Pan, pao, bao, pav…whether Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, India, the word for bread seems similar across cultures and languages. Most cultures have some sort of bread – flatbreads, buns, baguettes – and breaking bread is not an unfamiliar term. You eat together, you are no longer strangers.
Indian breads are numerous and they also vary by region and culture. Dosas (top right and left) are more crepe-like and come in various forms, such as the paper dosa (top right), known for its thinness. Dosas are typically from south Indian. Parathas are another flatbread – an unleavened one made from whole wheat. They originated from the Punjab region and now popular all over the south. They are sometimes served with ghee or stuffed such as the gobi paratha (cauliflower, bottom left). Papads (bottom right) are crispy Indian crackers or wafer. Another popular flatbread is chapati, a thin unleavened flatbread (bottom right).
When chapati is held over an open flame to allow it to puff up, it becomes the Gujarati phulka or roti. The best ones I ate were never in fancy restaurants or the university mess – they were made by hand with care, each one rolled out carefully by my friend’s grandaunt and aunt. They were delicately flavored and absolutely amazing. The bad thing was that they spoiled all other chapatis and rotis for me.
Another wonderful bread item is the bread pakoda, fluffy and stuffed with potatoes, served with a samba (top). Pav bhaji (bottom left) is from Maharasthra region and the pav is borrowed from the Portuguese pao and the bhaji is a potato-based curry. Vada pav (bottom right) is another variation with potato in between the pav.
Puris are often served for breakfast and are puffed up and golden. They are accompanied by a variation of dishes, and the sev puri (left) is topped with sev (fried snack made of gram flour) potatoes, and chutney. An interesting take is the American pancake (right), which when rolled up, makes an excellent thicker crepe.
This is just a sampling of all the variations of bread that brings people together.