Fifteen Flatbreads We Would Dip in Things (and One We Wouldn’t)
Flatbreads are the perfect addition to any meal, unless you’re a fan of ketosis, then carbs are your mortal enemy. But even if you do follow the Atkin’s diet, flatbreads have to be healthier than regular bread right? I once read that one bagel was the equivalent of five pieces of sliced bread. How would one convert tortillas to, say, sourdough loaves?
Luckily, I’m not counting carbs, because not only do flatbreads make ideal meal companions, but they can encapsulate almost any meal also. I once knew a guy who would turn every box of Chinese leftovers into a quesadilla. General Tso’s? Put it in a quesadilla. Beef with broccoli? Quesadilla. Mapo Tofu? Just kidding, I don’t think he was into tofu, but I’m sure it would make a fine quesadilla as well. There’s nothing cheese and carbs can’t improve.
I think each of these flatbreads are just fine on their own, but personally, my favorite flatbread is one that’s dipped in a spicy sauce or something like refried beans. They’re the best at getting every last bit of curry off one’s plate or serving as a base for a heap of tasty ingredients. Basically, you can’t go wrong with these versatile breads. Everywhere in the world seems to have its own take on it. I can say that personally, I would happily dip every single one of these flatbreads in something else.
Take a tour around our very round globe today with some very flatbreads (sorry, flat-Earthers).
- Tortillas (Mexico)
If I had to guess the most famous flatbread in the US, other than pizza, it’s gotta be the tortilla. There’s nothing like a good tortilla. I’m not talking about the 12" Mission tortillas, the ones you buy at Safeway, that taste like pita bread. I’m talking the slightly seared bubbly side of a thin tortilla, the kind you get at a food truck. So simple, so good.
There are so many different kinds of tortillas, thankfully. Corn tortillas, flour tortillas, nopaltillas (cactus-corn tortillas), to name a few. Think of where the world would be without the tortilla. No burritos, tacos, sopapillas, enchiladas, oof, the list goes on. Can you imagine?
2. Chapati / Roti (India)
So, I genuinely didn’t know this before writing this post but did you know that flour tortillas and chapati are essentially the same thing? When I googled tortilla, that question came up a lot. So what exactly is the difference? After doing some research, I’m not sure myself. They both use some kind of lard, water, and some kind of flour/grain. However, chapati uses wheat flour while tortillas, when made with flour, use all-purpose. Different kinds of oil are used (animal vs. vegetable) and they are cooked slightly differently, but otherwise, pretty similar! I’d dip both of them in my beans.
Also, did you know that chapati is very popular in East Africa, the Carribbean, and other parts of Asia outside of India? The world loves chapati. It’s sometimes called roti, by the way, although roti has a lighter texture and can be made with all-purpose flour. Wait, then isn’t it safer to say that tortillas are more like roti than chapati? I’m confused.
This leavened, thin flatbread is typically made in a tandoor or tonir (cylindrical clay or metal ovens). It’s quite similar to yufka, a thinly rolled flatbread from Turkey. However, yufka is unleavened while lavash is made with yeast dough. Food historians can’t seem to agree on where lavash originated from, but many speculate it was originally made in Armenia. It’s stacked high in Armenian villages for later use and sprinkled with water when needed. Hummus and baba ganoush sold separately.
Mmmm, arepas. Arepas are made of ground maize dough. They’re eaten daily in many South American countries and are often eaten with accompaniments like cheese or meats. It’s quite similar in shape to the Mexican gordita and the Salvadoran pupusa. I won’t go into the differences between these, since I’m still confused about roti vs. chapati vs. tortillas, but let’s just say they’re slightly different.
You know what else are different? Colombian and Venezualan arepas! Both countries claim the arepa. Venezualan arepas are said to be thicker than the Colombian version. The Colombian version, on the other hand, is thinner, sweeter, and it tends to have less ingredients or fillings. I’d dip them all in Guasacaca sauce (similar to chimichurri). Yum.
5. Naan (India)
I know I gave a lot of love to the tortilla earlier, but I think naan might be my favorite flatbread on here. Garlic naan dipped in some chana masala? It doesn’t get better.
This leavened, oven-baked flatbread is traditionally baked inside a very hot clay tandoor oven with a wood or charcoal fire. The best naans are soft and chewy but also weirdly charred and crunchy in all the right spots. It’s just so good.
6. Afghan Bread (Afghanistan)
This one is similar to lavash. The seeds you see here are caraway seeds, also known as meridian fennel or Persian cumin. Afghan bread is the national bread of, you guessed it, Afghanistan, and it can be found at grocery stores all over the country as well as in markets around the world. It’s often used as a utensil to scoop up food, since it’s the norm in the region to eat with one’s hands. In case you needed any more evidence that flatbreads go with anything.
7. Focaccia (Italy)
This one is going straight into the olive oil. I know from a trip to Florence though that this is also an excellent sandwich bread, if not the best sandwich bread. For the uninitiated, focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread similar in both style and texture to pizza. The best focaccia topping? Rosemary. Hands down.
8. Piaya (Phillipines)
A piaya is an unleavened flatbread from the Philippines filled with muscovado. Don’t know what that is? No problem, me neither! FYI, it’s a type of partially refined to unrefined sugar that has a high molasses content and flavor. So… brown sugar? Not quite. Brown sugar is completely refined sugar that’s mixed with molasses. Muscovado is said to have a more complex flavor filled with notes of caramel and toffee. Anywho, I never thought I’d say this but both of them sound delicious baked inside of some dough. Why dip this flatbread in sugary goodness when you can just fill it with sugar instead? Brilliant.
9. Pita (The Middle East)
Pita is up there at the top of the most popular flatbreads list. Fun fact! You know that ‘pocket’ inside of the pita? It’s caused by water in the dough being cooked at such a high temperature that it ‘bubbles’ up when the water turns to steam. This is what forms the pita pocket! How high? 450–475 °F high. Thanks for your service, ovens.
10. Lefse (Norway)
Lefse, the traditional soft Norwegian flatbread, is made with potatoes, flour, butter, and milk or cream. This one isn’t baked in an oven though, like most of the other flatbreads we’ve covered so far. Instead, this one is cooked on a large, flat griddle. From what I can tell, lefse is unique from these other breads in that it’s commonly paired with sweet toppings, similar to crepes. The most popular topping, known as “lefse-klenning,” involves adding butter to the lefse before rolling it up. Other common toppings: lingonberries, sugar, cinnammon, and jelly. Sign me up. Okay, so I’m starting to realize that maybe dipping wouldn’t be my first choice with all of these flatbreads.
11. Tunnbröd (Sweden)
Tunnbröd literally translates to “thin bread” and it’s Sweden’s wonderful addition to this list. You’ve probably heard of its cousin, knäckebröd or crispbread, which is a type of cracker that’s an absolute staple food for many. Tunnbröd can be soft or crispy, and when it’s crispy it still differs from crispbread in that there aren’t as many air bubbles in tunnbröd’s thin dough. Traditionally, it’s served with fermented herring or used as a “dip” in the pot. Yes, please!
12. Kulcha (India)
Kulcha is a type of mildly leavened flatbread that, like so many other flatbreads, originated in the Indian subcontinent. As far as its position in the flatbread family, kulcha sits happily closer with naan than it does roti or chapati in that it’s got that soft, leavened texture. The key difference lies in the flour. Kulcha is usually made with maida or refined white flour, while naan tends to be made with wheat flour. They also have different leavening agents. Naan is leavened with yoghurt and yeast, while kulcha dough is not. I’ll take them all.
13. Matzo (Israel)
Matzo is a huge part of Jewish cuisine. It’s a type of unleavened flatbread often consumed during Passover, when leavened grains are prohibited. They’re also the prime ingredient in matzo ball soup!
14. Injera (Ethiopia, Eritrea)
This sour fermented flatbread originated in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Not only is it the national dish of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but Somalia claims it as its national dish as well! Injera is made from mixing water and teff, a grain from the highlands of Ethiopia. Like pretty much all breads everywhere, injera is an integral aspect of every meal. In fact, the whole concept of injera is revolutionary. When meals are served, stews and salads are placed on injera and then eaten by tearing off pieces of the injera and dipping it. The meal ends when all the bread is consumed. It’s simultaneously a food, eating utensil, and plate as stews and salads are placed on several injera for the meal. Amazing.
15. Shaobing (China)
A common snack food in Northern China, shaobing is a layered flatbread normally topped with sesame seeds. They can be eaten for breakfast with milk or tea (although let’s be honest, I would totally dip these in my coffee like my Sicilian grandpa taught me). People also enjoy them with sweet or savory fillings.
16. Pizza (Italy)
Remember how I said there was one flatbread on here we wouldn’t dip? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that if you have to dip your pizza in something else that it’s just not good pizza, right? But also, Papa John’s garlic sauce is a thing, so… nevermind. Yeah, actually I would dip pizza in things too.
That’s what I love so much about flatbreads, though: the possibilities are endless. Wrap em, put things on em, dip em, whatever. A good flatbread is welcome at any meal.
Are there any flatbreads we missed that you think should be on here? Let me know and keep on dippin’ in the free world.
Originally published at https://www.roadgoat.com on March 15, 2021.