A Guide to Popular Indian Breads

Bread is an important part of all global cuisines. Be it the Italian Pizza base, the middle eastern pita, the french baguettes, Mexican tortillas or more, breads find mention in every type of cuisine. However, in India, traditional breads are a very important part of the cuisine. Without these, an Indian meal isn’t complete.

In India, flatbreads have been traditionally accompanied with curries. In fact, if you go to any Indian restaurant in Melbourne, you will find a huge bread menu. The most interesting part is that all these originate from different parts of the subcontinent. Therefore, the methods using which these are prepared also vary, leading to distinctive flavours and textures. Apart from this, for health conscious individuals, there are many breads that are prepared gluten free.

While the actual list of Indian breads is endless, given below are a few popular varieties. These are as follows.

1. Roti/ Chapati

If there is one bread whose name is synonymous with Indian cuisine, it is the famous Roti. It is that traditional bread that finds its first mentions in the religious Indian text, Ramcharitmanas which dates back to 1600 AD. However, here instead of a flat round, Tulsidas describes the shape  as being similar to a bowl (Katori).

This flatbread is made by kneading whole wheat flour, oil, water and salt in order to form a dough. This dough is then rolled into a ball and flattened into a circle using hand or a rolling pin. The variety that is thinner and is cooked on a pan is called chapati while the one that is thicker and is made in a tandoor is called roti. The main significance of this bread lies in the fact that it can be paired with almost anything.

2. Naan

Naan is a persian word that essentially means bread. It is believed to have been introduced to the Indian subcontinent by Persian traders and Mughal kings. Its mention has been found in renowned Indo-Persian poet, Amir Khusrau’s notes dating back to 1300 AD.

Naan is a thick flatbread, leavened using yeast or baking powder. Its main ingredients include refined flour, curd, oil and salt. The dough is thoroughly kneaded, so that it becomes soft and stretchy. This is then rolled into a elongated oval or a round (like that of a roti) and is grilled in a Tandoor (Ancient Indian wood-fired oven). This pillowy bread is then covered with a huge helping of butter.

Naan is majorly consumed with rich meaty curries. It can also be paired with vegetarian gravies. Moreover, in today’s age, several innovative varieties such as Hariyali naan (naan decorated with herbs), cheese naan (naan oozing with cheese), garlic naan (naan flavoured with roasted garlic) and more have emerged.

3. Paratha

Just like roti, Paratha also finds its mention in Indian texts. It has been mentioned in the 12th century Sanskrit encyclopedia, Manasollasa that was compiled by Karnataka’s ruler King Someshvara III. The word is a combination of parat and atta which translate into layers of cooked dough.

Paratha is a flaky bread that is made by a technique of folding the dough and shallow frying it over a pan. Just like rotis, it is made using whole wheat flour. In Punjab, famous varieties include the crispy Amritsari paratha and layered lachha paratha. A number of stuffed variations like aloo (potato) paratha, gobi (cabbage) paratha and more have also found their origins in the north. In the South, this bread is made using refined flour and is referred to as Parotta. In addition, while in the north it is consumed with curd, pickles or vegetable curries, in the South it is paired with meaty kormas.

4. Poori

The word poori basically means complete. It is prepared as per the vedic philosophy of Pakka Khana which describes everything that is covered in ghee (clarified butter).

The dough of Poori is similar to that of a roti. The only difference is that it is deep fried till it inflates into a golden ball. Certain varieties are more crispy and are used in chaats and such. A refined flour variety is used in Bengal and is referred to as Luchi.

A poori can be accompanied with vegetarian varieties like Chole (chickpea curry), aloo bhaji or daal.

5. Bhakhri

Instead of wheat flour, a Bhakhari can also be made using gluten-free jowar, millets, bajra or ragi flour. Even if it is made using what flour, it is generally coarser than the variety used for rotis.

Bhakhri is essentially a part of Maharashtrian, Gujarati and Goan cuisine. It is found in two varieties, a thick roti that is puffed up and smeared with ghee or a biscuit-like bread that is pressed and cooked thoroughly on a pan.

6. Dosa

Dosa is the South Indian variant of Roti. This is a part of the daily diet of South Indians.

A dosa is essentially rice pancakes. These are prepared by churning gram and rice into a smooth paste. The paste is then poured over a tawa (pan) and cooked till crisp like traditional pancakes. The difference however is that dosas are savoury and are served along with a coconut chutney and Sambar. It can also be accompanied with a dry potato curry known as masala.

7. Bajri Na Rotla

Bajri Na Rotla is a gluten free flatbread that is native to Gujarat. As the name suggests, the dough is made of Bajra rolled into a flat round dough, roasted over an open flame until spots appear. The slow cooking technique leads to the inherent smokey flavour.

Bajra rotla is thicker than a roti and is a brownish green in colour. It is traditionally smeared in homemade butter and paired with garlic chutney and jaggery.

8. Kulcha

Kulcha was popularised by the Nizams of Hyderabad. It was once the symbol of the Asaf Jahi dynasty and had also been a part of the Hyderabadi flag during the time when they were in power.

Kulchas are essentially like Naans prepared on a tawa (pan). These are available in a wide number of stuffed varieties and are usually paired with vegetarian gravies, pickles and such. The modern kulchas are sometimes baked into a fluffy bread which is largely found in bakeries.

While this bread has been adopted in North Indian street food, Kashmiris savour it in a distinctive, salty, biscuit-like form.

9. Bhature

Bhature is another Indian bread that is native to Punjab. It is essentially a combination of naan and puri. The preparation of the leavened dough is exactly like that of a naan. However, it is fried in oil, just like a poori and resembles the golden fried bread completely.

The one thing that distinguishes Bhature from Puri is the softer texture and the tinge of sourness owing to the curd in the dough. This delicacy is usually paired with Chole (chickpea curry), fried green chilli, pickle and onions.

10. Pav

The Pav bread was introduced to India by the Portugese. This fluffy bread is similar in texture to that of dinner rolls. However, these are softer than traditional dinner rolls. Highly adopted in street food across the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, the Pav bread is also known as Ladi Pav owing to its slab structure. It is the closest variety to the British white bread.

Pav can be grilled in butter over tawas and served with a Bhaji (combination of vegetable and Indian spice) or can be stuffed with a fried potato vada (fritter) to form vada pav. In modern times, it is also stuffed with chicken, egg, samosas or more. In Gujarat, a round dabeli bun which is a softer variation of the authentic Pav is stuffed with a sweetened potato, peanut and pomegranate mixture to form the famous Kachhi Dabeli.

11. Chilla

A chilla is also called a vegetarian omelet owing to its similar look and texture. These are pancakes formed using a gram flour based batter and chopped vegetables.

Some versions are also made using rice flour, semolina or a mixture of different grains. At times, these are rolled with cheese, potato or other such ingredients in the middle, just like omelette with filling.

12. Bati

A Bati is native to Rajasthan. It consists of boiled dough balls that are then baked in a tandoor to make these crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. These balls are eaten after being crushed in panchmel dal (dal made of 5 types of pulses). Sometimes, onions and garlic chutney are also combined with the mixture.

If you are looking to try these scrumptious Indian breads, visit Lala’s Kitchen. We are the best Indian restaurant in Melbourne serving authentic flavours on your plate.

Furthermore, we also provide Indian catering services in Melbourne that cover regional Indian food.

For more details, call us today.