Five Breads World Travelers Should Know3 min read
It may be overwhelming (in a tasty way) to think about the sheer variety of bread across world cultures. While different types of bread have varying health benefits, the breaking of bread is symbolic across cultures, representing a coming together, an exchange of company as well as food.
But don’t make the mistake of going to a brand new country and asking for a bread basket with dinner. Take the time to learn about staples in the region and how they are served and eaten. Below are five very different types of bread that are central to dining in other parts of the world.
In Ethiopia, Eritrea and some parts of Sudan, injera is a staple. This sour fermented pancake-like bread is flat with a spongy texture. Made of just two simple ingredients: water and teff flour, injera is used as both utensil and platter. Stews and salads are placed atop the middle of the injera, allowing it to soak up their flavor. Eaters tear off the ends of the injera to grasp and eat bites of the dish. Finally, the flavor-soaked injera at the bottom is consumed.
Teff flour contains no gluten, which means injera is often gluten-free. Be aware, though, that when teff flour is not available, other grains (such as barley, millet, and sorghum) can be fermented to make injera. If you have a gluten intolerance, we recommend asking if teff flour or other grains were used in the baking.
If for you, Indian food is just an occasional take-out option, you might be familiar with naan, a slightly leavened bread more well-known outside the country. But its unleavened cousin, roti, is more of a staple across the Indian subcontinent and beyond. Roti has immigrated to the Caribbean and anywhere with a large Indian population.
Roti has a smooth, flat texture and crisp, mild taste, as it is meant to be a building block for more flavorful food. Made primarily from whole wheat atta flour and often spread with a bit of ghee, roti is traditionally served with curries or vegetable dishes, and can be used as a carrier for them.
Pão de queijo
Pão de queijo is another gluten-free bread, though of a completely different shape than injera! This cheesy bun makes regular appearances as breakfasts and snacks, served alongside coffee or soup, in Brazil. It is made with cassava flour or tapioca starch, eggs and various kinds of cheese, and baked into small balls. The bread tastes fluffy, a bit chewy and slightly tart.
Lavash is a soft, thin flatbread native to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. Baked in tandoor ovens or in underground clay ovens called tonirs, the dough is rolled, stretched and slapped against oven walls. Preparing and cutting the lavash is often a communal cultural activity, involving multiple people.
The bread is soft, with a slightly charred flavor. It is often used as a wrap for other foods, such as potatoes, cheese and herbs, or barbecued meat and fish.
Perhaps you’ve heard of challah, the traditional braided Jewish bread served on the Sabbath. Zopf, found in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, is similar. Both are braided egg breads with a similar look.
But zopf is sweeter and less dense, with a crunchier crust. It is made with milk and butter, rather than oil and honey. Zopf is traditionally eaten on Sunday mornings with butter or fruit jam.