Indian cuisine features a variety of flat breads that are an integral part of the meal. Since cutlery is not traditionally used in India, people typically eat with their hands and may use pieces of flat bread to scoop up their food. Indian flat breads vary by region, but can be divided into three main categories, according to how they are prepared: baked, roasted in a pan, or fried.
Naan, a flat bread often leavened with buttermilk or yogurt, hails from Punjab in northern India. To prepare naan, toss the dough quickly from hand to hand to stretch it into a thin, oval shape, before baking it on the walls of a tandoor oven. The dough is brushed with ghee or oil and sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds. Naan also comes stuffed with cheese, vegetable curry or meat.
Chapatis are unleavened and made from only wheat flour and water. Indian cooks roll out the dough and roast in over very high heat with no fat in a circular, slightly concave, cast iron griddle called a tawa.
Puri is a small, round, puffy bread common in Gujarat and Bengal. Deep frying puri in oil gives it a puffy shape. Puris can be stuffed with spinach or potato, and flavored with poppy seeds or lentils mixed in the dough.
Paratha is a richer version of the chapati because it is fried in ghee, or clarified butter, in a griddle. This bread has a very thin and crispy texture, and can be eaten plain or filled. Possible fillings include red lentils and spinach, ground meat, cauliflower and ginger, potatoes, and yogurt.
Papadums are thin, crispy cracker-like flat breads. They are premade with legume or rice flour, then dried in the sun. To prepare papadums, immerse them in hot oil, and they will puff up instantly. Alternately, roast them under the broiler to eliminate the step of draining them after frying. Papadums often come spiced with chili peppers.
The dosa, a flat bread from southern India, looks like a big crepe, but is made from a fermented batter of legume and rice flour. Indian cooks spread out the batter evenly on a warm, oiled pan, then cook it on both sides to a golden crisp. Indians eat dosas plain or with a savory filling like spiced potatoes or mixed vegetables.
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