As well as starting to answer one of the most asked questions on planning our trip to India [“What will the kids actually be able to EAT?!”], more so this post serves as a euphoric bucket-list of all of the Indian breads you MUST EAT when travelling to India!
As soon as you land in India and get a taxi or tuk tuk, you will whizz past the busy roads and smaller streets that hum with activity no matter what time of day or night. And, as soon as you adjust to the shock of the chaos and colours and the different sounds and smells, you will start to spot the flat bread carts or dosa trolleys. You will notice the men selling chai next to roti carts, and the women sitting making chapati in stacks that are hundreds high.
QUICKLY, ABOUT INDIA
Capital: New Delhi
Official languages: Hindi, English
Currency: Indian rupee (₹)
Religion: 80% Hinduism, 14% Islam, 2.3% Christianity, 1.7% Sikhism, 0.7% Buddhism, 0.4% Jainism
Bread in India is served as an accompaniment to any meal, and becomes an important utensil in eating where there aren’t otherwise any given. And in actual fact, most Indian breads aren’t actually baked in an oven, but cooked on a stove.
You could start by hunting out Chapati, Phulka, Puri, Roti, Bajra Rotla, Thepla, Paratha, Naan, Kulcha, Bhatoora, Appam, Dosa, Luchi, Puran Poli, Pathiri, or Parotta… BUT, to make navigating those a little easier, I am going to rank our favourite Indian breads and show you what they each look like.
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The bread of ‘happy occasions’! Poori is unleavened, made with whole-wheat dough and deep fried. How good does it sound? And how good does it look?!
One of the most iconic Indian breads. Dosa is actually a specialty of South India but you can find South Indian restaurants in other parts of India too. Dosa is made from a fermented rice and lentil flour batter, and cooked on a huge griddle with ghee or oil. They can be enormous! AND, they can also be stuffed with pretty much any variety of vegetable. I recommend the aloo (potato) masala dosa, but we did also try (more than once) the beetroot dosa…
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Paratha is another flat bread made from roti dough, and brushed with oil or ghee and folded into flaky layers. The outcome is sort of like an Indian equivalent of a croissant; with the outside layers flaky and delicate. [I am fairly sure that Gavin and I ended on some kind of Paratha pilgrimage… Eating our way from South India to Varanasi and on to Jaisalmer via the most delicious breakfast breads we woke up longing for!].
4. ALOO PARATHA
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Still technically the same bread, but I am awarding Aloo Paratha its own well-deserving category. You can eat Paratha plain OR, you can get yourself hooked on a breakfast of Aloo Paratha – and have this croissant-like delicacy stuffed with fried potatoes and served with a curd and relish…
Roti (or chapati) is a simple soft, round flatbread that makes up a staple part of daily diet in India. However, roti is not to be underestimated. It isn’t easy to make as it can be delivered in a variety of thicknesses. The best will be warm and soft and fresh from the stove [and likely your best choice with a full flavoured curry in the absence of utensils!]. Roti is a safe bet from most stalls or restaurants. But I can guarantee no roti will taste better than the one you help to make yourself over a campfire at night in the desert…
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This is another type of rice bread, but is steamed to cook a little bit like a rice cake. The batter is made with fermented black lentils and rice, so not only is it a brilliant choice to mop up sauces, but it’s also good for gut-health reasons.
There’s no denying that Idli has a definite fermented kick to it, but if you’re up for trying it then its best at breakfast time. It’s kind of like a crumpet. It is used to absorb sambar; a spiced vegetable soup flavoured with toasted lentils that it is most commonly served with. A ‘interesting’ one of our 12 Indian breads…
Bathura is a deep-friend leavened bread, so its much heavier and crispier than poori.
This is a bit like a smaller, thicker version of Dosa. Uttapam is traditionally made with toppings such as tomatoes, onion, chillies, capsicum and coriander – kind of like a dosa-pizza?! The kids loved eating plain uttapam. And I’m guessing, as much for the joy of watching it be made as for the rather plain taste!
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I’m giving this one a tick for interest, and we did try it on multiple occasions – perhaps largely because it looks like a donut! It is actually a savoury snack, deep fried and mixed with onions, vegetables and spices. It’s not bad… just not quite as good as some Indian breads!
10. PALAK ROTI
This is a fun-looking Indian bread option to jazz up an otherwise staple meal accompaniment! I hadn’t heard of it before but found it often came with Thali – a selection of mixed dishes served together on a platter. (We had this Thali in Varanasi). Quite literally, a healthy roti made with spinach leaves and wheat flour/atta, most common in North India.
For us, this would be the most well-known of Indian breads that we could get at home. But as you can imagine, nothing compares to trying a warm Naan bread fresh from a tandoor oven while looking out at cows wandering the streets amid the colourful chaos that is Rajasthan.
Naan is traditionally baked inside a very hot clay tandoor oven, with a charcoal or wood fire, so you can just imagine the whiff of Naan cooking whilst looking out at sights like those…
This is a thin crispy Indian cracker or flat bread. It is typically served as an appetizer but can also be eaten as a snack… [It can also be passed off as a pile of ‘chips’ to slightly apprehensive travelling kids who will after that first taste fall happily in love with papadum and never need to be tricked like that again!].
So there you have it – that’s twelve unique breads that made a pretty impressive bread-bucketlist for us when travelling in India this time… but I’d keenly give it a whirl to try and top this list… Maybe a roti-run eating our way across the desert… or a paratha-pilgrimage starting from the East…
How many have you tried?