Naan is an Indian flatbread made from wheat dough, which is traditionally baked against the side of a tandoor oven and then coated with ghee (clarified butter). It is often served as a side dish to curries and other main meals.
Naan is mainly eaten in the Punjab region and the north of the country. The white flour used to make naan was brought from Central Asia in the twelfth century; before that time, only wholemeal flours, such as roti, chapati and puri, were used to make bread.
There are several types of naan, which are variations on the ghee-covered naan. Some examples are:
- Garlic naan: This naan has pressed garlic on top.
- Kulcha naan: A naan filled with onion and green chillies.
- Keema naan: This has a filling of minced lamb.
- Peshawari naan: Filled with nuts and raisins.
- Aloo naan or Amritsari naan: A naan filled with mashed potatoes and spices.
Freshly baked naan is often thinner than the ready-made bread you will find in a supermarket. An authentic naan is easy to fold and can be used as an edible scoop to pick up sauce or dip.
Did you know?
The largest naan in the world was baked in Toronto, Canada, in 2016. It was almost 5 metres long, 1.26 metres wide and weighed 32 kilogrammes. Although it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records, there is no mention of the taste…
A dough is made from wheat flour (maida), baking powder, yeast, yoghurt, milk, sugar and (depending on the chef) egg. The risen dough is divided into balls and each ball is rolled out and stretched to the desired size. If the naan is baked in an authentic way, the dough will be slapped against the side of a hot tandoor – a cylindrical clay oven that is heated with charcoal – where tandoori chicken is also prepared. The dough sticks to the wall of the oven and is baked until cooked and has large brown blisters.
In the absence of a tandoor, the naan can also be prepared on a tawa, an Indian flat pan, or in a cast iron or non-stick pan. The fried naan is coated with melted butter and then served.
In India, naan is traditionally eaten with ‘dry’ dishes, such as tandoori chicken, while rice is served with juicy curries, such as chicken tikka masala. In practice, everyone has their own personal preference; there will always be ‘rice’ people and ‘bread’ people, so if you fancy your chicken korma with naan, not rice, no one will care.
How to eat
Tear the bread with your hands into bite-sized pieces and use it to scoop up food and put it in your mouth.