Roti, or the Indian flat bread, has never been just another dish on the Indian plate. Synonymous with the basic need for food and sustenance, it has always been a cornerstone of the fundamental triad of life's needs, i.e. Roti, Kapda and Makaan. Hot, soft and fluffy rotis are integral to the idea of homemade food. They lend to it the warmth and love that fills up every bit of your being. The perfect round roti is an icon of culinary achievement for the Indian homemaker.
The product evaluation happens at all stages of making roti – the first being the flour as that is what they can check at the point of purchase (chakki atta consumers)
Texture: A good atta is slightly dardara as it signifies choker.
Color: A good atta is slightly off-white in color. A white atta indicates that it has maida mixed in it.
Smell – A good atta has the sondhi-sondhi smell of wheat.
Ease in kneading – It should not feel very hard while kneading
How quickly and easily it binds - it should not stick to the plate and should not feel very loose
Easy to roll
Easy to spread – should not be elastic
Roti's corner should not crack
Should get backed evenly (should not leave unbacked patches)
Should not crack from sides
Phuli phuli roti
Should be soft – so that it breaks with one hand
Should have a slight sweetness and melt in mouth
Travelling through India with a bowlful of Atta
We have heard a lot about how varied India is and about our diverse food culture. But there are three staples that string the Indian cuisine together- Wheat, Rice and Pulses. We decided to travel through India with a bowlful of whole-wheat flour to see what we could do with it.
Our first stop was Punjab, and when Punjab, there is no escaping Parathas. Parathas are prepared with whole-wheat dough which is then rolled into fourths, resulting in the flaky and layered flat breads. When multiple layers are added to a tandoor cooked paratha, it becomes a Lachha paratha. The difference becomes apparent when parathas are stuffed with spices, veggies, and/or meat. Potatoes, eggs, onions, lentils, and cauliflowers are quite popularly used for making stuffed parathas.
Both types of the flat bread are usually smeared with butter or ghee. They work great with veggies, meat, and curries of varied regions. When stuffed, they're a meal by themselves, and are usually accompanied with curd, Raita and Chutneys.
Our next stop was Delhi, where we ate the most ubiquitous form of wheat flour- the Roti. But in Delhi, the roti which is made at home is known as Phulka. The specialty of the phulka lies in the fact that it is flipped and cooked directly on a flame after a few minutes on a skillet. Rotis on the other hand are prepared in a tandoor or oven. Phulkas are eaten with dry/semi-dry dishes (sometimes gravies as well) while Rotis accompany all; dry, semi-dry, and curried dishes. As you head towards South India, rotis are called Chapattis and are cooked on a flat pan/skillet with ghee or oil.
Gujarat was next on our map and we were already looking forward to the mouthwatering Theplas. If you've ever had a Gujarati friend or if you've met a Gujarati on any of your travels, then you are already familiar with the Thepla. Theplas are thin flat breads made of methi (fenugreek), whole-wheat flour, gram flour, turmeric, asafetida, cumin and chili powder. Theplas are long-lasting and versatile. They make for great travel food, can be eaten for any of the day’s meals and work well with a multitude of accompaniments. These breads are cooked on high heat, and with little oil. All in all - great in taste and high on health.
In Maharashtra, we got a chance to satisfy our sweet tooth as we gorged down innumerous Puran Polis - a whole-wheat flour flatbread that is stuffed with sweet lentil filling. The filling is known as Puran, while the bread is known as Poli. Puran is prepared by mixing boiled split Bengal gram and jaggery with other condiments. For Poli, whole-wheat flour is kneaded with a pinch of salt, ghee and water. It is then shallow-fried on the tawa or griddled with ghee. Puran Polis are prepared during Ganesh Chaturthi and other important ceremonies. They are usually served with ghee, milk or yoghurt.
As we travel to Hyderabad - the land of Nizam food - we come across another popular version of roti - Rumali Roti. The word Rumal means handkerchief in Hindi. The specialized cooking process results in a very thin roti – so much so that it almost resembles a handkerchief. To make the Rumali Roti, whole-wheat flour and processed flour are first sieved together and then kneaded with milk and salt. Baking soda may or may not be added depending on the desired softness as per the Rumali Roti recipe. A few Rumali Roti recipe variations will also include oil, clarified butter or ghee and herbs as flavoring ingredients. Rumali Roti is best enjoyed with thick gravies.
All of us have relished Aloo Puri at some point in our lives, but did you know that Puris first originated in the state of Orissa? Puris are most commonly served at breakfast, but are also an important part of prasadam or ceremonial food. Also made from whole-wheat flour, water and salt, they're deep fried until they turn golden brown in color.
There are two types of puris: flat and puffed up. Flat puris are made with holes in the rolled dough. However, when the rolled dough is left as is, the moisture in it leads the puri to puff up when fried. Another variant of the puri popular in the eastern state of West Bengal is the Luchi.
In Assam, it is pronounced as Lusi. They're mostly eaten hot with dry/semi - dry vegetarian dishes - mostly potato-based curries, kheer, basundi, halwa, korma, chana and many others.
Through our travel, we came across one dish that though not a roti, does deserve a spot here and that is the Rajasthani Bati. Dal Bati Churma is a traditional Rajasthani dish prepared on special occasions or when a revered guest visits home. The spicy dal with the sweet churma along with deep fried crunchy batis, make for a delicious combination. Batis are prepared by mixing whole-wheat flour with semolina, besan, milk and ghee.
What delicious discoveries these were! And to think that it all started with a bowl of whole-wheat flour. India never ceases to amaze!