My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t, couldn’t end there. At least that’s what I would choose to believe. —Barack Obama
As a visible minority living in Canada, I often get asked “Where are you from?” It doesn’t bother me in the least bit. With over four decades of living here, I still promptly reply “India”. Deep down, I know that that one word says very little about me, but I also know that it will instantly clarify the colour of my skin, my petite frame, my big brown eyes to my newest acquaintance. Yes, I was born there, and yes, my ancestry is mostly Indian, but India itself is as diverse as there are provinces and languages spoken there, if not more. Add to that, that I grew up in Canada, I don’t believe that the statement “I’m from India” holds much meaning other than the mere fact that India will always be my birthplace.
Our lives begin with our birthplaces, and as stated so eloquently by Mr. Obama, our identity begins with our race, but we are all so much more than our race, wouldn’t you agree? And if I may extend Mr. Obama’s thoughts, I would choose to believe that no matter where our lives begin, and no matter where our identity begins, we are all much the same, none more superior than the other, none more valuable than the next.
Although naan is known the world over as the ubiquitous Indian flat bread, it isn’t a bread I grew up eating. In my birth province of Gujarat, the traditional bread of choice is roti, also called chapati. In fact, the first time that I ate naan was at an Indian restaurant here in Canada but since my Indian-ness often prompts people (husband included) to ask how naan is made… I thought I’d learn and add it to my repertoire of other flat breads I make, like tortilla… and pita… and pizza… and of course my beloved, roti.
NOTE: and a huge one at that, before you get disappointed. Naan bread is traditionally made in a special oven from which it inherits a charred flavour. Since my recipe calls for stove-top cooking, you can all but forget that. Secondly, I use whole wheat flour (as I always do for health reasons) which gives the risen dough the lumpy look above, and the bread, a lot less elastic-y texture compared to what you would get with ultra-refined white flour. If you want to know more about the perfect naan, there’s a nice write-up here.
Homemade Wholewheat Naan (adapted from here)
- 420 g strong wholemeal bread flour
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 100 g yogurt
- 30 g olive oil, plus an additional 1 tbsp
- 1 large egg
- about 200-230 g warm milk
- In a large bowl, combine flour and instant yeast, let sit 1 minute.
- Mix in salt, baking powder.
- Add yogurt, oil, egg and 200 g of the milk.
- Mix with your hand and start forming the dough, add additional milk as required, 1 tbsp at a time. Knead well. Form into a ball.
- Grease ball of dough with 1 tbps oil, cover bowl with a clean cloth and let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm spot.
- The dough should have doubled in size. Knead again and divide into 8 equal balls.
- Heat a cast iron skillet (I use a tortilla pan) on the stove top.
- In the meantime, roll each ball into a naan (shape does not matter, about 1/4 inch in thickness).
- Place a naan on the hot skillet and cook for about 2 minutes, until it bubbles and browns.
- Turn over and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, again, until it browns.
- Repeat with other naans.
- Optional, but highly worth it, slather naan with garlic butter and enjoy.