Photo courtesy Baar Baar

Introduce this spiced flatbread to your brunch

Rebecca Firkser
July 19, 2018

For me, there’s nothing quite like ripping into a warm flatbread. It’s one of my favorite things to do at restaurants. The shiny, piping-hot roti at Uncle Boon’s, the fluffy pita at Dizengoff—I can’t get enough. Taftan is a particular favorite. The flaky bread is made with simple ingredients and a few choice spices, which set it apart from its more mildly-seasoned peers.

“Taftan is similar to naan, just lighter and flakier,” Chef Sujan Sarkar of Baar Baar in New York City told me in an email. Sarkar explained that like naan, taftan is a hearth-baked flatbread; the former’s roots lie in Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and South Asian cuisine, and the latter in Persian and Pakistani cuisine. Taftan is also often found in the cooking style of Uttar Pradesh, a state in Northern India. “We serve different types of naan with our curries, which is common in most Indian restaurants,” added Sakar. “I want to introduce different types of breads from India and [the] subcontinent, taftan is one of them.”

Sarkar noted that taftan is often flavored with saffron, which sounds simple but packs a uniquely floral flavor and tints the bread a sunny golden color. Most taftan recipes are fairly similar: a mixture of flour, water, dry active yeast, sugar, salt, melted butter or ghee, and milk or yogurt. Instead of the simple addition of saffron or cardamom to the dough, Sarkar folds in his taftan masala, a mixture of olive oil-bloomed turmeric, curry leaves, and red chili powder with onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro. Just before baking, he’ll top the rolled-out flatbreads with fried garlic and sea salt.

Like most flatbreads, taftan pairs well with stewy dishes like curries and soups. At Baar Baar, taftan is served with an heirloom tomato kut (a Hyderabadi curry), burrata, and a cilantro and walnut chutney. Though it almost goes without saying, dragging a warm slice of taftan through a runny egg yolk over Baar Baar’s lamb curry is a deeply satisfying experience. Sarkar also uses the bread to to create a twist on avocado toast, with edamame hummus and thinly sliced radishes. Sarkar also noted that the delicately spiced bread can slant simple, and makes just as delightful a breakfast when paired with a cup of masala chai.

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