It is hard to say how much naan we go through in a given week. As someone who eats hummus almost every day, I find myself having a loaf of naan and some raw veggies to go with it rather than pita bread or pita chips. Lately, I have even been experimenting with different uses of naan, such as this “Eggs in a Basket” creation. This type of bread tends to be a bit pricier than pita. Shop Rite sells a two-pack of barely edible, mass-produced naan for $3.99 (or a pack of four minis adding up to the same amount for the same price). Aldi, meanwhile, charges $3.99 as well but they give eight minis in a pack. Despite my disdain for Shop Rite, I am there more often than Aldi, whose naan I have found to be more enjoyable. But whenever I visit Patel Brothers, an Indian market in Parlin, I am reminded of what a deal really looks like. More on that later.
Justin and I have become more adventurous with our cooking. In fact, when he moved in, I told him from the start, “I don’t mind doing all the cooking. I can cook anything except Indian food.” Now, I love this type of food, but I always left it to restaurants such as Neelam which is only five minutes away. However, with everyone and their mother now selling “simmer sauces” (Shop Rite, Aldi, Lidl, and even Big Lots for God’s sake have their own brand), I figured it was time for me to foray into my favorite ethnic cuisine. I’ve made tikka masala, makhni, korma, vindaloo, and something called chettinad, all using store-bought sauces or spice packets, pulled rotisserie chicken (it works decently well in place of authentic tandoori chicken which is beyond us in our kitchen), and doctoring it up with cream and coriander. Add some rice and a pack of naan, and we have ourselves a feast. One thing led to another, and we have been trying even more dishes. I do a roasted curry chicken and cauliflower (my mom’s recipe, actually) and a paneer saag as good as anyone. So why not our own naan?
He is the baker of the two of us. I have no patience for dough. So yesterday, we headed into Patel Brothers to pick up a tawa (only $8.99!), which is a curved-shaped pan that serves two purposes for making naan (and other breads, I imagine) and a bag of chapati flour. It caused our cashier to even state she was impressed that we were undertaking this. We gave it a test run later that night. Justin made the dough, consisting of flour, yogurt, and a few other ingredients he got from a recipe online. It rested for four hours, and then onto the tawa it went.
The batch made six naans. It was divided into equal-size balls and rolled out using a tiny rolling pin that we also bought earlier in the day. The cast-iron tawa is then heated up on a roaring flame. I picked up one of the now flat pieces of dough, coated one side with water, and then turned down the heat on the tawa and smacked the dough on wet-side down. After a couple of minutes, I picked up the pan and because the naan stuck to it, was able to roast the top side. It was easy to cook, though the one trick was making sure the bottom does not burn. It is impossible to lift it to check and see, so you have to keep a close eye on the bubbling of the dough. I brushed the finished product with butter and filled two small bowls with both sweet and mint-coriander chutneys for dipping. It was delicious.
This does not mean we are going to make our own naan every time we want it. No, we are not that insane. But this was an amazing learning experience and it brings me one step closer to conquering this cuisine. We also stocked up on frozen naan. Patel Brothers is incredibly economical, offering a 16-pack for $4.99 (crazy, right?) and smaller four-packs of plain, flavored, and stuffed naans for $1.99. It is a bargain that cannot be beaten. Shop Rite be damned.
If there is one thing that can unite us in this crazed world, it would be food. I strongly encourage everyone to go out and try something new. I have eaten Indian food my entire life, but I feel that only in the last three or four years has it gained “popular status” in this country (with the exception of Edison, NJ of course!) thanks to food bloggers and internet chefs writing about their adventures and introducing people to what was always an intimidating ethnic food. Even if you can’t cook it, at least go to a restaurant. There is a whole world of culinary flavors and experiences out there. Don’t be scared to try something new.