Bread products are universal across all cultures and cuisines. Indian cuisine is no different, and there’s certainly plenty of baked goodness to go along with the curries and tandoori.
Two of them in particular are delicious components of several dishes at Little India of Denver, but telling the two apart can be difficult for the uninitiated. Let us go over the differences and joys of naan and paratha.
At first, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of differences between the two. Naan is a type of flatbread, and so is paratha. Both of them can be stuffed according to the chef’s tastes. Both of them are often eaten as breakfast foods. Those particular qualities don’t give much to work with when trying to decide which is better.
Naan is very much a baked good, often done in a tandoor, the same sort of clay oven where tandoori dishes are cooked. It’s often served hot after being pulled out of the tandoor and brushed with butter. Variations of the recipe using yogurt or milk can lead to a thicker or “fluffier” product, particularly useful when the chef wants to stuff the naan. Much like pita bread, naan can be stuffed with meat, vegetables and other ingredients, creating a pocket-type sandwich.
Paratha, while definitely bread, is not baked the way that naan is. Rather, it’s fried in a tawa, a stone frying pan, using butter or cooking oil. While naan is generally rolled out once and slapped up against the side of the tandoor, paratha often gets rolled out multiple times, creating a very flaky bread. Paratha can be stuffed, but unlike naan, the stuffing is not quite the same, akin more to crepes than pita. Additionally, paratha serves as a sort of “dessert” bread, particularly when topped with caramelized sugar and butter.
One does not have to enjoy naan to the exclusion of paratha, or vice versa. Both are excellent breads that can be enjoyed in a variety of tasty ways and with plenty of other excellent dishes. Take the time to visit one of our Little India locations and see how you like them both.