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9 Authentic Indian breads you need to try

9 Authentic Indian breads you need to try

Indian breads complete any curry dish, or they taste great on their own for breakfast or a savoury snack. From naans to dosas, try these authentic flatbreads

Indian cuisine varies from state to state, as do the breads that come from each. What’s common between them is that they are all delicious.

Best served piping hot, these breads are meant to be eaten with your hands. Tear off bite-sized pieces and use them to scoop up what’s on your plate or wrap them around what you’re eating.

Be they pancake-thick or paper-thin, fried, roasted or toasted, there’s a flatbread for every palate.

Naan

Plate of stacked naan breadNaan can be given extra flavour with yoghurt, garlic or butter

This isn’t your grandma we’re talking about; it’s naan, pronounced with an emphasis on the “aa”.

The fluffy flatbread, with the shape of a teardrop and the feel of a cushion, hails from the state of Punjab and the northern regions of the country.

Made from wheat dough, it’s slapped against the inside of a tandoor (a drum-like cylindrical clay oven) and brushed with lashings of butter. Savour it with heavy daals (lentils), gravies, butter chicken and tikkas (chunks of meat, veg or cottage cheese).

Granny, you’re safe!

Roti

Stacked roti bread pieces on patterned wooden trayTraditional rotis only need two ingredients, atta flour and water, so are relatively straightforward to make at home

Gone are the days when an Indian girl was deemed marriageable only if she could roll out the perfect roti. Phew. Seriously, though, getting the flawless round shape is still an enviable secret.

Made of ground atta (whole wheat flour), rotis aren’t time-consuming to prepare, but harden quickly, which is why most households eat them fresh off the stove. Roti goes well with just about anything, but try a dollop of pickle or chutney.

Bhakri

Bhakri bread being cooked on gas hobBhakri is a biscuit-like bread that is popular in Gujarati and Maharashtrian cuisine

Popular along the west coast of India, this was traditionally farmer’s food, made hard to serve as a sort of plate in the outdoors.

Bhakri is thick and coarse, considered roti’s healthier cousin, seeing as it’s made from multiple grains such as jowar (sorghum), ragi (finger millet) and bajra (pearl millet)—all great if you are diabetic or going gluten-free.

Some add a generous amount of jaggery to sweeten the taste. Usually eaten with cooked veggies or raw onion and chillies. 

Thepla

Pan with stacked methi thepla bread  neMethi thepla is another Gujurati favourite that is perfect for taking on long journeys 

Predominantly a staple of Gujaratis, a commercial community from western India, these flavourful thin delights are made with wheat flour, gram flour or millet flour.

A favourite is the methi thepla, which contains fenugreek leaves cleverly rolled into the dough. These are are said to increase lactating mothers’ milk production and also prove a good way to sneak in veggies on the sly.

When vacuum-packed, they have a long shelf life, which is why they find their way into luggage when travelling abroad.   

Paratha

Pieces of paratha bread scattered with chopped chillis and served with bowl of yoghurtParatha bread can be served plain on its own or stuffed with potatoes or vegetables

After getting a bad rap for being unhealthy, this fat and fab flatbread has a new incarnation with less sinful fillings (think beetroot and carrot instead of paneer and potatoes) and a dialled down amount of ghee (clarified butter).

A daily staple in Punjab and the north, the golden-brown paratha is a breakfast item by itself. If you’re a non-vegetarian, chicken or kheema-stuffed parathas are great options for you.

Of course, it’s difficult to stop at just one. Wash them down with a glass of cold lassi (buttermilk).

Parotta

Plate of parotta bread served with bowl of chicken curryParotta bread is a popular street food that can be torn easily with your hands

While rice is a staple of South India, parotta certainly has a place at the table. In a well-made bake, you can peel away the lace-like layers, which explains why this silken flatbread is called a “flaky ribbon pancake”.

Savour each bite with kebabs, gravies, yoghurt preparations and veg dishes.

Puri

Deep fried coconut puri bread piecesCredit: Shaharbano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Puri is a deep-fried bread that can be served sweet or savoury 

With a puri, it’s love at first bite. These puffy, golden, deep-fried treats are restricted by dieticians but difficult to resist.

During mango season (summer), they’re served as an accompaniment to aam ras (mango puree). In the cold months, they go well with thick potato gravies and undhiyu, a sort of vegetable casserole.

At any time of year, they’re eaten with potatoes, assorted veg dishes and even a sweet dish called shrikhand

Dosa

Rolled up dosa bread on plate served with plates of Indian curries and riceA dosa is a thin Indian crepe-like pancake that can be rolled around potatoes, masala curry or vegetables

The supreme South Indian speciality is dosa, a long tube of fermented rice and lentil flour batter, cooked thin and flat on a giant griddle and then rolled.

Outside practically every college or office in the country stands a dosawala, its portable griddle glistening with butter.

The dosa can be eaten plain or stuffed with various fillings (“masala” being one of the most popular) and is accompanied with coconut chutney and sambar.    

Roomali roti

Rumali roti being cooked on hot stove Credit: Nadir Hashmi, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr. Rumali roti is another thin bread that is commonly eaten with tandoori dishes

The word roomal means handkerchief and, just like its namesake, this flatbread is soft, thin and folded. It’s usually made with flour, milk and salt and is served slightly moist so that it doesn’t become stiff and chewy.

Want restaurant-style roomali roti at home? You’ll need to perfect the art of tossing it somewhat like a pizza chef does. Keep in mind its thinness if you’re using it to lift heavy meats and curries.

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