Chapatis and Naan: Experiments in Indian Bread-Baking

17 Feb
Image sourced from indianfoodsco.com

Image sourced from indianfoodsco.com

If you’ve ever found yourself in an Indian restaurant (or at the receiving end of some delectable takeout), you’ve inevitably tried some of India’s famous breads. Whether for dipping, scooping, sopping or munching, breads like naan and chapatis are simple and delicious. They’re perfect for stew-type cuisines like Dal or Aloo Gobhi from the Northern part of the country, or Western India’s Dum Aaloo.

But for folks who aren’t as familiar with Indian food — which, like any great world cuisine, can vary depending on its region of origin — you might be asking yourself: What the flibbertigibbet are naan and chapatis? Leave it to GKG for the answer.

Image sourced from kiranshouston.com. Naan, a.k.a. chewy doughy goodness.

Image sourced from kiranshouston.com. Naan, a.k.a. chewy doughy goodness.

Naan is probably the most familiar of Indian breads. Commonly served with Northern Indian dishes like curries, tandoor chicken, and lentil stews, Naan is a flatbread cooked inside a clay oven known as a tandoor. Check out the image below for a better look:

Image sourced from tandoorioven.biz

Image sourced from tandoorioven.biz

For those of us at-home cooks who lack a tandoor onto which we can slap chunks of Naan dough, my online research points to a pizza stone (! Hurrah! I have one of those!) as a solid alternative for Western cooks looking to imitate the blistery, doughy texture that characterizes Naan.

Image sourced from foodnetwork.com

Image sourced from foodnetwork.com

Chapatis (pronounced cha-PAH-tees) are more like the Indian version of flour tortillas. Made often with a blend of white and wheat flour, these puppies are formed into balls from a simple dough, flattened out, and quickly pan-fried in a searing hot pan for 30 seconds on each side. Less fluffy than naan, chapatis are still a great addition to any Indian meal. Plus, we can pretend they’re slightly healthier because of the wheat component. Win.

For those of us home cooks, you can achieve both recipes without breaking too much of a sweat. AllRecipes has a great chapati recipe that’s simple and easy to follow — check it out here!

For other chapati recipes, try these recipes:

Manjula’s Kitchen

Show Me the Curry (best blog name ever? Love it.)

Epicurious

Image sourced from food.com

Image sourced from food.com

For Naan, the methods can be slightly more complicated. For some clear-cut recipes (occasionally with complex seasonings and spices — we ARE discussing Indian food, so that’s kind of par for the course), check out these:

Food Network — this uses a cast iron skillet, so if you’ve got one at home, try it out!

Rasa Malaysia — more manageable spices, but also uses the skillet method.

The New York Times — this offers pizza stone and grilling options, as well as baking with a traditional Tandoor oven.

What are your experiences with eating Naan, Chapatis, and other Indian flatbreads? Have you ever made other recipes (pizza, for example, or wraps) using Naan or a different Indian bread? Ever tried to make your own? How did it go? Share away!

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