When walking through the streets of Lahore in winter, you immediately notice the smoky smell of bonfires in the air. Near restaurants and food stalls, you’ll smell a variety of spices releasing their distinct scents into the air. And fresh meat on skewers and in pans rounds up the smoky-spicy sensations in your nose. In between all this sensory stimulation, it can get hard to identify one specific smell. The smell of something that is often overlooked between all the spicy and savory meat dishes. Yet this smell is one of the most fulfilling ones you’ll ever witness in a kitchen: fresh bread.
It’s no wonder than Pakistan is home to some of the most delicious flatbreads in the world. Pakistani breads are as diverse as they are delicious. They come in all shapes and textures, with different ingredients and prepared in different ways. At the same time, Pakistani breads are very ubiquitous. You’ll find some type of bread almost every time you sit down to eat because it either helps you eat your meal or it is your meal. This being said, it’s extremely difficult to get around bread when visiting Pakistan and consequently, it’s difficult not to fall for these amazingly fresh flavors.
In this post, I’ll introduce you to at least three types of Pakistani breads and tell you why they’re awesome.
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Roti (also known as chapati) is the basic type of bread that accompanies most meals and helps you pick up the food. In fact, roti is so crucial to the Pakistani diet that its price is capped at five rupees (~$0.30 USD) per piece. This is in order to assure that even the poorer members of society are able to afford this staple.
These thin round flatbreads usually consist of atta (wholewheat flour) and water. The dough is kneaded and rolled to perfection using a baking roll and then heated without oil in a pan or a traditional tawa. The resulting roti should be both soft and moist, which can be pretty tricky to achieve for beginners. Therefore, learning how to make the perfect roti is quite an achievement that is however often expected from Pakistani housewives.
As always, there are plenty of variations to roti. One of my favorite variations is khameeri roti, a roti made out of refined or whole-grain flour with yeast added to it, causing the bread to become thicker and fluffier. Yum!
Reasons To Love Roti
- It’s extremely ubiquitous and affordable
- The simple taste goes well with most dishes, even the ones with a strong flavor
- Roti is made out of whole-grain flour and prepared without oil, making it a very healthy addition to your diet
PRO TIP: No open flame available or just too worried the dough will fall apart? Invest in a good roti maker that will make your life a lot easier!
Read More: Flatbreads Around The World by The World’s Kitchens
Another type of bread that accompanied almost all of my meals in Pakistan is naan. Naan is a slightly thicker alternative to roti and generally consists of maids (white wheat flour). One very common type in Pakistan is called roghni naan and can be recognized by its pattern and sesame seeds on top. Roghni naan has a soft and fluffy texture, which makes it perfect to pick up creamy dishes like karahi and nihari.
Compared to roti, the preparation of naan is more time-consuming and requires more ingredients but once the dough is ready, it’s a lot easier to get it right. In order to create a soft taste and fluffy texture, naan dough requires ingredients such as milk, yogurt, and ghee, as well as yeast to make it rise. When the dough is ready, it is rolled out to create a relatively thin round shape. A pattern is carved on its surface, often using a hairbrush, and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. In the end, the bread is baked, generally in a traditional tandoor, and the delicious roghni naan is ready.
Again, there are innumerable different variations of naan with different seasonings or fillings. My favorite is by far qeema naan, naan filled with minced meat.
Reasons To Love Naan
- Again, you can find it literally everywhere
- It has a soft and buttery taste and fluffy texture, making it the perfect comfort food, especially with delicious fillings
- It’s relatively easy to prepare well
PRO TIP: For Heaven’s sake, please don’t call it ‘naan bread’ like many people in Western countries. It’s about the same as calling your hotdog bun ‘bun bread’.
I consider this one the king of all Pakistani breads because it comes in such a great diversity. Paratha is basically roti fried in oil or ghee. The additional fat adds fullness to the taste, making it an amazing breakfast and comfort food. However, this is just a simplification of an incredibly diverse food. Paratha comes in all sorts of variations thanks to diverse fillings. Therefore, you can find such delicious dishes like aloo paratha (paratha with spicy potato filling), cheese paratha, or even qeema paratha (filled with minced meat), which are usually prepared by spreading the filling between two thin rotis.
Paratha was my go-to breakfast food in Pakistan. I had plain or aloo paratha with some raita and pickles every morning and it really kickstarted my day. And although I’m a huge breakfast person, I could never eat more than one paratha because it fills you up so well. Sometimes I really wished my stomach was a little bigger so I could eat more of this delicious bread!
Reasons To Love Paratha
- Quick to make
- Extremely satisfying full flavor
- There’s a huge diversity of fillings and variations
- A great way to kickstart your day and power yourself through late nights
PRO TIP: My favorite paratha chain in Pakistan is without a doubt What A Paratha. Their deals are very afforadable and the menu includes all kinds of different parathas, from BBQ to pizza and even Nutella paratha!
Are You Hungry For Pakistani Breads Yet?
Are you hungry for Pakistani breads yet? Then wait no more and book your trip to Pakistan now! My blog contains a lot of useful travel tips and tricks about the country in its Pakistan archives to make sure your trip will be as smooth as a perfect roti.
And in case you can’t just fly out yet, why not try to recreate these delicious Pakistani dishes at home? Just get some fresh ingredients, authentic Pakistani spices, and a good cook book with the best recipes for Pakistani breads and more!
And in case you’re not in the mood for cooking, try some of these delicious ready-to-eat desi meals that you just have to put in the microwave and they’re ready!