Flatbreads form the backbone of the cuisine that specific countries eat.
We’re accustomed to eating chapati, paratha and naan in India, but most countries around the world have their own distinct flatbreads. These may be made with regular flour, wheat flour or unusual grains. Flatbreads form the backbone of the cuisine that specific countries eat, as they are served as accompaniments to various main dishes. Here are five flatbreads from the around the world:
Manakish is a round, flat bread from Lebanon that is usually topped with olive oil and zaatar (a mixture of sesame seeds, sumac and thyme), and baked. It may also be filled with cheese. The word ‘manakish’ translates to ‘decorated’ or ‘stamped’, in tandem with the technique used to press the dough using fingertips, resulting in a decorative pattern on the bread. Manakish is fondly called Lebanese pizza and is a popular breakfast dish, although it may be eaten at any time of the day. It is often labelled poor people’s food, but all sections of society enjoy it.
Injera forms the base of traditional Ethiopian meals. It is a spongy flatbread made with teff, a type of grain. Injera is slightly tart in flavour as it is left to ferment for a few days. It is made in a skillet over a fire, where its spongy texture develops as the dough touches the hot skillet and air bubbles are formed. Once cooled, it is served with dishes like stews. Injera is treated like a plate instead of being served on one. Pieces of it are used like cutlery to scoop up stews and other main dishes. It forms the centrepiece of communal eating, when people gather together and share it.
An Iranian flatbread, naan-e-taftoon is made using whole wheat flour, milk, yogurt and eggs. It has a stringy, chewy texture and is similar to pizza dough. In Iran, the bread is cooked by placing it on the inner walls of a tandoor oven, and then removed using metal skewers. Naan-e-taftoon is mainly eaten with kebabs, but may also be eaten with other dishes. It is usually flavoured with cardamom or saffron. Some cooks sprinkle poppy seeds or sesame seeds on top of it. A clay tandoor, which is distinct from regular, metal ones, is used to bake the bread.
Bhakri is an unleavened flatbread from Maharashtra, and is also found in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa. It is considered healthy as it usually uses wheat or rice flour, jowar, ragi or sorghum. Butter, ghee or cumin seeds may be used to add flavour to the bread. It is considered traditional farmer food, mainly eaten for breakfast and lunch, providing energy for the working day ahead. Since it is unleavened, the bread is eaten for Passover by Indian Jews and forms an important part of their cuisine.
Originating from Israel, matzo is a cracker-like flatbread that is mainly consumed during the Jewish festival of Passover since it is unleavened. Legend has it that the Jewish people left Egypt in a hurry, leaving the bread with no time to rise. This is why leavened bread is prohibited during passover and matzo is eaten. Matzo is usually accompanied by charoset, a sweet, dark paste made with apples, dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon and wine. Charoset symbolises the mortar used by the Jewish people when they were slaves in Egypt.