What Is a Paratha?

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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
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Paratha is a type of fried Indian flat bread that can either be eaten plain or with filling. The bread is particularly popular in Singapore. A version of this bread is also eaten in Malaysia where it is known as roti canai. Both crisp and flaky, paratha cooks rely on folding the dough multiple times to achieve the unique texture of the bread.

The bread's dough may only include flour, water, and salt, but usually includes sugar as well. Milk and eggs may also be added to the dough. Although the bread can be cooked in oil, it is traditionally fried in ghee, a type of clarified butter popular in Indian cuisine. Ghee is also often used when kneading the dough and may be placed directly into the dough mixture.

To make paratha, the dry ingredients and the ghee, if used, are mixed together. Once the mixture is clumped, eggs, milk, and water can be added. If ghee is not used, water is included with the dry ingredients. The dough is kneaded, either by hand or in a mixer using a paddle attachment, until it is smooth. Once smooth, it is formed into balls.

The balls are coated with ghee, covered, and allowed to rest. In traditional paratha, the dough will rest for at least six hours, and may even be refrigerated overnight. If chilled, the dough is first allowed to return to room temperature before it is worked with again. Quicker versions may only require a resting time as brief as ten minutes.

After resting and returning to room temperature, the dough is then stretched into paper thin sheets. The balls may be rolled out with a rolling pin or stretched using hands, but the Singapore version, called roti paratha, is traditionally tossed to stretch, much like pizza dough. Once the dough has been stretched thin, it is folded several times to create airy layers.

Then, ghee is melted in a pan and each paratha is pressed or flattened into the pan to cook. Cooking only takes a few minutes on each side, and the bread should only be flipped once. The finished bread is golden brown.

If fillings are added, they are placed in the center of the dough during the folding process and the dough is sealed. Then, it is rolled thin before frying. Fillings may be cheese-, potato-, or spinach-based and include many different seasonings as well as the main ingredient.

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