I'm assuming naan doesn't need much introduction but if you haven't heard or tasted it before, naan is an incredibly popular leavened, oven-baked flatbread native to Western, Central and South Asia. Among other Indian breads, naan is an integral part of North-Indian cuisine yet enjoys widespread popularity not only all over India but the rest of the world as well. This soft, crispy and hearty flatbread is the perfect medium to dunk in all kinds of savory Indian curries and dry side dishes. I know of many people who love to eat naan just as it is, smeared generously with good ol' butter! There are so many varieties of naan available, the most common being - plain, butter, garlic and herb flavored naan. Adding to its international appeal, this versatile bread can even be turned into wraps, rolls, pizza and sandwiches. The possibilities are endless :)
I love North-Indian food and I LOVE naan. It is something I order without fail when I'm at Indian restaurants. I always thought naan would be one of those things that only chefs at restaurants knew how to make well and would turn out rubbish at home. After all, the restaurants do use the tandoori oven which reaches very high temperatures (in the range of 480 deg C) which results in the perfect texture and smoky flavor of the naan. Replicating something like that at home would obviously be quite a challenge. That being said, while browsing food galleries, I was surprised to see so many home cooks post recipes for naan that looked quite authentic. And even more surprising was that many recipes that I saw were posted by non-Indians. Being slightly intimidated by traditional naan recipes, I'd always be the first to click on "quick", "instant", "non-yeast" based recipes and even tried one or two but they never worked for me. I guess when it comes to certain recipes, short-cuts are not the answer.
So, one day I had some free time and thought I'd try making naan the way its supposed to be made. In the past, I'd seen recipes for naan that use both the oven as well as the stove-top i.e. on a tawa. I naively assumed that the oven would do a better job of cooking the naan (I'm oven obsessed!) so that was what I tried first. Unfortunately the maximum temperature in my oven is 250 deg C (higher temperatures would work better) so I wasn't entirely satisfied with how the texture of the naan turned out. It wasn't as soft as I would have liked it to be and were also more on the thicker side. Slightly dejected, I thought I'd try the stove-top method as a last ditch attempt and if it didn't work, I'd entirely abandon my naan-making efforts and not think about it again. I used the exact same recipe that I had earlier tried with the oven (the only change I made was to roll out the naans thinner) and whoopee, were my efforts rewarded! What's more, it was so much easier! I used the same technique to cook the naan that I use to make phulkas. The resulting naan was pillowy soft and had nice char marks from the direct contact with the flame. The only difference from restaurant-quality naan that I could point out was that it lacked that signature crunchy-crispy texture. Even then, it was naan that would make any home cook proud! I had prepared some creamy Malai Kofta to go along with it and it was one heck of an awesome Sunday lunch (if I do say so myself!). I had some left-over naan and curry so I even packed it in mine and my hubby's lunch-box to take to work the next day and you have to believe me when I say that the naan was as soft when I had it the subsequent day as it was the previous day (and this was after overnight refrigeration and a few seconds of microwaving to reheat). It really surprised me because even at restaurants, the naan tends to get hard, tough and rubbery if it is left out for too long which is also a reason why we never get it packed as take-away.
Ok so I've rattled on long enough about my naan-making adventure and I hope I've managed to convince you that it is worth the effort. Now for the important bit - the recipe :)
Oh yeah and just more more thing - I will be posting my recipe for Malai Kofta soon so watch this space...