Unleavened flat breads are a mainstay in the diet of the peoples of South India. These are customarily made from whole wheat flour (atta) and baked on a hot iron griddle called tava. Other forms of bread are ideal for snacks and appetizers, while others are specially prepared for festivals.
Here are 10 Indian breads you can indulge in the sub-continent:
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- Samosa - a popular vegetarian street food, made from spicy boiled potato stuffing inside a crispy flour dough and served with some flavorful chutney. The patty shell takes a triangular, semilunar or tetrahedral shape. A non-vegetarian variation is stuffed with spicy ground meat (usually lamb), while the sweet version is filled with sweetened reduced milk. Samosas are a perfect companion to a cup of tea.
- Roti - an unleavened flatbread made from atta flour. This staple of Indian tables has a thinner version known as chapati. Commonly served with curry or cooked vegetables and spread with ghee (clarified butter), roti is an accompaniment for many dishes.
- Papadum - Spicy, cracker-like tidbits usually served as appetizers in Indian restaurants. Raw papadum are prepared from black gram bean flour or rice flour with salt and peanut oil added, and resembles semi-transparent plastic, falling to pieces at the slightest touch. But when placed briefly in an oven, it turns opaque, become sturdier and form little bubbles on the surface.
- Paratha - one of the most popular unleavened flat-bread in the county, made by frying whole-wheat flour on a tava. This flat-bread is commonly stuffed with vegetables like boiled potatoes, radishes or paneer, a kind of South Indian cheese. Toppings for paratha include butter spread, chutney, yoghurt, pickles, and thick spicy curry.
- Naan - a thick, leavened flatbread that is baked in a tandoor, or clay oven. It is usually served hot and used to scoop other food.
- Puri - made of atta dough and salt, puri is fried in oil until it puffs up with a light golden color. Frequently served during breakfast, this puffy bread is also a mainstay during special ocassions and religious holidays.
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7. Kulcha - made from maida flour, mashed potatoes and lots of spices, which are rolled into a flat round shape and baked in an oven until it is golden-brown.
8. Malpua â€“ fritters or pancakes served as desserts or snacks. The batter is made from crushed ripe bananas, coconut, flour and milk, and seasoned with cardamoms. The batter is there deep-fried in oil, and the result is dipped in syrup.
9. Puranpoli â€“ a traditional sweet served during auspicious occasions and important festivals. The cover is made from atta or maida while the stuffing is a combination of jaggery and cardamoms. Puranpolis are often dipped in milk that flavored with almonds or pistachio.
10. Gujiyas â€“ a pastry composed of a flour-based cover stuffed with khoa or mawa mixed with assorted dried fruits. Khoa is a milk product made by heating milk until it turns solid. This delicacy is prepared during the festival of Holi.
In India, it is acceptable to use break off pieces of flat bread to gather food and sop-up sauces and curries. While it is important to eat with the right hand only, the left hand may be used to hold the bread while the right tears into it. Use the fingers to tear enough of the bread, fold it and scoop an adequate amount of side dish with it. The best time to eat bread in India are during festivals such as Deepavali and Holi, when delicacies such as malpua, puranpoli and gujiyas are served.