“I like Indian food” is a phase a lot of us hear more and more lately across the US. That’s because Indian food, along with Thai food, is one of the fastest growing ethnic restaurant categories across the US and Canada. With an influx of new and different foods, we are all trying new menus and finding new favorites, but are we giving our New Food Experience the respect it deserves?
What we love about Indian food is the variety. India, like China, is home to more than 1 Billion people. To say “I love Indian food” is like saying “I love western food” (There are western restaurants throughout Asia that serve everything from spaghetti with meatballs to burgers and fries). At MIEW Foods, we want to source the best foods from across Asia and provide a little bit of background on the regions-of-origin in the process.
Naan vs. Paratha
Naan is typically seen as a north Indian flat bread made by placing dough on the walls of a Tandoor (a cylindrical clay oven) and allowing it to cook. It is literally stuck to the inside of the wall and then peeled away when done. Once pulled out of the Tandoor, it is drizzled with butter/ghee. It’s common to find it in your neighborhood Indian restaurant and is typically used as a “scoop” for your meal.
Paratha (one of many spellings) is an unleavened dough that is placed on a large flat cooking surface similar to a diner grill top (a Tava). Here’s where it gets interesting: You can stuff paratha with everything from aloo (potato) to garlic to egg, or any combination of ingredients. It’s flaky, buttery, and is a meal on its own when stuffed. Paratha isn’t harder to cook than naan, it’s just much heavier/more dense. As Americans are used to having bread served along side the meal, more like an appetizer, you won’t see paratha being offered as often as naan. Interesting fact about paratha: in Trinidadian cuisine, it is just as much of a staple as it is in southern India, where it’s called parotta. Food shared through Colonialism has been adapted and passed down through generations.
Naan & paratha represent just a fraction of the difference among Indian cuisine. What’s more important than knowing the difference is visiting these restaurants to try something new and unique.
If you have a favorite local restaurant, or one you are looking to try, go in and let the owner or chef know that you want to try a few things, but you’re not sure if you will like them. Most restaurants will allow you to sample some of the menu if they know you want to explore new to you dishes, and not just there to eat your favorite butter chicken each time.
Tell us about your favorite on Twitter @MIEWFoodsLLC