Indian Foods Part 2 — Breads
February 27, 2008
My bland diet has inspired me to write about different types of Indian breads. Daniel and I went to a swanky wedding at City Palace with Giri, Sadan and some of their friends. With long buffet tables of catered food from local hot spots, I kept to mild dishes and fresh breads from the tandoori. When it was time for dessert, each person at our table inspected each other’s picks from the assortment of jalebi, fruit salad, kulfi, caramel custard and ice cream. They laughed at me when they saw my joy in eating naan and fruit salad for dessert instead of the other more desirable options. But, hey, naan is not as common in Indian cuisine as Naan n’ Curry in Berkeley (now House of Curries), or the countless other Indian restaurants in the States led me to believe.
Breads are an essential part of meals in Northern India. For breakfast, lunch or dinner they serve as both eating utensil and source of carbohydrates. For some families, breads are a vital source of calories if they cannot afford vegetables or proteins for at every sitting. Therefore many variations on this Indian staple exist. To quote my favorite Indian recipe website, making bread is only limited by “one’s taste and imagination.”
Naan will always be my favorite type of Indian bread. It’s fluffy and can be seasoned with everything from garlic and onion to something simple like butter. I may be condemning myself as a tourist for loving this simple fare, but it’s delicious, what can I say? Traditionally, cooks prepare naan in a tandoori oven. At a party I once watched a man in a turban knead the wheat and yeast dough into balls as music played and women in saris danced. It was hot near the oven, but he stayed close as each naan cooked. When one was done, he’d flatten another into an oblong gob. Then he’d reach inside the round, pit-like tandoor and smear it on the side. The bread bubbled slightly as it rose and colored from the flames. He made enough naan to feed about fifty guests. But you don’t need a tandoori oven. You can make it for yourself on a baking sheet. I’d recommend wearing a turban though, it looks cool.
At the home-stay we eat rotis more than any other type of bread. A roti or chapati is typically made of wheat flour and ghee. The dough can be combined with different greens or types of herbs to create flavor. I love to eat wheat rotis with guava jelly. Sometimes I add peanut butter, making a classic favorite I grew up eating on bread or a tortilla.
Puri and Battura
A puri is flat bread that puffs up from frying. It reminds me of the way corn tortillas puff up when you fry them at too high of a heat. The difference between the corn tortilla and a puri, the puri stays puffed and you can put food in it like pita bread. Sometimes we have puris made with yogurt called batturas. Battura is traditionally eaten with a gravy bean dish. I like the garbanzo bean dish flavored with ginger, called Chole.
Puri Recipe: www.indianfoodforever.com/indian-breads/puri.html
Battura Recipe: See About Video Blurb
Paratha Stuffed parathas are a great snack. They are sort of like a quesadilla with potato or spinach in place of cheese. And instead of salsa or guacamole, we have chutneys and sauces to add flavor. When I eat parathas, I enjoy dipping them in tomato chutney or mint sauce (both of which are in season right now). I’ve had aloo (potato) parathas most often, but I would like to try a palak (spinach) paratha sometime.