by Suchitthra Vasu
Naan is a teardrop-shaped bread that is baked in a tandoor (traditional Indian clay oven) and served with various curries. The tandoor is rounded and has a beehive shape. Although tandoor cooking is associated with North Indian cuisine, particularly in Punjab, the tandoor’s origins can be traced to the nomadic tribes in central Asia and is believed to have been introduced to India by Moghul rulers.1
Naan is a type of leavened bread commonly eaten in the Indian continent. Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and dry yeast are used in the dough, made mainly of flour, to give it the correct texture and consistency. The dough is baked in a tandoor, which is over 1.5 metres in height with a narrow neck at the top and a small hole at its base for air to enter. The base is filled with charcoal and the fire in the oven can reach a maximum temperature of about 371 degrees Celsius.2
After all ingredients have been added to the dough, it is kneaded vigorously until it is springy to the touch and left to rise, kept moist by a damp cloth. The dough is then shaped into balls and flattened into pancakes before one side is pulled to form a teardrop shape. The flattened dough is then plastered onto the inside walls of the tandoor. It takes slightly under three minutes for the naan to bake. The chef then skillfully manipulates two skewers to retrieve the naan from the tandoor. One skewer scrapes the naan away from the wall of the tandoor while the other is used to hook the naan out. The cooked naan is served whole or cut in half, and is usually eaten with curries, tandoori chicken or vegetables.3
Naan is a rich source of protein and vitamin B such as thiamin and niacin. It should be eaten fresh and oven-hot.4
Besides plain, garlic and butter naan, more exotic variations include keema naan,5 which has a savoury filling of minced mutton, onion, ginger and green chilli; ashmiri naan6 with dried fruits and mixed nuts; and masala naan7 stuffed with mashed potato, cottage cheese and spices.
1. New Straits Times. (2003, July 11). Sizzling tandoori. Retrieved 2018, November 5 from Google News website: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1309&dat=20030711&id=T0EhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iHsFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2246,1886838&hl=en
2. Tan, L. L. (1982, August 14). Tandoori and naan. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; New Straits Times. (2003, July 11). Sizzling tandoori. Retrieved 2018, November 5 from Google News website: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1309&dat=20030711&id=T0EhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iHsFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2246,1886838&hl=en
3. Brennan, J. (1984). The cuisines of Asia: Nine great oriental cuisines by technique. New York: St. Martin's/Marek, pp. 442–443. (Call no.: RSING 641.595 BRE); Chan, M. (1980, March 20). Meal fit for a king. New Nation, p. 12; Tan, L. L. (1982, August 14). Tandoori and naan. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Brennan, J. (1984). The cuisines of Asia: Nine great oriental cuisines by technique. New York: St. Martin's/Marek, p. 443. (Call no.: RSING 641.595 BRE)
5. Li, P. (1972, October 21). ‘Golden’ touch of a serious chef. New Nation, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Gan, E. (2006, July 5). Temptation. Today, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chan, M. (1980, February 8). No cutting of corners. New Nation, pp. 14–15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at August 2018 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.