Continuing on our focus on Indian dishes, today we are going to present a North Indian delicacy that is almost a staple food in every household during weekends and special occasions. Naan or oven-baked flatbread is an integral part of the cuisines of West Asia, Central Asia, India and. of course, SE Asia. It resembles pita but in taste and cooking methodology, it is definitely different. Naan is cooked in a tandoor and is typically served hot with accompaniments (veg/non-veg). It is usually brushed with water but in some restaurants, you get a special type of Naan which has been brushed with butter. Needless to say, it tastes awesome and even health freaks can have it during lunch or dinner.
History of the Naan
The Naan definitely originated from India but today it is eaten in most households in South Asia, SE Asia and even in UK & US. It has undergone many transformations over the years and w get many varieties of Naan today but the original is as popular today as it was before.
The first recorded history is found in the notes of Amir Kushrau (an Indo-Persian poet) in 1300 AD. Originally it was cooked in the Imperial Court in Delhi as a light bread. A tandoor oven was used for the purpose. During the Mughal rule in India (around 1526), Naan was a very popular breakfast food for the Royals and they enjoyed this bread with keema and/or kebab. Naan entered UK in 1926 when Veeraswamy, one of the oldest Indian restaurant in the UK, included Naan in its menu. The popularity of Naan was on the rise very soon and in 1984 Honeytop Specialty Foods became the 1st company in Europe to supply Naan bread to all major retailers and restaurants on a commercial scale.
Evolution of the Naan bread
The traditional ingredients of Naan include dry yeast, flour, warm water, sugar, salt, clarified butter, and yogurt. But in modern recipes, the yeast has been substituted with baking powder and milk is used to give volume and thickness to the bread.
Apart from the ingredients, the method of cooking has also evolved over the years. Initially, it was only cooked in a tandoor (clay oven) but nowadays the method of baking is also used to make Naan making it easier for people to make them in their home oven. However, even though it has gone many transformations, Naan is still served hot and brushed with water or butter as per the choice of the person having it.
Which came first?
No, we are not talking about the chicken and the egg controversy here. We will discuss that later. So, tell me, which came first? Was it the chapatti, the Naan or the Pita bread? Well, it was the yeast actually. Yeast was first used in Egypt in 4000 BC but people understood the true value of the yeast only in the 19th century. Pita Bread was the earliest form of flat bread followed by the Naan in the 14th century.
Varieties of Naan
Today we have around 8 to 10 varieties of Naan available in different restaurants around the world including Singapore. Let us understand the different versions of the Naan bread –
- Plain Naan: This is the simplest form which is just brushed with water or ghee
- Garlic Naan: The Naan is topped with butter and crushed garlic
- Kulcha Naan: This type of Naan is filled with cooked onions
- Keema Naan: As the name suggests, this Naan includes a filling of minced lamb or mutton
- Roghani Naan: The Naan is very popular in Pakistan and in this variety, the bread is sprinkled with sesame seeds
- Kashmiri Naan: The bread is filled with a mixture of nuts and raisins
- Paneer Naan: Here the bread has fillings of cottage cheese and flavoured with ground coriander
- Amritsari Naan: The Naan is filled with mash potatoes and spices
The biggest Naan bread in the world was made by Honeytop Specialty Foods in 2004. It measured 10 ft by 4 ft and took over 5 hours to make it. Believe it or not, as many as eight staff were required to carry it.
Can you get it in Singapore?
Naan is basically a restaurant bread and it is almost impossible to find someone who makes Naan bread perfectly at home through the process of baking. In Singapore too, people enjoy this Indian bread at popular Indian restaurants. But as time is at a premium nowadays a bulk of the population prefer to order food through food delivery apps like foodpanda and get the meal delivered straight to home. If you are planning to use the services of foodpanda to get your share of Naan and kebab then we suggest you order from Indian House on Boat Quay. They have 6 varieties of Naan in the menu but we suggest that you go for Cheese Naan which has fillings of melted cheddar cheese. Mmmm…..we can imagine the aroma that will come from this Naan bread. You may order Chicken Malai Kebab to go with it.
The other restaurant that immediately comes to our mind is Tandoor in Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre. It is expensive, no doubt, with each plain Naan priced at SGD 12.84 but the taste is fantastic and worth every cent. This restaurant specializes in curries that goes well with Naan bread. We recommend Nalli Gosht or Aloo Jeera Kastori Methi. Check out all of these delicacies and more of the Indian cuisine on foodpanda!