Rotis were a staple food in our house and we enjoyed other flatbreads like parathas, puris and naan. Fully leavened/risen bread is not native to Pakistan; flatbreads like the ones I mentioned as well as others like kulchas and rumali roti are traditional to the cuisine, and so I wanted to share some information on it!
What are flatbreads and how are they made?
Flatbreads are made from flour and water, and can either be leavened, like naan or pizza, or unleavened, like rotis or tortillas. Flatbreads can either be cooked on a flat pan, like a tawa or comal, or metal griddle (e.g. rotis, tortillas), in an oven (e.g. pizza) , tandoor (e.g. naan), grilled over hot coals or fried in hot oil (e.g puris and papadams).
Where are flatbreads eaten?
Flatbreads are found across the globe and aren’t unique to one country or culture! They have been around for the past 5,000 years and have the same basic principle of mixing flour and water into a dough, rolling it out and cooking on a hot surface. For example:
In Europe you can find Scottish Bannocks, Norwegian flatbrod and Greek pita.
In the Middle East and Africa you can find Iranian barbari, Israeli matzo and Egyptian Bataw.
In Central Asia you can find Afghani naan and Shelpek in Kazakhstan.
In South Asia you can find the Indian Dosa, Sri Lankan Pol Roti and Bangladeshi Bakarkhani.
In Southeast Asia you can find the Philipino piaya, Singaporean roti prata, and roti canai in Indonesia and Malaysia.
In the Americas you can find Native American flatbread, Johnny Cakes in North America and the Carribean and tortillas in Mexico, Central and South America.
I remember thinking that we’re all more similar than we think when seeing flatbreads from other cultures sharing a strong resemblance to either the roti or naan I grew up eating!
How to get flatbreads
Nowadays, it’s great that we can easily get a range of flatbreads from supermarkets and cultural food stores or delis. Certain flatbreads can be tricky to prepare so it's easier to just get those breads pre-made, but it’s a great activity and always tastes and smells amazing when you make fresh dough and bread at home! I normally make rotis from scratch at home but buy pitta/naan when I need to.
What’s your favorite flatbread or flatbread from your culture? I’d love to know!
Check out my recipe for a vegan naan!