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A Guide to the Breads of India (luckypeach.com)
311 points by Petiver 141 days ago | hide | past | web | 152 comments | favorite

Nice writeup, but calling Dosa, Appam and Iddiappam "Breads" is more than a stretch. None of these 3 have the major ingredients of what makes a bread. And it's missing the most important Indian bread - the Naan (despite the tagline saying "go beyond the Naan").

1) Dosa - Crepe made from fermented lentil & rice paste

2) Appam - Rice pancake

3) Iddiappam - Steamed rice noodles.

None of these are anywhere close to the traditional Bread as we know them.

Only if you believe that there is a canonical definition of bread, which refers to the things made out of wheat flour, whose only acceptable meaning is what the western hemisphere thinks of as bread.

Dosa, Appam, and Idiappam are breads, even though even in South India, if you ask for "bread" from your local grocer, they'd give you sliced loaves. We use the word bread to refer to these other staple breakfast dishes in an anglicized context, because it maps better than any other word to the meaning we want to convey. Which is why restaurant menus categorizes them under "Indian Breads", and if you accept that language is mutable and responds to how people use it, this is as good an alternative meaning as it can get.

> canonical definition of bread.

Love it! Spoken like a true engineer :)

The process of Baking is what makes a Bread a bread. If it's not baked in an oven, it's not Bread. I didn't make that up, that what has defined a Bread since the beginning of time :)

Dosa is fried on a stovetop pan. Appam is cooked on a stovetop pan. Iddiappam is steamed on stovetop using water. None of these are baked at any time in the process.

The process of baking is almost definitely not what makes a bread a bread. We had breads long before we had ovens, and we have things that are indisputably breads today that aren't cooked inside ovens. Even today, we can readily cook breads that are typically cooked in an oven over a suitably large open fire or uncovered grill.

A bread is a solid stable foam created by heating a dough made primarily of milled plant matter and water. There are no breads that aren't foams, and there are no breads I'm aware of that made primarily of something that isn't plant matter or that hasn't been crushed or otherwise processed to create a homogenous dough with a water-based liquid.

> A bread is a solid stable foam .... There are no breads that aren't foams

So Matzo is what? It's unquestionably bread, yet is not a foam.

And your definition is too broad - what about a pancake?

Help me understand why you believe Matzo isn't a culinary foam. Foams aren't created solely by leavening --- or rather, all breads are intrinsically leavened somewhat by consisting of large amounts of water and being cooked, which converts bound-up water into steam that leaves bubbles behind as it evacuates the product.

Pancakes are quickbreads!

> Help me understand why you believe Matzo isn't a culinary foam.

Because when I break off a piece and look at it it doesn't look like a foam. (Note I mean the handmade stuff, not the lightweight, cooked at a lower temperature, machine made version, which is admittedly kinda of foamy.)

But, if you consider that to be a foam, I have to ask: What cooked until mostly dry, flour/water product isn't a foam? i.e. saying "foam" doesn't actually add any additional info.

> Pancakes are quickbreads!

Well, in that case we can simplify the definition: Bread is flour plus liquid cooked until mostly dry. Flour is defined very broadly, as is liquid (for example shortening is a liquid by this definition).

>A bread is a solid stable foam created by heating a dough made primarily of milled plant matter and water.

The most common Indian bread, the roti, is not a foam. It's a very flat bread made of wheat flour and water with no internal structure.

I'm pretty sure it is; it's just a foam of very small bubbles. It's the little pockets of air in bread (usually made by escaping steam, from the water in the dough) that make it tender and palatable.

The most obvious foam structure we think about with bread are the big bubbles inside a sourdough or tuscan loaf. But the foam that, say, Harold McGee is thinking about when he describes bread as foam is occurring at a smaller scale.

A communion wafer, for instance, is indisputably bread --- extremely thin, with no discernible internal structure --- but it's also basically a very thin slice of styrofoam.

If you define a foam as "a substance that is formed by trapping pockets of gas in a liquid or solid", a roti is absolutely a foam. Or, a foam subunit.

(When you make roti, it usually expands like a balloon during the cooking process.)

>A bread is a solid stable foam

Another engineer I'd bet :-)

It's not my idea; it's Harold McGee's.


So would you call a birthday cake a bread then?

Most cakes are quickbreads. We don't eat them the way we eat other breads (as a utilitarian cuisine staple), just like we no longer really eat biscuits as a staple bread --- but for a long time, biscuits were the staple bread for lots of people.

As you can see, my definition of bread is functional --- it's about how the bread is constructed and how it behaves as a final product. But there are other valid definitions of bread that capture things like the setting in which they're consumed --- maybe the default for things consumed in a pastry setting shouldn't be "bread", even when the product is a culinary foam made of a dough (but then you run into trouble with sweetened breads eaten as desserts!).

I'm fine with those definitions too, but would note that they rule out none of these indian breads. I'm pushing the functional definition because the parent commenter tried to rule out dosas based on a functional definition, and that functional definition was incorrect.

(There are obviously exceptions for "cakes" that are really set custards and things like that. But birthday cake isn't such an exception.)

It's common in the West to equate "bread" with things that are savoury, but a visit to your local Asian bakery will quickly demolish that notion.

So, yes, a birthday cake is a special type of highly decorated, sweet "bread". Or you can take a leaf from the Swedish/Finnish book and have a savoury cake:


That, and birthday cake, are as bread as pizza is bread (and yes, pizza is bread.)

If you find it hard to believe, it helps to know there are many varieties of pizza in Italy that do not include tomato sauce (pizza bianca). For example, quatro formaggi is often without sauce. But the plainer pizze bianche are actually similar to focaccia, which is a cousin of the world famous pizza, and indisputably bread.

So at what point along the focaccia - pizza continuum does the dish become un-bread? At the addition of tomato sauce? Then how come is quatro formaggi so often served in pizzerias? At the addition of cheese? Marinara, one of the most classical of all pizzas, is defined by its lack of milk-based ingredients (which do not preserve at sea, hence the name.)

Clearly, pizza, too, is bread.

Well, pizza crust is bread. Pizza is only bread in the same sense that a sandwich "is" bread.

I've always wondered where scones fit in. They taste like bread but typically come with cream and jam like cake.

That is not how words work. First of all, bread has existed for much longer than the word "bread". And any translation into another (perhaps earlier) language is bound to be imperfect. Things called "bread" don't line up perfectly with things called "pan" in Spanish.

Stop looking for precision in words. If you want to talk about "things that are baked in an oven" then say that.

> The process of Baking is what makes a Bread a bread.

Says who? The dictionary? It can change. You forget that language is a social construct, and like it or not, India is a country of a billion people with a different cultural context and we're going to make words up, or overload new meanings to existing words. And there is nothing you can do about it. That's how language works. You could claim ownership over it and try to dictate and browbeat alternate usages, but come to India, and try telling them that Appam is not a Bread, they'll tell you "of course not, Appam is an Indian Bread".

English-speaking Indian living in India here, been eating rotis, naans, parathas, bhatirey, dosa, appams every day for half a century.

ALWAYS thought of all these as Indian breads. So does everyone else. For example, look at the menu of a famous Indian restaurant: https://www.zomato.com/ncr/bukhara-itc-maurya-chanakyapuri-n...

There are countless other menus on that site that do the same.

The article gets it absolutely correct.

English-speaking South Indian (Tamil) living in Canada & India here.

NEVER thought of dosas, idlis, idiyappam, uthappam, etc. as a "bread".

Bhatura are deep fried, roti are pan-fried.

Edit: basically, India doesn't have a particularly big tradition of oven baking, so by a definition of "bread must be baked" you're gonna have a lot of things that aren't bread.

Correct. Bhatura is fried dough.

So is bannock bread!

Nit: Dosas don't need to be fried. They are often just made on a non-stick pan without oil. Sometimes with a touch of ghee on top for flavor, but again, not for frying.

So roti isn't bread? That's a strange definition.

Cornbread, traditionally cooked in a skillet, isn't a bread?

Most people I know would call English muffins a bread product.

> Cornbread, traditionally cooked in a skillet, isn't a bread?

It's not. Americans have a strangely funny way of naming things. Only in America would you find "Orange Juice" that would say in the ingredients. "Contains no juice. Artifically flavored and coloured."

English muffins are baked goods, not breads.

Source for the "orange juice" claim? You're thinking of products like "Sunny Delight Beverages Orange", which you should note does not call itself "orange juice". Even in the US, that's not allowed.

Skillet bread, on the other hand, is bread, as are english muffins.

Either people in India use the english word "bread" or they have different meaning.

I would be very, very weirded out if someone handed me bread and it does not contain ground grain.

> Either people in India use the english word "bread" or they have different meaning.

The only thing people use the English word "bread" in India for is the sliced white bread that you can find in any store in the US or Europe. All the other words are mentioned by the article. Also, as the article clearly states, the author, for the purposes of the article, counts the following things as breads:

> It would be virtually impossible to capture the full diversity of India’s breads ... or even to say what, in India, counts as bread. But here we’ve given it a go. I went about it like this: if it’s starchy and used as a utensil, it’s bread.

Rice is a grain

True. But—to my understanding—the rice to which you're referring is soaked with lentils, not ground into a flour, and you aren't going to find ANY gluten in rice (which gives bread its characteristic texture with wheat, barley, oat, rye, etc etc).

At this point, it's more of a question of "foamy thing", unrelated to the rich history of cooking flour with water (and maybe some salt).

Well, I can add Besan Ki Roti the the list of things that seem to be bread which is made from chickpea flour.

And I make moong bean roti myself.

I feel this is all a bit "we call these things bread" is like "we call these things fruit and these things vegetables" and then someone says "but what about bananas and cucumbers and strawberries" so we have to introduce "culinary fruits vs botanical fruits vs berries"

Well, in the English world, bread has roughly the same definition; people mostly argue about whether it includes a leavening agent or not. (I'm of the opinion it shouldn't require a leavening agent). If you handed someone a generic food sponge when they asked for bread, they would become very angry at you because they explicitly asked for a certain type of food that you did not give them.

Which is not to say that whatever people speak doesn't have a word that's a superset of "bread", but it's certainly a much less useful, descriptive, and precise word.

In fact, the ONLY alternative definition of "bread" in english is actually "sweetbread" which, ironically, seems to be meat-based rather than derived from the word "bread".

>it's missing the most important Indian bread - the Naan

That description is at least somewhat subjective. I would say Indians in India tend to eat roti (tandoori roti) as much as naan, and plain roti and chapati even more (the latter two are considered home foods, so not seen much at restaurants). Naan tends to have a slightly higher-end image (IMO/IME) and I've seen foreigners in India tending to order naan more often than rotis (particularly garlic naan, which seems to be a favorite of many). My guess it that it has been marketed to them more than tandoori rotis in the glossy magazines. on planes, etc., plus it might be/look more close to some Western breads (e.g. garlic bread like garlic naan, also the shape of naan is a bit like a French bread, maybe), so a bit more familiar to them.

But in India plenty of people eat and relish tandoori rotis, plain rotis (which are roasted on a tava in the house, not an outdoor tandoor), and chapatis (thinner version of plain rotis, but also allowed to quickly puff up on the open flame after roasting on tava). IMO tandoori roti tastes better than naan, which is made of maida (refined wheat flour).

And all of the above taste pretty good in slightly differing ways (though all except naan are made of whole-wheat flour).

Naan is everywhere in the US. I'd expect tourists preferring naan is pure familiarity. I see naan at every grocery store, much like sushi. Or pita, thinking of breads.

>And all of the above taste pretty good

particularly with an alu matar or matar paneer or a dal tadka :)


Naan is not the most important bread. About the only time I've eaten naan (growing up mostly in India) is at restaurants. At home it's always roti, parathas, or poori.

Naan is definitely the most famous Indian bread, but the one that most Indians, especially in the north consume regularly is the roti,chapatti etc.

It's not consumed often in the south either - in at least Tamil Nadu and Kerala, most common is chapatti or the "Malabar" parotta (but more common than that is just to skip the bread and eat rice). Naan is cooked in a tandoor, so it's only served at places which serve tandoori chicken, which is not many places.

Actually tandoors (for making both tandoori roti and naan and tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, etc.) became quite common in restaurants in medium to large Indian cities some years ago. In fact I used to regret that you could not get the regular plain chapatis and rotis in restaurants (except for cheaper messes or dining halls); it became so that tandoori roti or naan was the only option even in any average or hole-in-the-wall restaurant.

Huh, interesting - I left India some years ago, so I must've missed out on that.

What are the three major ingredients of a "bread"? Isn't a dough any hard-set culinary foam created by somehow cooking a relatively homogenous, ultimately water-based dough?

Were you thinking of "flour, water, and leavening"? Flour is any grain processed so as to make breadmaking easier. All these recipes include water. There are hundreds of different unleavened breads, and many of these breads are yeast-leavened.

Crepes and pancakes are (usually) quickbreads. A Chinese scallion pancake might not fit that bill (and might not be a quickbread), but Dosas clearly do.

The article carefully explains why naan isn't included: it's not an Indian bread. Naan is a staple throughout central Asia, which is where India imported it from.

The TOP 4 Ingredients in a basic "Bread" are a basic bread Flour, Water, Yeast and Salt. Granted the ones I called out have 3 of the 4, but the main characteristics of something that's called Bread is the process i.e. Baking. If it's not baked in an oven, it's not Bread. I didn't make that up, that what has defined a Bread since the beginning of time :)

Yeast isn't essential to define bread. As a Seán, you might know that Irish soda bread uses sodium bicarbonate as a leavening agent.


Bro, I am full-blooded American-Indian (dots not feathers), born to 1st generation Indian Immigrants :)

The Sean name was my Dad's idea and I thank him for it. He didn't want me to get ragged and bullied for having a long name like 'Apu Nahasapeemapetilon'.

Not all breads are leavened at all, and not all leavened breads are leavened with yeast.

Lots of breads have no salt --- Tuscan, for instance --- but I think most Indian breads do.

All breads have some kind of "flour" (which again is just any plant substance processed to make it easy to make a dough out of) and some water-based liquid.

Not all breads are baked! Lots of them are griddled, including several Indian breads that nobody is contesting the bread-y-ness of, and lots of cultures have fried breads (bannock bread for instance). I think the only commonality of bread cooking techniques is that they're all dry-heat cooked... but then you get to Chinese bao and you have to wonder about that too.

Pita isn't necessarily baked; is it in some other category?

Correct. Pita is not bread. it literally means 'cake or pie' in modern Greek.

Like I said, Americans like things 'dumbed down', so anything and everthing that is round and made with dough is called "____ Bread"

51% of Wikipedians believe that the word "Pita" is literally derived from West Asian words (in several languages) for (wait for it) "bread".

Pita is obviously bread. Even your definition, which requires "baking in an oven", covers pita. If pita isn't bread, neither is naan --- at which point we've reached a pretty silly place of defining one of the world's most popular breads as "not bread".

etymonline (not infallible, but generally where I go for etymology questions) doesn't attempt to trace "pita" back beyond modern Greek or Hebrew. It doesn't give the impression that the origin of the word is well understood.

I'm mostly with you as to bread (and certainly as to "pita is bread"), but I feel like noodles are generally not considered bread, despite being made from dough.

Noodles are a great question. Why aren't noodles bread?

* They're often made from dough that is identical to bread dough (perhaps minus the leavening)

* They're cooked wet (which is why they don't leaven themselves) --- but then so are bagels and pretzels!

I'm guessing the reason will go back to the original purpose of bread, which was to create a portable, palatable, readily accessible foodstuff from grain. Without bread, the only straightforward way to eat grains is porridge. So bread can (and I think maybe always is?) eaten out of hand, and is cooked often well in advance of consumption.

> Why aren't noodles bread?

I tend to think that they're not considered "bread" for two reasons:

- Their form factor is not appropriate for the concept "bread".

- They don't contain perceptible air bubbles.

Really, it's mainly the first one.

Two categories can be, um, vocabularily distinguished for pretty arbitrary reasons. Noodles are just a case of the same thing from a nutritional perspective leaving the prototype for the "bread" concept far enough behind that they're perceived differently.

> Pita is not bread. it literally means 'cake or pie' in modern Greek.

You're going to have a tough time explaining tyropita.

Naan while being common in restaurants, is not common in households. It requires a specialized oven and isn't easy to make at home. Roti/Chappati/Parathas are the common ones. There are regional differences too - Naans are uncommon in South Indian restaurants. The staple one in this category in Kerala is a Barotta which is a flaky bread similar to the Thai rotis.

If Pizza is an Italian bread then we can call Dosa as Indian bread. Otherwise I agree this is a stretch

I really wish this came with real pictures instead of fanciful illustrations.

They might be useful if you already know what they're supposed to look like, but if you've never seen them before they look like ink smudges.

For me, it's a major detractor from something that could have been a great resource. I would love to know more about the breads of the world.

Yeah, I basically can't tell the difference between any of of them.

It will never cease to amaze me how negative the overall comments are on HN.

Depending on one's perspective, it may be taken as negative or an honest feedback. I am from India and already know about all of these 'breads', but the first thought that came to my mind was the same - how useful this article would have been, had the pictures been real ones rather than their cartoon like representations.

Its not a negative comment, its a constructive feedback. If they had real pics of those items I guarantee you that your brain would tell you to go to the nearest Indian restaurant and get eat all that food.

It didn't do that after I googled a few images

Maybe you didnt see the right images.

The comment about the "North-South/wheat-rice axis" really hit home (though I grew up, outside India, eating both).

In 1984 I was in Sri Lanka as the civil war was gearing up. It was a rather exciting time, and not in the good sense of "exciting. From there I flew up to Delhi to stay with my auntie and uncle. Our entire dinner table conversation the night I arrived was the following:

  Uncle: "You were in Sri Lanka?"
  Me: "Yes"
  Uncle: "Sinhalese?" (the Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka)
  Me: "Yes"
  Uncle: "Huh.  Rice eaters."
(In the realms of exciting: a few weeks later I was in Delhi when the PM was assassinated. That whole summer and fall was crazy).

This north=wheat/south=rice axis also exists in China. When I visited the southern parts of China this year, the cuisine was completely different from the baozi/bread/noodle heavy cuisine of the north. Very rice heavy. In fact I was entertained by a story about how Guilin rice noodles were invented because a governor from the north didn't like rice and ordered noodles to be made from rice about 1400 years ago.

Spices used were different too - the southern cuisines had spices catered to warmer weather while in cities like Beijing the spices cater more to colder weather. I found that interesting.

My mom grew up in South India, so in our house rice has always had a more central role than in many other north Indian households (and other southern Indian dishes). Always kept things interested.

Aside: I wasn't in India in 1984 but recall being glued to the BBC world service after it happened. Crazy times

That was the day I left Delhi.

> The comment about the "North-South/wheat-rice axis"

Speaking of, does anyone else think that an axis is something things rotate around, and thus that a north-south axis would divide the country into East & West?

Perhaps this would have undermined the overall snootiness of TFA, but it would have been nice to have an entry for naan, even if it was "only" introduced in the 12th century.

I'll admit, though, that the best naan I've had (and I've had a lot...) was at an Afghan place I used to frequent in the basement of Sim Lim Square, rather than at any Indian restaurant.

Ah Sim Lim Square...glorious memories of time spent wandering all the floors. It used to be my pilgrimage site while in Singapore. Even took my son there a few years back after several decades so he can see what his old man used to waste his spare time on.

After visiting Shenzhen and Huaqiang Bei this year I have to reconsider my future pilgrimage site.

I wish I had spent some time in the food courts though.

It's less that naan is "new" to Indian cuisine and more that it isn't indigenous.

As an Indian self proclaimed connoisseur of naans and other breads, I can't agree with you more. Afghan/Pakistani bread is amazing by comparison.

I agree. At least in US naans in Indian restaurants are rather sad piece of bread. Pakistani/Afghani/Turkish places always make glorious naans.

If you like to cook, making naan at home is pretty easy and delicious. I fry it in a cast iron skillet for a couple minutes per side. Then top with whatever thick stew you like, Indian or otherwise.

recipe? I've never tried Indian at home, mainly because its intimidating and seems time consuming to learn what each of the cooking words means (for this very limited american palate at least). I dont necessarily have time to remember when atta or maida should be used (or what they are again), and what my convenient american-kitchen equivalent of a tava or tandoor could be...

Now... "put some yogurt, milk, water, AP flour and X,Y,Z in a cast-iron pan and fry it"? Yes that I can handle...and will probably come back to.

I guess I've never found the right "bridge" to Indian cooking... any links would be helpful.

I might have the quantities off, but I use something like, 14 oz of AP flour, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 3/4 cup of water, 1 tsp of yeast, 1/8 tsp of baking powder, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt. Activate the yeast in water, mix all the ingredients until combined, but don't need to knead. It should be quite wet. Let rise for 2-4 hours. Then split into 6-8 balls, flatten by hand and/or with a rolling pin, around 9" wide and 1/4" deep, and fry in a skillet on medium.

As for curries, they're a little tricky to do traditionally (ask me about burning whole spices in oil!), but you can make plenty delicious "American-style" Indian food in a crock pot. One of our favorites is crock pot chicken tikka, google it.

A trick I was taught in an Indian cooking class is to turn off the heat while frying the spices. Then turn it back on again when you add more stuff.

Kenji Alt has a recipe at Serious Eats, but naan is really simple: it's a yeast-leavened 65% (water/flour) dough where the liquid is some kind of acidic dairy (milk, buttermilk, yogurt) --- about 4% fat.

A trick my wife showed me that has sort of changed my life is that you can roll it out between two silpats to get it very thin without having it stick to the roller.

Huh, never heard of a silpat. Rolling out is always the biggest pain, I'll have to pick some up and try that.

They're like infinitely reusable silicone parchment paper sheets that you bake directly on. They're incredibly useful.

From Googling "translate Indian recipe": http://www.indianfoodforever.com/glossary.html , which says that, for example, 'maida' is 'refined flour', and 'atta' appears to be an umbrella name for various kinds of wheat flours.

You make a yeast dough with lots of butter or yogurt and milk, wait for it to expand, then flatten it and grill it. Works well on a barbecue grill, or of course a tandoor if you have it.

Spouse made it the way you describe sometime back and result was not too bad. Though I love a massive round naan with their spicy karahi from near by pakistani place.

If this is the Sim Lim Square in Singapore, do share the name. I'm always interested in checking out new food spots.

Surely there can only be one Sim Lim Square?! It has been about 15 years since I lived next door, but the hawker stand I'm thinking of was called something generic like "Afghan and Pakistan Foods". The naan was the highlight, but the curries and stews were great as well. They had this really big taciturn dude who would work the dough between his hand and fist before throwing it in the tandoor. So good!

hahaha just wanted to make sure. Sounds like I know what I'm checking out this weekend. Thanks!

I agree. A few common breads (at least from my time in bangalore) are omitted: naan, puri, vada.

Inded, a very detailed descriptions of various types of breads of India. Even being an Indian, I didn't know about many of them.

I would like to add another one in the list, `bajra roti`, which is eaten in state of Rajasthan. It's made by millet flour[0].

[0] http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/bajra-roti-bajra-bhakri/

It is quite extensive, though there are still a few missing. Bajri Roti, Akki Roti, Ragi Roti, Missi Roti, Makki Roti, Rotti (the crisp ones eaten with Kori Rotti), phulka, tava chappati, poi, dhokli (in dal dhokli), puri, idlis (and all variations of it), sannas, fugiyas, and this is just what I can remember from the North & West.

Oh mentioning all those other varieties reminded me of methi thepla. Not sure what it is made of - I first used to think atta (whole wheat flour) but may have read later that it is of besan (chickpea flour) or a combo of besan and atta. Anyway, they are so tasty that you can eat them plain. Often buy them from the neighborhood kirana store and keep, sometimes to have as an after-dinner snack if working late.

Yes, methi thepla is made of a mix of besan and atta. My wife's mom makes the best theplas and chundo.

yeah you can thepla plain or along with tea.

source : am gujju and grew up eating thepla.

You can add Uthapam & Kothu Paratha to the list.

Well, the article covers Uttapam under variations of either dosa or appam, which I kind of agree with. Kothu Paratha is just minced up regular parota, so I would put it in the category of dishes made with breads (though I guess dal dhokli and dal baati also fall into this category).

Just a few corrections for fellow travelers:

1. Kulcha and Paratha is available in any North Indian restaurant in any part of India. It is not restricted to Kashmir / Punjab or North India as the article suggests.

2. Vade originated in South India and not Western India. It is available in any South Indian restaurant in any part of India. It is typically eaten with Idlies. If you pick any menu in a South Indian restaurant you'll find that it is written as "Idly-Vada" (not to be confused with Vada-Pav).

3. Thalipeth is also available in North Karnataka apart from Maharashtra.

4. Bhakri is also available in North Karnataka.

5. Pav is available in any North Indian restaurant in any part of India. Not restricted to Mumbai/Goa.

Vade and Vada are different things. Vade is a very Maharashtrian thing (think daal vadi) and looks nothing like either medu vada or aloo bonda (vada pav)

Also, if you're in the US, you can get most of these frozen in any medium sized Indian store.

Ah ok I get what you are saying. The thing is, in Karnataka, we use Vade/Vada interchangeably for "Medu Vada" even though it is not the same as "Vada" in "Vada Pav". Hence the confusion. Thanks for the correction!

I hear you. I've lived in both states. I also think it's cool that the Medu Vada is different in Coastal Karnataka (Mangalore/Konkan region), Inner Karnataka, Goa & Tamil Nadu.

Malabar Porotha for the win!!!!!!!!! Fellow hackers, malabar porotha + fried beef -> foodgasm

Malabar Porotta and beef has become a symbol of resistance for us Keralites. The central governmemt has tried to enact beef bans across the country as cow is holy in North Indian version of Hinduism.

HUGE Bhatoora and Rumali roti fan. I really wish more restaurants in the US served rumali roti. I haven't had much success finding. For those who love bhatooras, I've found that even if it it's not listed on the menu, if you ask for it they have it :-)

There used to be this Pakistani run diner across the street from the rear entrance of Hotel Pennsylvania on 7th avenue in NYC. Their breads were delicious - better than most that I've eaten here in India. Gave me the impression that our long lost fellow countrymen across the border have an enviable time at the dinner table by comparison. Unfortunately, haven't had the chance to sample the "real thing" in its natural habitat. Maybe someday!

As an Indian guy who grew up on curry, I tasted a Lahori Karahi dish a few years ago, best curry I ever had.

> is really a foreign dish, prepared using refined flour, which came across the Himalayas from central Asia in the twelfth century, along with Muslim settlers.

It would be nice of Indians to stop considering the bread of settlers who came 9 centuries ago as _foreign_...

Edit: The writer seems to be American, but it's an attitude that's pervasive of the Hindu Right anyway...

At least speaking for myself, I can't complain; an invader or conqueror can still feel foreign after centuries have passed. If the Irish can throw off the Saxon yoke after "Eight Hundred Years of Oppression" (roughly 1250-1950), I think the Indians can do the same. (EDIT: Not with the literal Saxon yoke, although they did have occasion to free themselves of England...) Islam in the Subcontinent is at least as much an invasive, alien presence as England in Celtic Britain (or England in all of Britain, when you consider Anglo-Saxon origins), or Germans in the Slavic world -- or the US in the US, for that matter.

EDIT: But there are entries here about "Indian breads" that originate at the Mughal court, derived from Afghan or other Islamic traditions. Those aren't Indian breads if naan isn't!

They're Indian in the same sense that New York City pizza is American and not Italian --- it would be silly to call NYC pizza "Italian", as it's an indigenous American dish that is merely inspired by an Italian predecessor.

A good acid test is, did Indian culinary culture substantially alter the dish? In the case of naan, no, it probably didn't. In other cases, more so.

> "it would be silly to call NYC pizza "Italian", as it's an indigenous American dish that is merely inspired by an Italian predecessor"

What makes NYC pizza its own food type? There might be some minor differences like the type of dough commonly used, but I remember NYC pizza being fairly conventional (larger than average slices, not much else to distinguish it).

If NYC pizza is American, you could use the same logic to state that curry was British. There are regional variations of curry that were popularised in Britain. However, it doesn't seem right to claim them as solely British, considering most of the culinary innovation that led up to these dishes happened elsewhere.

What makes NY pizza unique to NY? The grease, lack of good crust and soaked cardboard consistency mostly.

I'm from Chicago though so I'm probably not the best person to ask about NY pizza since we have different preferences there ;)

We make a fine pizza-flavored cassarole.

Some British curry dishes --- tikka masala, for instance --- really are distinctively British.

Tikka masala was one of the dishes I had in mind. However, it still doesn't seem right to call it British. The culinary heritage of the dish is Bangladeshi (I believe the people who invented it were from Bangladesh, feel free to correct me), they just built on that heritage with a dish for the clientele they had at the time.

Similar questions can be raised about the kebab, whether its Turkish and/or German. Is the nationality of the originating chefs more or less important than the nationality of the audience they're trying to please?

It's so British that it's been called the National Dish of England! The key issue is that the dish was developed in England, for an audience of English diners.

>"It's so British that it's been called the National Dish of England!"

Come on man, that's just a marketing thing, it doesn't have any genuine cultural significance.

>"The key issue is that the dish was developed in England, for an audience of English diners."

You're ignoring my questions. Does the origin of the chefs hold no weight in your mind?

Furthermore, I'm British, and I've had plenty of curries in my time. Tikka Masala does not stick out amongst curries as something particularly different to the rest, and if there was something 'British' about it that difference should be noticeable.

It's the same thing with NYC pizza, there's basically nothing that sets it apart from pizza found elsewhere.

> but it's an attitude that's pervasive of the Hindu Right anyway

I haven't seen that attitude at all. Even the worst among Shiv Sainiks seem to consider vada pau their traditional dish. As for naan, the Indians I know consider it Punjabi, and traditionally made in a tandoor oven. Looking at it from another point of view, potato, tomato and chili are now considered inseparable from Indian cuisine. And yet, naan apparently came to India long before these vegetables did.

I think they mean "foreign" in the sense that a food writer would, for instance, refer to pasta as foreign to French food, and roux-thickened mother sauces foreign to Italian food. I don't think it's a political distinction.

The issue is that naan is basically one of the defining staples of Central Asian food, so it's weird to refer to it as an Indian bread.

If you're around Seattle area, small Hindu temples sometimes have a festival event called annakut, usually in oct-nov where they make 100+ Indian dishes. Sometimes a 1000. A good time to explore the variety of different foods.

I'm not religious but I absolutely adore the Indian rituals and festivals.

Though Sydney is pretty damn good and I lived right near Brick Lane in London (with a Sri Lankan boss), the overseas subcontinental community I've most enjoyed culinarily is that of Bangkok. There are some absolutely amazing restaurants there, and you can take your pick of country of origin, north or south, state or region, religious variant (Muslim, Jain, Hindu, etc.), etc. Typical thali prices are ~100-200THB (~3-6USD). There are even free meals at some of the temples. Leaves Singapore in the dust.

That usually happens around oct-nov since the annakut is done the day after Diwali (which is the major festival for majority of Indians) which falls around that times.

Actually if you are in any major US city, you should be able to experience annakut.

Some comments including what some have already pointed out :

- Naans are not usually made in Indian homes. They are much more common in restaurants. They are also not considered to be as healthy as rotis or phulkas.

- Indians (mostly North Indians) eat rotis, chapatis , phulkas (basically an inflated chapati) or parathas.

- A well made phulka or paratha can be absolutely delicious.

- There are many kinds of parathas and the food has long ago spread south where they have their own kinds.

- I don't think dosas or appams can be considered breads. I think they're closer to crepes.

- There seems to be much missing from this list including some Goan breads (can't recall the names) and some other South Indian types.

> some Goan breads

Sanna or sanas is one - someone else mentioned it in this thread, the comment that has akki roti, IIRC. Sanna is a bit like Kerala appams, I think. Had it only a few times. I think they put some palm juice in it too. Tastes and feels like a light extra-fluffy idli, except a bit sweet.

Also that reminds me of bajra roti. Tasty but also heavy - just one can make an average person feel full. Mainly had it in Maharashtra but may be there in some other states too. And there is makke ki roti - a standard Punjabi favorite. Only had it a few times (it was good); a lot of people swear by it - with sarson ka saag (mustard greens).

Sannas are made with Palm Toddy, which MUST be used before 7am (it's collected overnight and ferments quickly).

Naan being less healthy is a bit confusing to me as it is a fermented wheat bread, unlike the rotis/chapatis. The fermentation breaks down the gluten and other carbohydrates, making the wheat more digestible...

I think those saying so must mean it because it has less fiber (naan is from maida, refined wheat flour, while rotis/chapatis are from atta, which is whole-wheat flour).

Ahhh I was unaware of this distinction. I make something very "naan-like" with unbleached bread flour and sourdough yeasts that is apparently less "traditional" than I had thought?

Yes, that would make it more like an Indian roti, except for the yeast, which is not used in roti.

But atta - the whole-wheat flour used to make roti and chapati and also puri - is not just unbleached - in fact I don't know if it bleached or not - hope not - it is also unrefined wheat flour - meaning they do not remove the bran, or they remove the bran (or outer layers of the wheat grain) but remove less of it than for maida, which I've read is similar to US all-purpose flour. So atta has more dietary fiber and a more noticeable taste.

In fact for Indian grain / flour products made from wheat, there is a sort of gradation - we have:

- daliya - a very coarsely broken wheat grain product - cannot call it a flour, it is too coarse for that - pretty tasty when used to make upma / uppit, even without much spices added. I think couscous may be somewhere between daliya and rava or the same as daliya in granularity - never had it, so not sure. Daliya is so coarsely broken (not finely, I mean) that you can see individual pieces of it, and it looks medium brown and you can tell that it is from wheat, which you cannot for atta just by looking at it - atta just looks like a light brown (near white) flour which could be from any of a number of grains.

- rava - I think this is like or the same as semolina - less coarse than daliya but still coarse, you can see the small individual pieces - used to make upma, also to make rava dosa (mentioned in the OP)

- atta - the whole-wheat flour used to make chapati, roti, puri - finer [1] than rava, this one is a flour

- maida - the refined wheat flour, finer than atta - this is used to make naan.

[1] finer - meaning in diameter, not in taste or quality.

Wow, this managed to teach me a lot about my own country and now I can't wait for my exams to end and get a taste of some of them.

I really like when someone puts in this much of effort in creating content.

Great article and introduced me to some interesting new ones! This is still scratching the surface. With such a broad view of what a bread is, some more south indian stuff :

# Idly - steamed buns made of lentil/rice batter

# Rava idli - Spiced semolina steamed buns

# Paddu - small griddle fried buns made of spiced lentil/rice batter

# Tellevu - crisp & thin dosa made of cucumber & rice batter

# Todadev - sweet, crisp & thin layers of jaggery/sugar cane juice, cardamom and rice baked on top a hot inverted pot

The last two are really a speciality from my community from the Western Ghats

I had to do 10 google queries to find "Randnya roti" as there is no canonical English spelling.


There is another central Indian bread called "pahile" or some such, google cannot find it.

Man I miss a good pav.

I find it funny that I've tried almost all of them (without giving it another thought) in Dubai when I was growing up, but I've been missing this ever since I moved to Canada.

Do you have Indian supermarkets where you are in Canada? My freezer is often full of of various types of bread that the GF has brought home.

Honestly pretty tasty if you throw them in a pan with a little ghee or butter.

... I actually sub a few types of them in if I'm making a quesadilla and don't have reasonably fresh tortillas.

There are a few shops an hour away. However, like I've always said "it's not the same".

As an example, try having Maggie noodles (or even indomie noodles) from India, Middle east and North America - all taste different.

I mostly eat roti/chapatis and puris; are they in this article under a different name?

Is uttapam just an appam variant?

>I mostly eat roti/chapatis and puris; are they in this article under a different name?

They are mentioned in the first paragraph of the article:

"Before that, North India’s unleavened wheat-based flatbreads—rotis, chapatis, and puris—would have been made from whole grains"

but don't seem to have separate entries, on a quick search of it.

>Is uttapam just an appam variant?

No. Appam is a Kerala dish. Uttapam and dosa are in the whole of South India (and of course now a lot of the world, at least dosa is). The dough for appam might be the same or similar as dosa/dosai and uttapam, though they may add other things to it, like toddy or neera (fermented or unfermented palm juice), for the consistency and a bit of a sweet taste. But uttapam is a cousin of the dosa, just thicker and often with a good amount of finely chopped onion and a bit of chopped green chili sprinkled on top, and flipped over so the top side is fried too (same with dosa, (shallow) fried on both sides).

>They are mentioned in the first paragraph of the article:

I saw that, I more meant did they have a detailed description like the other ones, just under a different name?

Thanks for the info on the uttapam!

>I saw that, I more meant did they have a detailed description like the other ones, just under a different name?

Not much. I think I searched for all three in it just before commenting. Though other forms of roti like rumali roti are mentioned.

>Thanks for the info on the uttapam!


> Is uttapam just an appam variant?

Nope - the word, AFAIK means "cooked food" in this case, a pancake.

Appam is made from fermented rice and no lentils in the mix. Also it is cooked crispy on the edges in a deep wok[1] like cooking vessel.

Uthappam is made from batter similar to dosa batter (with lentils), but is never flipped while cooking (neither is the appam, but who cares). It's more of a thick open-sandwich style pancake with toppings - come to think of it, it's a griddle pizza with rice batter.

Fermenting is perhaps common between them, but the ferment in an appam is usually sugary substances (Kallu in the morning) and the Uthappam has no added ingredients for the ferment, so is more sour.

[1] - https://www.flickr.com/photos/t3rmin4t0r/88102227/

Appam is the good stuff from Kerala. The batter is usually mixed with coconut Toddy, a popular alcoholic beverage.

Uttapam is made when dosa batter doesn't get over for 4-5 days. The bread tastes sour due to the amount of time it gets fermented. It's garnished with onions and cilantro.

Dosa batter has a life cycle of it's own. 1. Overnight after the batter is ground and left to ferment -> Idly. Steamed buns(Something that's missing in the original article) 2. Evening of day one to day 3 - Dosa 3. beyond day 3 - Uttapam They also make a thing called Paniyaram after day 3 in the south which looks like cup capes, but tastes sour and is best eaten with chicken curry.

A good paratha stuffed with something like peas dipped into a slightly sweetened yogurt is revelatory.

Agreed. Any good paratha, with a stuffing and/or a side, actually. Some common stuffings I've had parathas with: radish (mooli), peas (matar), potato (alu), fenugreek leaf (methi), Indian cottage cheese (paneer), ... And a hot (aka spicy) chutney to go with it is even better.

I had a college roommate whose family was from Punjab (though he was born in the US). His mom would send Parathas regularly and it was delicious. He reserved the potato & onion ones for his own study food so I never got to try those though.

The Bhatoora should be a Puri.


My favorite when done right. Keeping it from being oily is key.

both are different. poori is wheat and bhatoora is maida.

Shouldn't naan and generic "roti/chappati" be in the list also?

Also note that most of us usually eat by hand (though this is changing due to the influence of west).

I find any food less tasty when eaten not using hand.

The website didn't do a good job at all with the images it used to describe all the items

Where is my beloved uttapam?

Thank God you posted this; my office ordered Indian food today.

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