Indian vegetarian recipes are incomplete without talk of the staple food: the bread. Indian breads are the most nutritious around the world. Unleavened wheat dough, rolled out into thin diskettes, cooked on a flat cast iron griddle called tava and puffed to perfection form the ever popular phulka – that is the “puffed” one. Also called chapatiand roti in certain regions of the country, this bread is used not only as an accompaniment but also as a utensil. Imagine a typical Indian meal without roti? Or its other versions: paranthas or puris? Northern regions of the country boast of abundant harvests of golden wheat as also wonderful variations of wheat dough and refined flour. In fact now that the world is awakening to the nutritious and fibre rich ‘brown’ bread we can proudly say that Indians have the best ‘brown’ bread that is the roti!
The first leavened bread was made in ancient Egypt, where the basic loaf was made of wheat or barley flour with the additions of mashed dates or honey for the wealthier. As India has been under the influence of many rulers it were the Persians that left behind the legacy of leavened bread. One of the few traditional leavened breads you will find in India is naan, which is also eaten in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. There are many different versions of naan: some contain yeast, some baking powder, some bicarbonate of soda and others a mixture. Some contain eggs and some milk. The contemporary variations use stuffing of keema which takes it out of the category ofIndian vegetarian recipes! Naan is found only in the north of India where it is baked in the dome shaped clay tandoors which too have been left behind by the Muslims rulers. Later, the Europeans (British, Dutch, Portuguese and French) introduced their own yeast breads. The Indians called them dubble roti, which means double bread and served them with spiced dishes that had rich sauces in need of mopping up. Chapati is the first Indian bread to be made popular in the west by Indian restaurants.
As we continue the journey of the Indian bread basket being a major component ofIndian veg recipe collection let us try out some different breads this weekend. Bajre ke roti with raw banana stuffing, Bayee missi roti, Khasta roti.