A paratha is a flatbread that originated in the north of the Indian Subcontinent. It is still quite prevalent in the north of India, where wheat is grown and is the traditional staple of the area. Paratha is an amalgamation of the words parat and atta which literally means layers of cooked dough. Alternative spellings and names include parantha, parauntha, prontha, parontay, porota (in Bengali), palata (pronounced: [pəlàtà]; in Burma), and farata (in Sri Lanka and the Maldives).
Parathas are one of the most popular unleavened flatbreads in the northern part of the Indian Subcontinent and they are made by baking whole wheat dough on a tava, and finishing off with shallow frying Parathas are thicker and more substantial than chapatis/rotis and this is either because, in the case of a plain paratha, they have been layered by coating with ghee or oil and folding repeatedly (much like the method used for puff pastry or some types of Turkish börek) using a laminated dough technique; or else because food ingredients such as mixed vegetables have been mixed in with the dough, such as potato and/or cauliflower, green beans and carrots. A Rajasthani mung bean paratha uses both the layering technique together with mung dal mixed into the dough, while some so called stuffed parathas resemble a filled pie squashed flat and shallow fried using two discs of dough sealed round the edges; alternatively using a single disc of dough to encase a ball of filling and sealed with a series of pleats pinched into the dough round the top, gently flattened with the palm against the working surface before being rolled into a circle. Most stuffed parathas are not layered.
Parathas can be eaten as a breakfast dish or as a tea-time (tiffin) snack. The flour used is finely ground wholemeal (atta) and the dough is shallow fried.
Perhaps the most common stuffing for parathas is mashed, spiced potatoes (aloo ka parantha) followed perhaps by dal (lentils). 'Many other alternatives exist such as leaf vegetables, radishes, cauliflower, and/or paneer. A paratha (especially a stuffed one) can be eaten simply with a pat of butter spread on top or with chutney, pickles, ketchup, dahi or a raita or with meat or vegetable curries. Some roll the paratha into a tube and eat it with tea, often dipping the paratha.
To achieve the layered dough for plain parathas, a number of different traditional techniques exist. These include covering the thinly rolled out pastry with oil, folding back and forth like a paper fan and coiling the resulting strip into a round shape before rolling flat, baking on the tava and shallow frying. Another method is to cut a circle of dough from the centre to its circumference along its radius, oiling the dough and starting at the cut edge rolling so as to form a cone which is then squashed into a disc shape and rolled out. The method of oiling and repeatedly folding the dough as in western puff pastry also exists, and this is combined with folding patterns that give traditional geometrical shapes to the finished parathas. Plain parathas can be round, heptagonal, square, or triangular.
The paratha is an important part of a traditional South Asian breakfast. Traditionally, it is made using ghee but oil is also used. Some people may even bake it in the oven for health reasons. Usually the paratha is eaten with dollops of white butter on top of it. Side dishes which go very well with paratha are curd, fried egg, omelette, qeema (ground mutton cooked with vegetables and spices), nihari (a lamb dish), jeera aloo (potatoes lightly fried with cumin seeds), daal, and raita as part of a breakfast meal. It may be stuffed with potatoes, paneer, onions, qeema or chili peppers.
The process of layering the "skins" of dough in a parantha can make preparation a difficult process. This, mixed with the popularity of this flatbread, has opened the market to several ranges of frozen parantha, especially in Western markets where consumers seek authenticity, but lack the time or the skills required to make a parantha from scratch. Ready-to-cook parantha may also be purchased. These preparations offer one-step preparation and save time. Some of the ready-to-cook products in the market are just the stuffings for making the stuffed paranthas.