The Washington Post

Indian flatbreads: Make them and you’ll be hooked

Whole-Wheat Rotis. (Shulie Madnick/Food Wanderings)

I’m on a mission: to spread the gospel of hot, fragrant rounds of Indian flatbreads. They elevate a meal and take minutes to cook.

The ones I grew up eating are not the ones I make today. Whole-wheat flour, especially the more refined Indian durum whole wheat called atta, available at Indian markets, nudges them in the direction of good-for-you.

At the simpler end of the unleavened spectrum, chapatis and rotis — different names for basically same thing — can be brushed with a bit of ghee (clarified butter) or without it, in low-walled, cast-iron skillets called tawas or on griddles. The pleated dough of parathas makes them trickier to form, yet worth it for their flaky layers. Savory herb- or vegetable-stuffed parathas are irresistible.

A lesson from Rasika executive chef Vikram Sunderam, recently nominated for a James Beard award, taught me to keep the paratha filling as free of moisture as possible, or it will break through the dough during rolling. His mint version is refreshing, and his gobi (cauliflower) paratha could almost be a meal in itself.

From Anand Poojary of Woodlands Restaurant in Langley Park, Md., I learned how to make rotis and how to pleat the paratha dough, accordion-like, before winding it into a spiraled disk, then using a rolling pin to flatten the round. And he shared a tip: Adding mashed or grated banana to whole-wheat roti dough makes it softer and more flavorful. That inspired me to create my own breakfast flatbread, which is even more delicious when topped with caramelized bananas.

With practice, my parathas were perfect — as I’m sure yours can be. Start with the basic whole-wheat rotis, and you’ll be hooked.

Madnick is an Israeli-born Washington area food and travel writer and recipe developer. She blogs at Chef Sunderam will join today’s Free Range chat at noon:


Banana Chapatis

Whole-Wheat Rotis

Gobi (Cauliflower) Parathas

Mint Tawa Parathas



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