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Naan is a teardrop-shaped bread, baked in a tandoor (traditional Indian oven) and served with various curries. The tandoor is rounded and bee-hived in shape. Athough tandoor cooking is associated with North Indian cuisines, particularly in Punjab, the tandoor traces its origins to the nomadic tribes in central Asia and is said to have been first brought to India by the Moghul rulers.
Unlike the roti which is an unleavened bread, naan is one of a few leavened breads commonly eaten in the Indian continent. Baking powder and dry yeast are used in the dough made mainly of flour to give it the correct texture and consistency. Baked in a tandoor, which comes in various sizes, about 2 ½ m to 3 m deep. The base is filled with three to four kg of charcoal. The fire burns for about five hours bringing temperatures to about 200 degrees farenheight. The naan dough is kneaded and left to rise, kept moist by a wet muslin cloth. It is then shaped into a teardrop and plastered on the side of the clay or brick tandoor. It takes slightly under three minutes for the naan to bake. The chef then skillflully manipulates two skewers to pull the naan out of the tandoor. One skewer scrapes the naan away from the side wall of the tandoor whilst the other aids the process by hooking the naan out. The cooked naan is then either served as it is or cut into half and served with meat curries, chicken or vegetables. Variation of naans include the keema naan which is naan stuffed with minced meat or garlic naan which is naan garnished with fresh garlic.
Naans are usually eaten with one's bare hands. Only one hand is used, and that too just the fingertips. The other hand is kept clean to pass food or water around the Indian dinner table. A piece of the naan is broken off and used to scoop up curries like a spoon. Folded, it neatly encases the morsel of food which aside from curries can include vegetables or meats.
Naans are a good source of thiamin and niacin and a good source of protein. It should be eaten fresh and oven-hot because naans do not keep well once frozen.
Brennan, J. (1984). The cuisines of Asia: Nine great oriental cuisines by technique (pp. 442-443). New York: St. Martin's/Marek.
(Call no.: RSING 641.595 BRE)
Jaffrey, M. (1996). The essential Madhur Jaffrey (pp. 157, 164). London: Ebury Press.
(Call no.: 641.5954 JAF-[COO])
Rogers, J. (1990). The encyclopedia of food and nutrition (p. 196). London: Merehurst.
(Call no.: R 641.03 ROG)
Sizzling tandoori. (2003, July 13). New Sunday Times, p. 19.
The information in this article is valid as at 2003 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.