"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The India Journals, Ch. 31, Naan in the Morning, Naan in the Evening, Naan at Suppertime

Ch. 31, Naan in the Morning, Naan in the Evening, Naan at Suppertime

We sat at a picnic table on the banks of the lake, just Baba and me, eating boiled eggs with kofta sandwhichs-meatballs [sic] and pickles wrapped in naan." —Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Naan is to India as tortillas are to Mexico.  Somewhat round, akin to a large pita, naan is the ubiquitous bread in India.  I would not be at all surprised if Indian prayers included, “Give us this day, our daily naan.”

Credit:   Ingalls Photography

My introduction to naan came not in India, but in Seattle, Washington, a few years ago.  I was visiting my long-time friend Carlene and we were touring around the Pioneer Square area.   We’d been to the Klondike Museum and the Seattle Underground tour, and were looking for a place to have lunch.

Carlene homed in on an Indian restaurant and  suggested it.   There aren’t any Indian restaurants in Moose Pass where I live and my out-of-Moose-Pass experience with such was nil, so it was not my first option. 

But, there was something in the way she said, “They have naan,” and the slight swoon afterwards, that changed my mind.  I had not a clue what naan was, but I was soon to find out.  And, I approved.

Though India has many flatbreads, both leavened and unleavened, naan is the favored bread for sopping up the many sauces used in Indian cooking, as well as for wrapping food, much like a tortilla.   In fact, naan is often eaten with a variety of dipping sauces as a full meal.  It’s name derives from the Persian word non, which refers to bread.

 The coolest thing about naan is how it’s cooked.   The dough is portioned into balls, flattened, and then plastered to the inside of a cylindrical clay oven, called a tandoor.  It looks much like an ancient water jug.   In the bottom of the tandoor is a charcoal or wood fire, a fire that can reach 900 degrees F.   

I saw bakers slap the dough to the tandoor sides with gloved (protected) and non-gloved (unprotected) hands.   The baker watches the baking dough and when the bubbles start to burn, he flips it out with a long rod.  Most often it is immediately brushed with ghee (akin to clarified butter), but naan can also be flavored with garlic, herbs, and/or various spices.

Lunch at the Spice Court.

Marigolds and rose petals welcome us.

Our group arriving at the Spice Court.


A pudding dessert.

My lunch plate.  Chicken, paneer tikka, rice, fries, and creamed veggies.   And then I went exploring...   And I found an open side door to the kitchen.

I remained outside the open door until the young man in green beckoned me in.

Preparing naan.

Fetching the baking naan from the tandoor.   These guys don't hold still long enough to get an in-focus shot.

 The naan bakers at the Spice Court.   While my friends were eating pudding and ice cream for dessert, I was filming this.

The guides and drivers were eating outside.  There was another group dining in the other side of the restaurant.  Note the large basket of naan on the table.

"What are you eating," I asked.   "Indian food," said Dinesh.   "Ah," I replied, "they left the spices out of our food and gave them all to you?"   "YES!"

Chicken is also roasted in a tandoor.   I have yet to figure out how they get those pieces of chicken to stick to the sides of the tandoor.  (That's a joke.   They use a grill or skewers.  I think.)

Tandoori chicken at the Indiana Restaurant.   Alas, while it tasted good, it was dry.

Nann is the angelic flatbread;  papadum is the evil flatbread.   Papadum is served prior to the main meal, much like Mexican restaurants have chips and salsa on the table.   

 At first glance, papadum appears to be a melted cheese sprinkled with paprika.  It is a deceit.  One bite of this crispy flatbread will leave the unsuspecting diner with cauterized taste buds as one of its main ingredients is red pepper and even more red pepper and add some more red pepper after that.

Papadum, made from any of a variety of flours, and more red pepper than is believable.   As hot as it is, it is irresistible.

Enjoy naan; beware of papadum

More photos of food in Jairpur.

That evening, we were on our own for dinner.   This is a frequent thing on tours.   It leaves the traveler free to explore dining possibilities other than buffets.

The guides said they would take anyone interested to a local restaurant in Jaipur called Indiana.   I kid you not.

The restaurant is named in honor of the owner's alma mater, Perdue University.

The evil papadum was on the table as an appetizer.

The entertainment was especially for us.

Strategically-placed braziers kept the area warm.

Playing the harmonium.

While my friends innocently watched the entertainment and before......

....they were lured into a group dance......I went exploring.

And found the Source of the Naan.

Had to use flash to get this photo because it was quite dark in the baking area, and it washed out the glowing coals.   Or perhaps those were chicken pieces that didn't stick to the walls of the tandoor.


  1. Ah yes, naan ... we have been eating some here in Hong Kong as well at an Indian restaurant just across the street from our apartment ... also tikka chicken, tandori chicken and chicken buriani. All are delicious. How fun that you got to go back into the kitchen to watch then bake the naan while the others had dessert! Like Cap has said, you really did get to see the broad spectrum of India on this trip! Sending love from Hong Kong. Patti and Cap

  2. Exploring is your passion. Having an earnest desire to see all there is to see in the places you visit around the world is a natural need deep within your core, Gully. You may occasionally get a scowl from the tour directors but I'm smiling at your curiosity.

  3. The Tandoori cooks have absolutely no hair on their lower forearms from the heat of the Tandoor Oven. This Post has made me hungry and Patti and I are eating Indian Food here across from our apartment in Sheung Wan in Hong Kong with .. yes of course .. Naan and Papadam. Amazing your experience on this short trip to India. My hat remains off to the tour management team for your tour. I am slowly working up to the fact that I will be heading to India in mid-July for a month or two. Much Joy from Patti and myself from Hong Kong .. yet another in a never ending series of great Posts!