One of the most popular foods in India during the pandemic was Khoba Roti, a beautiful rustic bread from northwestern Rajasthan. Made from wheat flour, salt, chili flakes, and carom seeds, unleavened flatbread with intricate patterns and ghee-filled imprints rose to fame thanks to a spontaneous social media trend.
Who can deny that bread is eminently Instagrammable?
Passionate foodies have been khoba roti’s Instagram photos. Home cooks put their cooking skills to the test by making this oversized bread, which can be 6 to 8 inches in diameter and half a centimeter thick. Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna jumped on the bread wagon leading online tutorials on how to make khoba, while other top Indian chefs such as Ranveer Brar and Ajay Chopra have also posted recipes and videos on bread and its accompaniments.
India boasts of an assortment of delicious traditional flatbreads which underline its rich diversity and cultural and culinary syncretism. From Kashmir czho at Bihar sattu roti, Kerala in layers parotta at Maharashtra bhakri, breads are an integral part of home-cooked meals – deceptive in their simplicity, but requiring rigor in the balance of textures and flavors.
Currently, although it is khoba – also known as kobha, Roth, Rotla, Angarkadi, Jadi Roti or even the roasted cookie because of its crumbly texture – which everyone won over.
“I tried making most Indian breads – naan, chapati, parottas or puris – but I mostly liked making khoba because it gave me a lot of creative freedom,” said Neha Dutta, an IT manager from Bangalore. who is an avid home baker. “I could use any flour, create any pattern with thumbs, tweezers or even chimta (Indian pliers). Its accompaniments can also vary from modest pickles to rich non-vegetarian dishes. I paired mine with panchmel dal (a mix of five lentils) and garlic chutney, and the compliments have kept rolling.
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Vini Mehta, a chartered accountant and avid home cook, says she first tried bread at her friend’s house, and it was love at first sight. “I was so blown away by khoba’s looks that I rushed into her kitchen to see how it was made,” she told me. “The process was even more fascinating. Making the notches, pouring ghee into them until the bread acquired a sparkling, golden surface filled with craters, was a magical process. I couldn’t wait to replicate the experience in my own kitchen the next day.
According to Abhilasha Jain, who runs Marwadi Khana, a catering company specializing in vegetarian cuisine from Rajasthan, the word “khoba” literally means cavity or depression. “When the bread is put on the tawa (cast iron baking tray), deep cavities are made with the thumb into which a lot of ghee is poured. The bread is baked on [a] low heat until crisp and also to make sure it doesn’t stay raw inside. You can cook it in gas or in the tandoor, but I prefer koyla sigri (charcoal fire), which leaves nice grill marks on it and also gives it a smoky flavor.
According to Jain, geometric designs are not just aesthetic; they help the khoba to cook evenly while also making it easier to absorb the ghee into the dough, making it tastier and easier to chew. “I have been inundated with orders for this bread and it is currently one of my best-selling items,” she says.
But what explains the current popularity of bread? According to cookbook author Nita Mehta, who has written more than 600 cookbooks, including several on Indian breads, the pandemic-induced work-from-home culture is encouraging experimentation in Indian kitchens. Families cook together, try new recipes, eat at home and enjoy sharing their culinary creations online.
“Although khoba has been around for centuries, the curiosity of the younger generation has created an explosion of interest in it,” Mehta said. “In addition, the safety of bread makes it appealing to fitness conscious millennials. They incorporate healthier flours like millet, sorghum and corn into the traditional recipe, thus increasing its health quotient. Plus, who can deny that bread is perfectly Instagram-friendly? “
The provenance of Khoba can be traced to the villages around Jodhpur in Rajasthan and the way of life of its people. Also known as the “Land of the Maharajas” due to the many Rajput kings who ruled the state for centuries, Rajasthan has a long history of wars and hunting.
Rajput kings traveled to distant lands with great armies to wage battles, said Ashwani Kumar Singh, executive sous chef of Leela Ambience Convention Hotel in New Delhi. “This Peripatetic culture required robust bread that could travel well. The Rajput soldiers would thus carry roti khoba, which could be eaten with a minimum of fuss with pickles or onions without plates or cutlery, ”he said, explaining that it was thicker and more resistant than the others. rotis and didn’t spoil because the ghee and salt acted as preservatives. . “Khoba was also popular among the nomadic tribes of Rajasthan who crossed the hot desert on foot with their families and camels in large caravans.”
The traditional sides of Khoba roti are as interesting as the bread itself
The Marwari community of Rajasthan (traditionally traders) also preferred to carry khoba roti on their travels. Their community is mostly made up of Jains, who as staunch supporters of non-violence follow a purely vegetarian diet that eschews meat and even root vegetables, tubers, and rhizomes. They are often reluctant to eat outside the home due to their religious restrictions, and khoba roti could be easily carried and eaten without any accompaniment. Bread is so popular among the Jain community that they even hold a festival, Roth Teej, named after him. “On this day we are supposed to eat bread made from one type of grain (Roth), once a day. So, we are making khoba wheat on that day, ”Singh said. “The festival strengthens the belief that material wealth does not last and that only renunciation can lead to true happiness.”
Rajasthan, called the Great Indian Desert or the Thar Desert, is known for its harsh climate and temperatures that often exceed 50 ° C in summer. The physiological demands that this places on the human body have long determined agricultural practices and the eating habits of its inhabitants.
Indigenous dried vegetables, papads (savory flour pancakes) and wadis (dried lentil balls) with their long shelf life are incorporated into local dishes. Instead of water, a scarce commodity, dairy products such as milk, buttermilk, and ghee are used prolifically, which also helps to cover up the shortcomings of a quintessential vegetable Rajasthani meal, Jain explained.
I loved making khoba because it gave me a lot of creative freedom
The traditional sides of Khoba roti are as interesting as the bread itself. They cover a range of fiery laal malike (mutton curry) at rabori ki sabji (a curry made from buttermilk and cornstarch) at gatta curry (balls of chickpea flour in sauce). Bread is also often served with a side of lentils, Kadhi (chickpea flour porridge), vegetables and chutneys. Another popular accompaniment is panch kuta, containing five wild, desert-specific, forage ingredients – ker, sangri, amchur, gunda and Kumati – which are harvested, dried and then stored for bad weather when nothing is growing.
Singh explains that although modern cooks often use gas stoves to make khoba, it is traditionally cooked in chulhas, terracotta or brick ovens with cow dung pies or charcoal. “Cooking it the traditional way amplifies its variety of flavors,” he says. “Interestingly, unlike other homemade Indian breads usually made only by the women of the house, Khoba is also made by men from Rajasthan and therefore is a great social leveler.
However, the key to making good khoba, Jain sums up, is to never skimp on ghee. “’The more ghee, the tastier the bread,’ says the Rajasthani proverb,” she says. “Ghee is the ultimate expression of a cook’s love, not to mention the fact that it makes already delicious bread taste like heaven!”
Khoba roti recipe
By Abhilasha Jain
1 cup whole wheat flour
less than ½ c hot water
½ teaspoon carambola seeds (optional)
2½ tablespoons of ghee
Salt to taste
1. Combine the flour, ghee, salt and starfruit seeds.
2. Add lukewarm water and knead into a tight dough.
3. Let the dough rest for half an hour, then knead again to make it more flexible.
4. Divide the dough into two equal balls.
5. Take a ball, flatten it and roll it into a large circle to a thickness of 0.5 cm.
6. Heat a tawa over medium heat.
7. Put the roti on the tawa and turn it over after 15 to 20 seconds, keeping the flame low.
8. Start pinching the roti. Start from the center or the sides and continue to pattern all over the roast. This procedure will take about a minute or so. During this time, the roti will be almost done on the other side.
9. Now turn the roti and cook for a few more minutes.
10. Remove the roti from the tawa and bake it in a preheated oven for a few minutes until it turns golden. Now take it out and put it over a direct flame over low heat to char it lightly. Cook evenly on both sides.
11. Pour the ghee into the cavities made by pinching the dough.
Serve hot with dal, vegetables or gatta curry.
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