Bread of Life

In India, flatbreads are varied and essential

Indian flatbreads
Ingalls Photography

I've cooked Indian food since I was young, and flatbreads are the delicious cornerstone of most meals. On tables where utensils are rare, they sop up soupy dishes and wrap morsels of food. Our everyday flatbread is chapati, a pliant round made from whole wheat flour dough, which is cooked on a dry skillet and then inflated and browned over an open flame. From the same dough comes chewy paratha, cooked with ghee in a skillet. Ajwain seeds lend puri, a deep-fried puff, a faint floral musk. And I particularly love fluffy naan (sometimes strewn with toppings like chopped cilantro, bottom left) Unlike its whole wheat brethren, it's made from all-purpose flour and slapped against the chimney wall of a clay tandoor oven to bake. It is best savored hot and slathered with ghee.