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Your Guide to North Indian Bread

Your Guide to North Indian Bread

Kulcha bread, one type of North Indian bread (photo by Creative Commons user Jasonlam)

Sid Khullar | Chef's Blade

Most often, Indian food is largely perceived as being only curries. While this isn’t strictly true—considering the large amounts of spices and their quantities and types used—it is really quite inevitable, unless one is aware of the cooking styles in this country.

India is a land of abundant cultures and sub cultures, each having their own unique way of cooking, with very little in common between them. Cooking styles vary, and so do tastes, textures and spices used. However, three main spices are common throughout India: turmeric (haldi), salt (namak), and red chilli powder (mirch). Keeping these as a base, Indian cooks create a large variety of dishes by varying add-on spices.

In this article, I’ll introduce some common and not so well known North Indian breads. For the record, the term ‘North India’, from a cultural point of view, includes New Delhi, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, and Rajasthan. Except New Delhi, which is more of a cosmopolitan city-state, all these places have their own distinct food culture and traditions. It is therefore slightly unfair to club them all in a single term when discussing food, but it will have to do for the purpose of this article. North India typically has a multitude of griddle (tava) baked breads made with unleavened dough for the most part. The base dough for most consists of whole meal flour mixed with water and a little salt, the whole of which is then kneaded to a soft pliable consistency. This is then made into different types of breads as below.

Roti or Chapaati

For this bread, a small ball of dough is rolled out flat (about 1 – 2mm) in a circular shape (about 6 inches in diameter), these are dry baked on a hot griddle until splotchy brown and cooked through. The Roti has a few variants which are mentioned below.

Phulka

A very close relative of the Roti, Phulkas are cooked on one side on a griddle and then laid on an open flame, which causes the Roti to puff up, at which point it becomes a phulka. The term ‘phul’ means to puff up or to bloat, hence the derivative Phulka.

Makki Ki Roti

This is a favorite winter time roti made using corn flour (makki ka atta). After making a simple dough with water (and perhaps some grated veggies like radish or carrots) a ball of the dough is pressed down on a piece of cloth or flexible plastic, as the dough is very brittle and doesn’t hang together. When the circle is roti sized, it is flipped over on to a hot griddle and usually served with vegetable pickle or sarson ka saag (mustard greens).

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