholemeal flour, traditionally known as ‘atta’, and water that is made into dough is one of the most common household bread. It has been mentioned in Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas (1600 AD) when roti resembled a katori (small bowl) and was probably known as rotika.
Similarly, Naan is said to have travelled to India from central Asia. Furthermore, even the Paratha has a mention in the 12th century Sanskrit encyclopaedia, Manasollasa, compiled by Someshawar III, the then ruler of Karnataka.
So, the breads in India are an exploration in itself. And here we have tried to cover some of the amazing breads you can discover on this land:
Akki Roti: this bread from Karnataka is made up of rice flour, from where it derives its name as akki means rice in Karnataka. Its dough is prepared by mixing sliced carrots, onions, chopped coriander, sesame seeds, and cumin seeds with salt and kneaded with water to make it soft. After warming up the oil over a tawa (griddle), a small amount of the dough is evenly spread over it such that it resembles a thin pancake. Another layer of oil is spread over the roti and is cooked till it turns golden brown. It is best served with chutney or a dash of ghee or butter.
Anda Paratha: egg in Hindi is called as Anda and this is the prime ingredient of this delicious paratha. This paratha comes in many versions. Its most basic version has a crisp coating of whipped egg, while the fancier one requires a filling of half-fried bread and a mixture of beaten egg, finely chopped onion, green chillies, coriander and ginger. This filling makes its way into the paratha via a cut though its belly.
Baati: baati traces its connection with the Rajput warriors and Marwari traders in Rajasthan as it was a part of their staple food. Baati are tomato shaped balls made out of whole wheat, stuffed with a mixture of certain Indian dal (pulses), and roasted over hot coals. It is then dipped in ghee which gives it a fulfilling savour. Baati Chokha is the complete name of the dish where chokha is a vegetable preparation of mashed potato, brinjal, tomato and chopped green chillies & onions. Although it hails from Rajasthan, baati chokha is a popular savoury in Uttar Pradesh.
Baida Paratha: a delicacy brought to India by the Bohra Muslim community during the 11th It is a paratha stuffed with a filling of egg or mince meat mixture. It is especially eaten in breakfast and is a popular street food in Mumbai.
Bajre ki roti: it is a traditional bread of Indian Subcontinent, made from the millet flour. It is cooked without gluten (a binding component to shape it) in its flour, which makes it a bit difficult to bake. It is best served with a garlic chutney and sliced onion. The roti is popular in the state of Rajasthan.
Bakharkhani: also known as Bakharkhani Roti – it is a thick, spiced & sweet flatbread and a part of Mughlai cuisine of Indian subcontinent. It was brought down to the Indian subcontinent all the way from Central Asia during the Mughal era. The dough for bakarkhani is infused with milk, ghee, melon seed, sugar and saffron which make it wholesome bread. The yeast or baking powder is used for leavening the dough. The bread is garnished with crushed fennel and slivered almonds. It is eaten with nehari (a non-veg Indian curry). This bread has a biscuit-like texture and a hard crust.
Bhatura- it is a staple part of the famous Indian dish – Chole Bhature, which originates from the Punjab region in India. Where chole is a spicy & tangy chickpeas curry, Bhatura is the leavened bread made from Maida (soft wheat flour). Bhatura is deep fried till it turns fluffy & golden in colour. Chhole Bhatore is also one of the most loved breakfasts by Indians.
Dosa- Although Dosa is the native of South India, this one dish finds its lovers all across the nation and even abroad. It is counted as one of the most scrumptious foods in India owing to its uniqueness in taste & visual appeal. It also makes up as a healthy traditional food option. It is made with rice flour and legumes and cooked in the shape of a pancake. A concoction of rice and black gram is soaked in water and then ground finely to create a batter. The batter is set to ferment overnight. The next day, water is mixed into the batter to give it a desired consistency. The better is then spread onto a hot tava (griddle) with oil or ghee greased on it. After the crepe turns golden brown, it is half folded or rolled like a wrap and is served with chutney and sambhar.
Laccha Paratha: is a variation of traditional paratha. It is flaky and soft and is prepared in a tandoor. Laccha Paratha is quite popular in Lucknow where it is also known as tandoori paratha.
Khameeri Roti: Khameer, meaning fermentation is the essence of this roti. The flour of this roti is composed of whole wheat, salt and kneaded with curd and is left to ferment in a warm place. This natural fermentation suffuses a pleasing aroma. The roti after being cooked comes out puffy and a bit sour in taste. It is best served with Kebabs or any Indian curry.
Kulcha: if you are a true foodie, you must have heard about the dish ‘Kulcha Nihari’. Kulcha here is another kind of delicious leavened flatbread that originates in Indian subcontinent. It comes in many versions like – plain kulcha, stuffed kulcha (with stuffing of potato or paneer (cottage cheese) or Amritsari Kulcha (stuffed with boiled & spiced potato).
Missi roti: it is popular North Indian bread. The dough of this roti is a mixture of – gram flour, wheat flour, cumin seeds, chopped onions, green chilies, coriander, turmeric and salt. It can be cooked on a tava (griddle) or baked on tandoor. It is rough in texture and best complements any Indian curry.
Naan: this is an oval-shaped fermented flatbread made with refined flour. Flour, eggs, milk, sugar, salt, curd and oil, all goes into making the dough for naan. It is kneaded till it turns elastic and smooth and is left to ferment for about 2-3 hours. The dough is sprinkled with sesame seeds before being cooked. Conventionally, the naans are baked by lining them on the walls of a tandoor. And are brushed with a thin coating of ghee or oil. It comes in many variations like – Butter Naan, Garlic Naan, or Khurmi Naan.
Puran Poli: it is an indigenous bread of Maharashtra which also serves as a sweet preparation. It is made from yellow gram dal (chana dal), jaggery, plain wheat flour, cardamom powder and ghee. It is stuffed with a boiled & sweetened dal mixture in the dough then cooked by shallow frying. It is usually made in homes during a happy occasion or festivals.
Roomali Roti: as the name suggests, this roti resembles a handkerchief in appearance. And it is given this shape not by rolling on the board but by tossing it with hands. It is then cooked on a convex iron griddle. It is light and thin and requires great expertise & skill to make. The best Roomali Rotis are found in the city of nawabs, Lucknow.
Sheermal: an unparalleled invention by Muhammadan, a top-notch bread maker and a sough after delicacy of the Awadh region. It is made with refined flour which is knewaded into a dough using milk, ghee, kewra (aromatic water) and sugar. The ‘sheer’ is sheermal means milk and which is the main ingredient of this bread. The milk added to sheermal gives it a fulfilling taste. It is royal bread best served with kebabs.