“Nashta” simply translates to Breakfast in India. However quite surprisingly the concept of breakfast has never been existing in India since ancient times. Simply considered as the first meal of the day, the dishes have varied from region to region from super lavish spreads to simple and light meals. In recent times the nashta has been commercialised, losing its authenticity, simply because people are now more health conscious and Indian breakfast at large was considered to be notoriously a very heavy meal. Saying that, the real Indian breakfast still has hasn’t lost it identity thanks to the corner shops at the “chowks” still serving lip smacking dishes all over the Indian subcontinent and surprisingly the meals are served throughout the day and not just in the mornings. For the love of good hearty desi nashta I have put together some famous dishes from different states of the subcontinent which I am sure will make your mouth water.
This beautiful valley is known for its “Chai” , the Kashmiris are considered to be heavy tea drinker and the most famous breakfast tea is the noon chai or sheer chai which is a salted pink tea made with green tea leaves, milk and flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, pistachios. This tea derives its pink colour due to the addition of bicarbonate of soda. The noon chai is usually consumed with traditional Kashmiri bread known as the “Kulcha” and ” baqerkhani” without them the Kashmiri breakfast is incomplete. The baqerkhani is more like a puff pastry, which is round, crispy and layered made with flour, semolina, butter, milk, sugar, ghee and cardamom. Once baked its topped with sesame seeds. Some other varieties of breads are tsot and tsochvoru which are small and round breads, topped with poppy and sesame seeds.
Another most famous Kashmiri breakfast which very few have heard of is the Kashmiri Hareesa also known as the mutton halwa. It’s a century old winter dish made early in the morning. This dish is prepared with boneless meat of goat or lamb which is mixed with wheat and spices and is stirred for hours on slow heat. Once cooked the texture resembles haleem and is topped with fried onions ideally served with traditional baqerkhani.
Punjabis are well-known all over the world for their great cuisine. The “Parantha” which is considered the king of all Indian breakfast and is still consumed all over the world with delight was born in Punjab. Parantha is derived from the words “parat” which means a large tray and “atta” which means dough. Parantha is unleavened flat bread which is stuffed with different vegetables, spices or meat and fried in desi ghee or oil, served with dollops of homemade white butter, yoghurt or home-made pickles. The paratha is usually washed down with a glass of lassi which is made of yoghurt and water either sweet or salty. The paranthe waali galli in old delhi is an institution in itself, serving over 100 varieties of paranpthas. A few examples of the famous paranthas are aloo(potato) parantha, gobi(cauliflower) parantha, mooli(radish) parantha , methi(fenugreek) parantha, paneer(cottage cheese) parantha, ajjwain (carom seeds) parantha and the Keema (mince lamb) parantha.
Another famous Punjabi breakfast fare is the Chole Bhature. Consumed again all over the globe this epic dish cannot be left out of the breakfast selection. Bhaturas are crispy fried puffed bread served with spiced chickpeas which are soaked overnight, cooked with spices on a slow heat and served with onion salad and green chillies.
Bihar and West Bengal
The “Sattu” or the powdered gram is consumed heavily in this state in various forms. Sattu is prepared by roasting bengal gram and grinding it into a fine powder like texture. Sattu is considered to be high in fibres and is a great source of energy. Usually consumed for breakfast – the sattu parantha which is a regular parantha made wheat flour stuffed with sattu flour, onions, chillies, ginger,garlic, nigella seeds, lemon juice, mustard oil and coriander leaves, this is usually pan-fried in Ghee and served with yoghurt and pickle.
The famous radha ballavi from West Bengal is another breakfast classic. Its my personal favourite. Deep fried Bengali flat bread stuffed with urad daal is served with “niramish aloor dum ” aka simple potato curry or “aloo torkari” which is a spicy potato curry and bengali cholaar daal . My suggestion – if you haven’t tried this dish you haven’t lived.
The most famous Gujarati breakfast is the match made in culinary heaven also known as the Gathia and Jalebi, typically consumed every Sunday. the salty gathia and sweet jalebi form a perfect combination. The gathia often called Pata Gathia or fafda ganthia is made of a gram flour dough, flavored with salt, pepper and carom seeds and is deep-fried in thin strips until crispy. The Jalebi is made by frying all-purpose flour batter in circular shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup usually flavored with saffron.
Theplas are another classic Gujarati dish consumed widely for breakfast. The theplas are spiced parathas with the addition of yoghurt, fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves and spices. Theplas are usually served with “chunda” which is a sweet and sour mango chutney.
One of the most popular non vegetarian breakfast fare is the Nihari. Legend has it that this meat stew originated in Old Delhi some 100 years ago by a local doctor to cure cold and fever somewhere next to Jama Masjid where after offering morning prayers people use to consume this stew for breakfast. The stew is cooked overnight to release maximum flavours from the bone marrow and creating really tender meat. This dish was mastered on a different level by the Hyderabadi Chefs. The Chefs added goat tongue to enhance the flavour along with goat shanks, spices and vegetables, slow cooked for 4-6 hrs. Its best eaten during winters accompanied with naan or layered kulcha.
Another popular Andhra breakfast is the Pesara Attu Upma – a crepe made with moong daal (green gram lentil) flavoured with chillies and ginger, stuffed with upma (savory semolina porridge) served with karam podi (a spicy powder made with lentils and whole spices) and coconut chutney
Now this next dish is arguably one of the most popular breakfast dishes eaten all over India with different variations and recipes. Yes I am talking about “kandha batata poha” made with flattened rice flakes, potatoes and onions. This dish originated in Maharashtra and is a staple dish of the state. It’s a very healthy breakfast. Rice flakes are passed through running cold water to moisten them. The rice flakes are then tempered with oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions, green chillies, turmeric, sugar, salt and mixed together. Potatoes are diced and cooked separately and added to the poha. Poha is garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander, freshly dessicated coconut and a dash of fresh lime juice.
This famous tourist spot is well known for its fresh seafood and an amazing selection of meaty dishes with a rich portuguese influence. However it also offers a hearty breakfast dish on the menu. Known as the “Pao Tonak” which is technically a stew made with dried assorted peas or legumes, potatoes, onions, tamarind, grated coconut and a special masala consisting of coriander seeds, red chillies, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. The stew is served traditionally with local crusty bread also known as “pao”.
The “Idli” is the most famous breakfast consumed not only in India but has made its presence felt around the globe and by far enjoys a cult status in the Indian culinary stage. Tamil Nadu is said to be the birth place of “Idli”. Considered to be the most humble breakfast dish – rice and fermented black lentils that are husked are formed into cakes by steaming. These cakes are then served with fresh coconut chutney and sambhar (spicy lentil soup) or milagai podi (coarse powder mixture of ground dry spices) adding sesame or coconut oil to it to form a paste. The recipe of Idli is supposed to be 1100 years old and in the 21st century this humble breakfast dish has had many variations to its name.
This beautiful state situated off the Malabar coast is also referred to as Gods own country, is not only rich in heritage and culture but also commands a great culinary history. Since I talk about Kerala I need to mention the ever glorious Idiyappam. A simple dish originating in Kerala and is a staple breakfast of the locals. Idiyappam also know as nool puttu is made with roasted rice flour which is formed into a dough by mixing warm water and then this dough is pressed through a Idiyappam press which releases this dough into noodle shape onto banana leaves placed in a steamer. The recipes vary and some call for the addition of fresh grated coconut. The Iddiyappams are served with a number of side dishes. A few examples are – egg curry, vegetable stew, peas and egg kurma, chicken mappas and chicken stew.
Its been really difficult to choose a few selected dishes out of hundreds of dishes eaten every morning across the lengths and breadths of the Indian sub continent. However I shall continue this journey of spreading the love for Indian food in my upcoming blogs.