The Essential Guide to Indian Breads

September 27, 2014 - by Shriya

Indian food is often incorrectly assumed to be all "curry" - but it is true that many Indian dishes are based in a paste or gravy and need to be consumed with a bread. The breads used in Indian cuisine aren't your typical, yeast-risen loaves, as they tend to be flatbreads cooked over an open stove. Nonetheless, they make a handy and delicious accompaniment to Indian dishes.

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

Roti

Roti is the common flatbread served with any subzi. It is made with wheat flour, water, and salt, rolled into a round shape and cooked over a medium-high heat. Different types of wheat flour can be used in the mix - from multigrain 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

Paratha is a layered, flatbread that hails from North India. It is fluffier than the roti, but also made of wheat flour and rolled into a round shape. Since it is made of layers of wheat flour mix, it is thicker than roti and can be eaten alone with yogurt or pickle. Parathas can also be filled with other vegetables or spices - such as aloo parathas (filled with potato).

Thepla

The Gujarati thepla is a flatbread made of fenugreek leaves and wheat flour. The methi leaves are mixed directly into the dough. Theplas turn out to be thick and slightly crispy after cooking, so they make a filling snack often served with pickle.

Naan

Naan is a rare leavened bread in the Indian diet. This flour-based bread isn't always round like its companions - it can be kneaded into any shape, including triangles. The thickness of the naan makes it a great accompaniment to runny dishes like chicken or paneer tikka masala.

Naan can also be flavored with garlic or black pepper for an extra kick.

Bhatura

Bhatura is another leavened Indian bread. Like naan, it is kneaded instead of rolled and made to be thick. Bhatura is deep-fried to be crunchy on the outside and fluffy and soft on the inside. It is often served with chana masala.

Bhakri

Bhakri is a Maharastrian flatbread that is made similarly to a roti - rolled into a round shape. However, instead of wheat flour, it is made with gluten-free millet flour. It tends to be drier and crispier than roti, which makes it great to eat with dals and amtis.

Puri

Puri is a smaller, round roti that is deep fried until it is puffy. It is often eaten with dishes like chole - or in Maharastrian Ganpati celebrations, with sweet yogurt-based shrikhand.

Rumali Roti

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 flatbread.  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 flatbread 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 sweet-filled flatbread enjoyed in Maharastrian and Gujarati cuisine. It is made as a stuffed roti, filled with jaggery and gram dal. The thick puranpoli is often eaten alone with ghee or dipped in sweetened milk.

What are your favorite Indian flatbreads?

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