Monday, November 26, 2007

Not Just Parathas

NaanDuring childhood days in Mysore, I rarely ate out. Food was always freshly cooked at home and served hot. While lunch consisted of rice with meat or fish curry, dinner almost always consisted of chapatis that were served with dal and subzi (vegetable dishes). On special occasions, we would have pooris or parathas.

On those very rare occasions when we did eat out, it would be dosas at the popular Dasaprakash hotel.

ChapatiChapatis are the most popular Indian bread made at home, followed by parathas and pooris. Chapatis (also called roti or phulka) make no use of oil, unlike prarathas and pooris. Note: Picture of Naan by mind2mind2mind, and Chapati by Aaplemint.

Rice has been the staple for those who lived in the Coastal regions of India, while North Indians traditionally ate wheat-based breads. Now-a-days people tend to eat a little of both at home.

Chole BhatureIt was only when I began travelling and eating out that I realized there were an infinite variety of breads waiting to be discovered in India. Saturdays in Allahabad were special: almost always a movie with friends followed by dinner at the Civil Lines area. That's where I first tasted Chole Bhature. Made from refined flour like pooris, but more chewy and with a slight sour taste, they were awesome with the delicious chickpeas-based chole served with onion rings and fesh mint chutney. And very popular as one could see by the crowds waiting to be seated.

Mooli ParathasIn Dehradun, I would walk down to the Paltan Bazaar shopping area in cold winter evenings for some culinary indulgence. I discovered another new Indian bread here, the Missi Roti, made with besan. Oh what a delight it was polishing off curried eggs and paneer-matar on those foggy evenings.

Naans, Tandoori Rotis, Missi Rotis, Roomali Rotis, Laccha Parathas...I loved them all and knew where to find the best in the winding gullis of Lucknow. Usually always with a bowl of dal and kababs! And of course, Makke Ki Roti and Sarson Ka Saag (bread made of corn-flour with mustard greens usually served with a dollop of home-made butter) which is a speciality of Punjab during the winter months.

AppamI was now pretty certain I had gone through the gamut of Indian breads. Until I discovered the Taftan and the Sheermal. Unless you visit Kashmir, these breads are difficult to find in most parts of India. However, if you are in Delhi, I recommend The Great Kabab Factory at the Radission for a taste of these exotic Indian breads along with some mouth-watering kababs.

And finally in Pune I had my first Appam and Neer Dosas which are quite the staple in Konkan restaurants. An appam is just perfect to polish off spicy gassi, a hot-and-spicy gravy made with different meats (chicken, fish or prawns). Neer Dosas are very different from the regular dosas; there are very thin, very moist, and they melt in your mouth.

More AppamsNote: Pictures of Chole Bhature by Mayank Agrawal, Poori by Mad Tea Party, Mooli Parathas by Holy Jalapeno, Appam by Claire Forster and smruthy, Kachori by Sunday Night Dinner, Bhakri by evolvingcolor, Sheermal by richdrogpa, and Taftan by Zak.

But there is so much more to Indian breads. Here are excerpts form the Hindu BusinessLine last year:

You've heard of plebeian Indian breads like the roti, naan and kulcha, of course. But ever sunk your teeth into the spectacular Agra Ka Paratha? This leviathan of a bread is left to sizzle on a 40-kg griddle till it turns a flaky gossamer gold, making the air redolent with its delicious aroma.

Pooris. Click for recipe.Then there's Nawab Wajid Ali's spectacular multi-tiered Jalebi Paratha with its secret 200-year-old recipe! The Lifafa Paratha — shaped like an envelope with a pocket — is famous in Amritsar, while the pistachio-flecked Gauzban from Awadh — resembling a cow's tongue — is another epicurean delight.

Not to mention the 10-kg Halwa Paratha, which travels with the Nauchandi Mela across Uttar Pradesh and is served with halwa as an accompaniment.

"Indian cuisine is as diverse as its people and geography," says Radisson's Chef Arun Tyagi, who travelled and researched for the festival for three months. "We have been tracing the culinary journey of the humble bread from Hyderabad (with its linkage to West Asia) to the Vijayanagar Empire and its roots in the Telangana, the mighty Mughals and the aristocratic Nawabs of Avadh to the legendary kitchen of Punjab."

Kachoris"When I was travelling across Banaras, for instance, I came across a street called `Kachori ki Gali'! Now how many Indians know that such a street exists in our country?"

Being a multi-faceted country — textured with a variety of colours, cultures, festivals and languages — Tyagi feels Indian breads too possess an astounding multi-dimensionality. But interestingly, while the recipes of Indian curries — Mughlai, Awadhi, and even Rajasthani — have been documented, the breads' recipes have been passed down purely by word of mouth. And hence, the shroud of mystery that envelopes their provenance. In an evening drenched with culinary history, and plenty of food for thought, we partook of some amazing Indian breads with accompaniments like the flavour-charged murgh kalimirch tikka, the melt-in-the-mouth dorra kebabs, machli ajwaini and kofta naram dil.
Other exotic Indian breads worth a mention:

TaftanLal Roti: A Delhi speciality, this bread gets its name from its reddish-brown hue. A sweet, leavened bread, lal roti is also referred to as the sheermal, as it is akin to the bread of the same moniker available in Lucknow and Mehmoodabad.

Agra ka Paratha: The Agra ka Paratha is rarely known outside of Agra. Made in dome-shaped, gargantuan griddles, the bread was presumably discovered by Rambabu of Agra. It uses a gram-wheat-flour combo with a variety of fillings to give it a unique taste. Rambabu Paratha Bhandar in Agra, set up almost a century ago, continues to delight customers with this wonderful bread and even exports it.

Kachori: Banares is renowned for its jalebis and kachoris. The Kachori ki Gali here produces some of the most scrumptious kachoris in the world. Fennel and dhal-flavoured, potato-stuffed or paneer-filled, the result is pure manna.

Double Puri: A unique bread made in Amritsar, this is a double-tiered puri, a wonderful innovation by the city's Kanha restaurant. It is said that such huge crowds throng this eatery for breakfast every morning that in two hours flat the kitchen empties out its produce and shuts shop!

BhakriBhakri: Maharashtrian cuisine has some wonderful influences from south and central India. One of the most wonderful dishes of Maharashtra is the Bakri-keema from Kolhapur. A bread made from millet, the bakri teams wonderfully well with the fiery Kolhapuri keema. Update: Check this post for the recipe of the bhakri-pthale sandwich shown alongside.

Pathri: This exquisite bread from the Mopla community of Kerala is made of rice flour, rolled out like a phulka and smeared with coconut milk and saunf before serving. The sweetness of the coconut milk and fennel give it a wonderful taste.

Mawa Kachori: It is a tradition in Jodhpur that you begin each meal with a sweetmeat. You can't escape from the city's sweet hospitality or Mithi Manuhar as it's called. Mave ki Kachori, Besan ki Chaaki and Maakhan Vade are some of Jodhpur's renowned sweet bread offerings.

SheermalChowringhee Mughalai Paratha: The Mughalai Paratha, sold on Kolkata's Chowringhee Road, has imbibed influences from North India. A bread made of refined flour that is dipped in egg and fried, this paratha is a meal in itself and is sold at special roadside eateries.

Mandwa Ki Roti: Mandwa is a grain grown in the Himalayan regions of Garhwal, Himachal Pradesh, and Nepal. This plant requires no water to grow and does not get infected for years. A heat-generating grain, its rotis are ideal for the hilly regions and is eaten after being smeared with ghee and sugar.

Gauhat ka Paratha: Gauhat, a lentil grown in the mountains of Garhwal, is boiled and mixed with chopped onions, coriander and green chillies. This concoction is then stuffed in a Mandwa-flour dough, rolled out and cooked slowly on a tawa.

Kashmiri BreadsAnd finally Kashmir where you can try breads such as Sheermal and Baqerkhani, without which no Kashmiri breakfast is complete. Kashmiris use a variety of breads seldom seen elsewhere. Tsot and tsochvoru are small round breads, topped with poppy and sesame seeds and traditionally washed down with salt tea. Lavas is a cream coloured unleavened bread; baqerkhani is the Kashmiri equivalent of rough puff pastry and kulcha is a melt-in-the mouth variety of short-bread, sweet or savoury, topped with poppy seeds.

And so, dear readers, if you thought only the French have variety in their bread, think again! :-)

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Anonymous said...

Bravo!! pics look yummy. I could eat them all

bincy said...

Appam is huge in Kerala too

Unknown said...

Gosh, by the time I finished reading last of this post, I had saliva dripping all over the floor. It must be very difficult to research and source all those photographs

foodette said...

Wow, I never knew that there were so many types of bread in India. I am only familiar with Naan, which I absolutely love. Reading this made me crave the Clay Pit, a great Indian restaurant near my apartment...I think I will definitely go this week!

Sank said...

Wow, fantastic research and photos. Makes me hungry.

Anonymous said...

@anon: Thank you!

@bincy: Yes it is. All of the Konkan coast from Kerala to Goa loves Appams.

@vishal: Ha, ha! Go get something to eat quick. Remember some of the credit is due to those who took these excellent photos; do visit the links provided.

@foodette: That is true of many Indians too; we don't always get an opportunity to try all the variety since they aren't available everywhere.

@sank: :-)

Mahesh Narkar said...

Your detailed research, and the lovely pictures on this post make me want to run to the nearest Paratha shop for a fix.
Excellent post.. a great follow up to the biryani post.

Your blog is becoming THE destination for me for all things food.


Anonymous said...

wow! that was indeed mouth watering especially the Agra ka paratha. However, one is reminded of Salman Rushdie who said, "East is east but yeast is west"- unless you count idlis and appams as bread..

Anil P said...

Keep it coming, Shantanu, this was a well written piece.

Appam reminds me of my Kerela trip, melted in my mouth. Your pic rewound my memories to that day.

Would be nice to read more India pieces from your stable.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. Enjoyed reading it, except for a couple of minor errors:

1) A sweet bread (more commonly referred to as a dessert bread) is not the same as a sweetbread. Sweetbreads are the cooked pancreas and thymus glands of animals (usually calves or hogs).

2) The street in Calcutta is called Chowringhee. The Mughlai Paratha is not endemic to Chowringhee, though; it is easily found across most of east India, though it is very much a Bengali creation.

Anonymous said...

@mahesh: Thank you! Glad to be of help :-)

@revathi: Ha, ha. I like that!

@anil p: Unfortunately, I haven't visited Kerala yet. Hope to rectify that sometime soon. So many places, and so little time. :-)

@zrs: Thank you for pointing out the distinction (sweeetbread); Re: Chowringhee, for some reason, I have always spelt it the wrong way until you pointed it out now. I will make the changes.

Anonymous said...

Hey there! What a lovely post, the part written by you, that is. The link to the original article in Hindu Businessline, from which you have quoted extensively, was very helpful. Thank you!

I do have a quibble. I recognize many of these pictures from fellow bloggers' accounts on Flickr. I know that you have given due credit to each person but most of those pictures clearly state "All Rights Reserved". In such a case, it is usually a good idea to send a Flickrmail asking for permission to use the image and in most cases, people say yes - at least that has been my experience. Also, you are skirting the Flickr guidelines which state:

Flickr Community Guidelines specify that if you post a Flickr photo on an external website, the photo must link back to its photo page.

Your response to the first comment was also quite interesting. It almost makes it appear as though the pictures were taken by you and are yours.

When you travel so much and obviously wine and dine, why not take your own pictures and post them? Just a thought, of course.

Anonymous said...

@manisha: Thank you for educating me on the protocol for linking to Flickr pics. While I take my own pics for most of the posts where I am discussing a recent experience, for posts such as the current one, I borrow pics and link back from the posts. I have now linked the pics backs too (in addition to the text links I had provided earlier from the credits). Also, I will send a Flickrmail like you suggested.

Anonymous said...

Hey! That was really quick! I am sure you will get a positive response from the Flickrites.

And thank you for your visit to and comment on my blog!

Anonymous said...

Shantanu as always, detailed and delightful and mouth watering.. Should I say how much I envy you your food access? The Indian restaurant experience in Omaha is pathetic to say the least.. Didnt know you were close by in Mysore.. And the appam and neer dosa sound Mangalorean...

Anonymous said...

Wah! Mooh mein paani aa gaya and I haven't even read the post yet!

Anonymous said...

@lakshmi: It's been a long time since I saw you here! I was in Mysore for a fairly long time, but that was a long time ago. I am in Pune now. It's easy to get good Konkan food here.

@ideasmith: More credit to the photos I sourced. Click them to go to the sources.

evolvingtastes said...

Hi Shantanu, wonderful article! I am quite pleased to see one of my photographs linked here, and especially for asking my permission to do so.

Now I see that Manisha is the one who led you on to do that and I appreciate that too. She is ever the vigilant one.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the food looks so awesome!

I love dal and a bunch of other stuff, but I must admit I'm still very new to Indian cuisine. Learning fast though! :D

Lakshmi said...

Lovely and discovery of tastes are such an integral part of growig up ..Whe we were kids, chapathis and puris with chole or just a simple sabzi (read-tomato and onion and sometimes potato) used to be a diner treat if we behaved ourselves .

Shantanu said...

@evolvingtastes: Welcome to my blog!

@zhu: Indian cuisine should be easy to come by in Canada, but I am not sure if you will find everything described in this post there.

@backpakker: I remember those days too. :-)

Pooja Deshmukh said...

read yr post in d morning and just cudnt resist eating paratha this noon :)
Keep posting :)

Anonymous said...

@pooja: LOL! I hope you enjoyed your paratha. :-)

Supremus said...

Oh Jeez, I am hungry now!


Nothing left out.

Anonymous said...

@supremus: Go get a paratha :-)

@harekrishnaji: I am sure there must be some that I have left out!

Anonymous said...

Wow what a post ..feeling hungry again :)
Not to forget
- amritsari parathe
- khameer roti
- ulate tave ki roti
- sattu ka paratha ( a very typical bihari dish)
- namkeen roti (roti with onions;kalonji,ajwaine)
- the south indian akki roti (rice flour roti)
- raagi roti
- the marathi style jawari roti
- the green grain bajari roti
- thepale

the list goes on and on :)

Anonymous said...

@sunshine: Wow, that's an impressive list of bread I left out. Thanks! :-)

Bombay Addict said...

I know I'm late in saying this, Shantanu, but this was a superb post. Really great stuff. And of course yummy too. You should add a disclaimer - this post will drive you to your nearest paraathe-waali galli!

Anonymous said...

@bombay addict: It's never too late. Thanks! :-)

Gally said...

Oh your posting of the many different breads makes me want to visit India now! I absolutely love bread, and Indian varieties are some of the best.

Anonymous said...

@gally: Welcome here! :-)

CAO- Chef Azura othman said...

I am looking at this pictures and story so excitedly,Me and my little brother really love ,naan, puree, chappatti and pharata(in malaysia its called Roti canai)I wish I could make it by myself!

Anonymous said...

@azazura: Yeah, I only recently realized that Malaysians have Roti too!

Anonymous said...

The kachori is not the one available in benaras(i'm babarsi livin in mumbai). The one shown here is available in MuM sweetshops as Punjabi Kachori, it is probly gujju lilva kachori though. The kachori gali is mainly (i'm talking about locals)visited by those who go to ghats for cremation. People come from far of places , neigbouring districts etc. for last rites in KASHI. after creamation the tired blokes get their tummies stuffed in kachori gali. Seems like one of the paradoxes one of oldest city and culture in the world .

Anonymous said...

i dont think it is right to put photos without linking upto the source. scroll to the end of the page!
she seemto have specifically made a request not steel the photo and you precisely did that.


Anonymous said...

@Anon/s: Not sure what you mean. The picture of the parathas is linked back to the Flickr account of the photographer. And I do remember sending a Flickr mail to the author. Please click on the picture to go to the author's page.

Blah said...

And to think that I'd traveled across the length and breadth of India! You've done superb work in detailing all this, and I'm really starting to salivate.
Was in Kashmir for quite some time on an Army project, but was unable to step out into the city due to security reasons, and we had to make to with the officer's mess food.
Definately going to hit the foodie streets in Jammy and Srinagar when I head there next year on my trusty old Bullet!
Cheers, and keep the food coming...err, or was it posts? ;)

Shantanu said...

@Abhishek (urf Hackatac!): Thank you! I do hope the situation in Kashmir gets normal enough to plan a family vacation. I love their food, which is best sampled in the cool weather of the Himalayan foothills.

Unknown said...

Wow! Lip Smacking..
Another variety worth mentioning is the AMBOLI from Konkan..Its a Malvani variety of bhakari made from rice and slightly fermented like appam..Goes well with fish preparations of Malvan..

Seafood restaurants like Nisarg and Konkan Express in Pune serve Amboli.

Generous thief said...

What an awesome blog post.Of course, this has resulted in me getting restless sitting here in my office. but really, awesome stuff.. pics were crazy good too..

i commend u on the research you've done. then again, doin research like this is totally worth it.


Raju said...


This article has widened our knowledge of the variety of breads in India as you concluded that French alone cannot claim all credits.

About 'Appams' its origins are not in Karnataka. it is basically a Kerala Christian bread in origin like 'Pathri' of the Mappilla's of Kerala.

KS said...

Wow! I'm incredibly impressed by this post. One to refer back toe every time I travel, for sure :)

Shantanu said...

@razorbuzz, @generous thief, @Rahu, @KS: Thanks guys!

Shantanu said...

@razorbuzz, @generous thief, @Rahu, @KS: Thanks guys!