You see it all the time when ordering at a restaurant or a takeaway, the classic discussion of whether to order roti or naan bread. Through popularity, naan bread tends to take the lead as it is commonly customised with different flavours and fillings. That doesn’t make roti any less superior as these round pieces of joy can be rolled with your choice of dish in the centre. It’s a tough call so let’s break it down so that you can decipher which bread will be at the top of your list next time you head for Indian food.

Origins of Roti and Naan

Roti, also commonly known as Chapatti, is a traditional Indian flatbread that originated in India as far back as the 10th Century. Although not much is written about the humble roti, it is believed that the method of cooking was different than it is today. Instead of being fried on a Tawa (a versatile round cooking utensil that is dome shaped so that the outer side can be used for cooking flatbread and the inside as a wok) as it is more commonly today, the tawa was actually placed int he oven and roasted. The roti was also popular for having no flavour as it was commonly created with just wholewheat flour and water. This provided the perfect canvas for it to be eaten with any dish without disturbing the meal’s flavour. In the same way that rice is also incredibly popular, roti also provided the same accompaniment but with a little extra. Roti could be (and still is) used to eat meals with as a utensil as its versatile texture means it can be used for dipping and soaking up left over sauces as well as being used to wrap around a dish for easier consumption.

Naan is commonly thought as a traditional Indian flatbread given its popularity in Indian food and culture. It has come to light however that it is possible that naan actually originated from Persia. There is also evidence of Naan bread being created in India as far back as 187 BC after yeast arrived from Egypt. During the Moghul era (1526-1858) it was common for naan bread to be served as a breakfast food for noble families. It was William Tooke who introduced the Western culture to naan bread in 1799 after his he visited Russia, so It’s clear that recipes for delicious naan bread very quickly spread all across the globe, mostly due to immigration.

What is the difference between Roti and Naan?

Even to a person not familiar with Indian cuisine you can see that naan bread is a lot fluffier and thicker when compared to roti. This is because naan is made using yeast and is also commonly already filled with ingredients such as curds, coconut, meats and various seeds and spices. Where as roti is traditionally flatter, denser and much better for use of placing your meal inside and creating a type ‘burrito’.

Another difference is the way that each bread type is cooked. This plays a large role in the outcome of the breads. Naan bread is traditionally cooked in a Tandoor (an Indian oven that is usually made of clay and can reach searingly hot temperatures!), whereas roti is fried over a tawa.

Different Types

Both roti and naan come in all different types and flavours. Roti can be commonly found in form of chapati or Rumali Roti (Rumali translates into handkerchief and is very thin and folded). Where as naan bread has many alter-egos such as peshwari, garlic, butter and paneer.

Calorie Content

Even compared to the plain naan, roti will normally have a much lower calorie count and more vitamins and minerals than naan. Naan alternately has more calories, fats and cholesterol than roti.

Conclusion

In the end, it’s entirely your choice and neither choice means you can’t have the other next time. If you’re looking for new ways to enjoy Indian food but are watching the calories or after a staple food, then roti is the perfect accompaniment.