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An Introduction to Indian Breads

Any non Indian coming to India may get confused looking at the assorted list of Indian breads Menu in the restaurant. India is a land of diversities and that diversity is very well depicted in its food culture that changes at every 50 kms. India is a land of various ethnic groups and communities, where each community has their own type of bread. This article is for the people who literally do not know about all the varieties and variants of Indian breads.

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of Indian breads:

Roti – The most common in all Indian households is this flat bread which is often served with subji and curries. A typical roti is made with wheat flour, water and little bit of salt kneded together to make a soft dough. A small piece of dough (the size of table tennis ball) is then rolled into a round shape and cooked on a flat pan called tawa over a medium-high heat. Different types of wheat flour can be used in the mix – from multi-grain to whole wheat. The bread, however, is not meant to have much flavor itself, since it is eaten in the same bite as subzi.

Paratha – A paratha is a layered flat bread commonly popular in the North Indian region. It is fluffier as compared to Roti and is also made in whole wheat flour. A paratha can be rolled into a triangle, square or a round shape. Since it has layers, it is thicker and heavier than roti. In North India it is served with yogurt or pickle or butter and Tea. A paratha can also be stuffed with vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, radish and also cottage cheese. In Some regions people use a variety of lentil stuffing to make paratha.

Thepla – Thepla is typical to Gujarat. A thepla is a flat bread made of fenugreek leaves and wheat flour. Methi leaves are directly kneaded with the wheat flour and are flavored with a bit of turmeric, red chilli powder and salt. Theplas turn out to be thick and slightly crispy after cooking, so they make a filling snack often served with pickle.

Naan – A Naan is a rare leavened bread in the Indian diet. This refined flour (maida) – based bread isn’t always round like its companions. The Naan dough is kneaded and left for sometime to raise. Then a small piece of dough is then rolled into any shape, including triangles. The thickness of the naan makes it a great accompaniment to runny & gravy based dishes like chicken or paneer tikka masala. Naan can also be flavored with garlic or black pepper for an extra kick. A naan is typically made in Tandoor.

Bhatura – A Bhatura is another leavened Indian bread. It is kneaded like Naan but rolled into a smaller size as compared to Naan. Bhatura is also rolled and made to be thick and is then deep-fried to be crunchy on the outside and fluffy and soft on the inside. It is often served with chana masala or Chhole hence the name of the dish is Chhole bhature.

Bhakri – A Bhakri is a Maharastrian flat bread that is made similarly to a roti. Instead of wheat flour, Bhakri is made with gluten-free millet flour like Jawar and bajra. It tends to be drier and crispier than roti, which makes it great to eat with dals and amtis. Bhakri can not be rolled so it is made by pressing the dough in between your palms or pressing it with your fingers over the rolling base (Chakla).

Puri – Puri is a smaller (a small bowl size) round roti that is deep fried until it is puffy. It is often eaten with dishes like chole – or in Maharashtrian Ganpati celebrations, with sweet yogurt-based shrikhand.

Rumali Roti  – Rumali roti were introduced to India by the Mughals and since then it is popularly associated with Indian Cuisine. Rumali Roti is a derivative of Muglai cuisine, and it is often eaten with Tandoori dishes such as chicken. Named after a handkerchief (“rumal”), it is a long, thin, wheat-based flat bread.  Rumali roti is rolled into a very thin rectangle by mixing the dough with lots of oil, and it is cooked lightly on a griddle to achieve a soft texture.

Makki di Roti – This Punjabi flat bread is similar to a roti in shape and process, but it is made with corn flour instead of wheat flour. Because of this, it has a slightly sweet taste and is drier than a roti. It is commonly eaten with dals and other gravy-like dishes.

Puranpoli – Puranpoli is a stuffed flat bread enjoyed in Maharastrian and Gujarati cuisine. It is made as a stuffed roti, filled with jaggery and gram dal (chana dal). The thick puranpoli is often eaten alone with ghee or dipped in sweetened milk. In some parts of Maharashtra Puran poli is served with amti.

Tandoori Roti – A tandoori roti is similar to Roti. The only difference is that roti is made over a tawa where as a tandoori roti is traditionally cooked in a clay oven or tandoor.