The breads of Asia are quite different to
European types of bread, and well worth trying. Many are unleavened.
There are some which use yeast, yet are not baked in large, light loaves
which lend themselves to slicing. They are somewhat flat compared to
Western bread, but with very special flavor. Asian breads are not
usually baked in an oven, since ovens are not a feature of the average
Asian kitchen. Instead, they are griddle-bake, shallow fried or deep
fried. In the case of Chinese breads, they are steamed in bamboo
steamers (or any other kind of steamer available). Most of the breads
are found in India and other countries where the Indian influence is
Chapati : The everyday bread of millions in India, made simply
with flour, water and salt, baked on a griddle called a tawa and
depending only on the way it is kneaded and rested and rolled for its
lightness and amazing ability to puff like a balloon.
Chinese bread : Leavened with yeast
and usually steamed in individual shapes - flower rolls, silver thread
rolls, and round buns either plain or with fillings. Steaming gives the
bread a thin, smooth, shiny skin, not a crust which results from the dry
heat of baking.
Naan : A yeast-risen bread, flat but with a soft center and
smoky, crisp crust. It is made from white wheat flour enriched with
yoghurt, egg and butter. Traditionally baked in a charcoal-fired clay
oven called a tandoor, but a hot oven does the job too.
Roti : A general term for bread which
can take many forms. If it is made from ground grain - whether wheat,
rice, corn or millet - it qualifies for the name roti. Roti can be fine
or thick, plain or with freshly grated coconut incorporated in the
dough, or chilies and onions, which make it taste enough to eat on its
own. It can enclose a savory filling of cooked and seasoned vegetables
or meat, or a sweet filling of mashed lentils. These breads with
fillings are ideal picnic fare served with fresh chutney or yoghurt.
Rumali roti : (Northern India) A very
large, very thin bread supposed to be as fine as a silken scarf, is
cooked on what looks like an upturned wok - a convex metal pan similar
to those used for the large Middle Eastern loaves called 'mountain
Roti jala : A favorite in Malaysia
and Singapore. Like a French crepe with holes in it. It is named after a
fisherman's net and the lacy pattern is formed by drizzling the batter
through a cup with many small funnels, into a pan hot enough to set the
batter within a minute or so. It is served with curry, into which the
pliable roti is dipped.
Paratha : Baked for special occasions, being richly flavored
with ghee (clarified butter). While very thin, it is multi-layered like
flaky pastry, achieved by a special method of rolling and folding.
Yeast risen bread : Now popular in
Asian countries. Vietnamese bakers make the best French bread outside of
France. Sometimes the breads are plain, but often have a savory filling
so they are a complete snack or meal in themselves.