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. “Sizzling Tandoor,” New Straits Times, 11 July 2003.
2. Tan Lee Leng, “Tandoori and Naan,” Straits Times, 14 August 1982, 2 (From NewspaperSG); “Sizzling Tandoor.”
3. Jennifer Brennan, The Cuisines of Asia: Nine Great Oriental Cuisines By Technique (New York: St. Martin's/Marek, 1984), 442–43 (Call no. RSING 641.595 BRE); Margaret Chan, “Meal Fit for a King,” New Nation, 20 March 1980, 12; Tan, “Tandoori and Naan.”
4. Brennan, Cuisines of Asia, 443.
5. Li Po, “‘Golden’ Touch of a Serious Chef,” New Nation, 21 October 1972, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Eveline Gan, “Temptation,” Today, 5 July 2006, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Margaret Chan, “No Cutting of Corners,” New Nation, 8 February 1980, 14–15. (From NewspaperSG)
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