A meal will always be incomplete without scooping off the curry with a piece of freshly made flatbread. Especially if you’re from the north. The chapati is an indispensable part of a wholesome nourishing meal apart from being a device to help you eat your sabzis (wet or dry), curries, and dals.
While making of the chapati is an everyday affair in almost every Indian household, each state has its very own variant, which calls for the addition of different flours, ingredients, and also different techniques. Here’s a look at how the roti or chapati is treated in the northern regions, reflecting the rich cultural diversity and food habits of the country:
Also known as Lachedar Paratha or Paratwala Paratha’ and the cousin to the Southern counterpart, parottas, a paratha is a multi-layered chapati. They are different from your normal wheat flour chapatis or rotis. While you may bind the flour and water to form a stiff dough as you do with your chapatis, layers are added in the form of numerous spirals before your dough balls are flattened, setting parathas a class apart. They require a lot of practice, patience and effort, and best left in the hands of experts. Besides, because of the number of layers, they need to be cooked for long. The generous amount of butter used to help it cook better gives you a taste of Punjab while you’re at home.
A common Indian bread found on the menu of every North Indian restaurant, the tandoori roti is prepared with all-purpose flour or maida and typically cooked in a tandoor. While they prepared in almost the same fashion as your normal chapatis, it’s the smokiness of the clay oven that sets these rotis apart. The tandoori roti can practically be had with almost anything, but butter chicken definitely tops our list.
Amritsar’s favourite, the kulcha or Amritsari naan is made from all-purpose flour, water, yeast and salt, and then rolled out using a rolling pin, into a flat, round shape. Some recipes substitute the water with milk or yoghurt for softer kulchas. The kulchas are typically baked in a tandoor and then brushed off with a generous amount of butter or ghee. These are typically eaten along with a spicy curry/gravy or sabzi. In particular, the spicy chickpea curry, commonly known as chole is the dish of choice for your kulchas. Traditionally, kulchas are not stuffed but in recent years, fillings including paneer (cottage cheese), potatoes, onion and other veggies have found their way into this roti.
Poori or puri is a fluffly deep fried chapati relished throughout India. They are made with whole wheat flour, in the same manner as you would make a chapati. However, what sets them apart is their smaller size and the fact that they are deep-fried in hot oil. Puri is usually served with a potato side-dish and is commonly referred to as Poori Kilangu, Aloo Puri or simply Puri Bhaji, depending which part of the country you’re in. Some regions also serve the puri with different halwas–Halwa Puri.
In Gujarat and Maharashtra, puris are best paired with shrikhand, a flavoured yoghurt preparation, and aamras, sweetened mango puree. Puris - bigger than your average ones - made with all-purpose flour or maida are called bhaturas in parts of Punjab, and best relished alongside a spicy chole.
In Odisha, on the other hand, they are called Thunka Puris and are made only during Bali Yatra festival. Thunka puris are best eaten with Chhena Tarkari, a paneer delicacy. Another puri variant, enjoyed in parts of Uttar Pradesh is called Bedmi – a bit salty and stiff than regular puris, and at times stuffed with lentils. In West Bengal and Odisha it is called the Luchi, and enjoyed alongside side dishes like cholar dal, fulkopir tarkari, aloor dum, begun bhaja, and others. In Assam, it is called lusi, is made with nigella seeds and usually had with aloo-koni dom. On the other hand, puris made with semolina or rava, which are rolled into much smaller discs are nothing but your street food faves golgappas or pani puris.
These rotis are prepared using pearl millet flour apart from being gluten-free, they are a great source of fibre, proteins and other essential nutrients. Bajra rotis aren’t easy to make as due to the lack of gluten. In Rajasthan, the bajra roti dough is flattened between the palms and then cooked over a chulha or stove. These rotis are eaten along with garlic chutney and onions. And for a sweeter alternative, bajra roti is crushed to form churma, and then tossed in some desi ghee and crushed gur (jaggery)
Makke di Roti
Combining the goodness of maize flour, carom seeds (ajwain), water, and salt to form a stiff dough and then baked, the makki di roti is Punjab’s pride. Served with Sarso da Saag, it is a combination that no North Indian can say no to. This roti is prepared by flattening the dough by repeatedly pressing it in-between the palms. You can turn to a baking or plastic sheet to prevent the rotis from sticking to the rolling pin. Like most other chapatis, the makke di roti is cooked on a tawa or skillet and is topped with a dollop of butter or ghee.
Roomali roti gets its name from the Hindi word ‘roomal’, which means a handkerchief. True to its name, the roomali roti is probably the thinnest chapati and is folded akin a kerchief. Made using maida, making roomali rotis is an art that requires great skills. Unlike regular rotis or chapatis, the roomali roti is cooked on the inverted side of the tawa and makes for a great accompaniment to any tandoori dishes.
Naan is one of the most famous culinary exports from the Indian subcontinent to the world. It is prepared with all-purpose flour,
Missi rotis make a common appearance in the Rajasthani and Punjabi cuisines. Prepared typically by binding together wheat and gram flour, and ingredients such as onions, garlic, coriander or methi (fenugreek) leaves, with spices of one’s choice. The dough is then converted into rotis that are best roasted on a tava. A dash of butter, oil or ghee can instantly help enhance the flavour of your missi rotis. These healthy rotis taste best when paired with dals of your choice or sabzi. They also make for a great breakfast or evening snack option when dunked in a cup of hot chai or coffee.
The phulka is a chapati variant that is made with wheat flour, however, is cooked differently. The flattened dough is first cooked on the tawa and then on an open flame, which helps the chapati puff up the chapati making it soft. The hot air inside the chapati fastens the cooking process. The phulkas can be brushed with some butter, oil or ghee if desired. Often confused with chapatis, it’s important to note that phulkas are smaller and softer in size and are cooked twice. They can be served with almost anything, even jam!
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