Paratha or parantha is basically the Indian name for unleavened whole wheat flour flat bread that is roasted with melted butter on a hot griddle to produce an irreplaceable item on the North Indian menu. Paratha forms a dietary staple and can be eaten along with Indian curries, gravies, dry vegetable dishes, dals, raitas, pickles or with simply yoghurt.
Paratha is native to the Indian subcontinent and derives its name from the combination of Hindi terms – ‘parat’ or layers and ‘atta’ or wheat flour which symbolises the layers of cooked wheat flour. Historically, the Paratha is believed to have originated in North India and subsequently travelled to other regions like West Bengal, across the border to Pakistan and further on. In fact, it has travelled all the way down south, where it is known as the famous Kerala ‘Parotta’ and further south to Sri Lanka where it is called Ceylon Paratha. Today, the Paratha finds a prime position in every typical North Indian breakfast apart from being eaten at other meals of the day too.
Parathas may also be made of different flours such as sattu paratha or soya paratha, stuffed with a variety of ingredients like cauliflower (gobhi), potato (aloo), fenugreek (methi) or raddish (mooli) parathas and can form the fundamental item used to prepare delicious wraps and rolls such as en egg roll or mutton roll. It may be prepared simply or mutli-layered and may be triangular or round in shape.
Ingredients and Preparation
With only whole wheat flour as the main ingredient of a plain paratha, it only requires the soft dough to be prepared, equally portioned and rolled out before roasting both sides on a hot griddle using a little clarified butter or ghee to increase palatability. However, with this simple paratha recipe a number of variations are possible with innumerable stuffings and seasonings, underlining the flexibility of this form of bread.
The average single serving of 1 plain paratha (~80-90g) would deliver-
• Total of 111 Calories with ~ 45 calories coming from fat.
• A Total Fat content of 6.0 g, of which Saturated Fat 3.1 and Unsaturated Fat is 0g, with negligible Cholesterol
• Sodium content of ~ 256 mg,
• Total Carbohydrate content of 21 g, of which Dietary Fiber accounts for 3.0 g, Sugar 0.5 g,
• Protein content is 4.0 g.
• The estimated percentage calories from carbohydrates is 53.7 %, from fat is 40.7 % and from protein is 5.6%.
As such paratha is a highly versatile meal option and can be moulded in countless ways to produce meals suited for all age groups and health conditions. Some improvements to the regular plain paratha could be-
1. A palak paratha, that includes blanched, pureed spinach that is mixed into the dough while kneading. Young children may find the green colour attractive and a fair amount of dietary fibre, vitamin and mineral intake may be achieved in this way.
2. Soy flour and bran when added to the parathas make them more favourable for consumption by persons with elevated cholesterol, blood sugars, and weight issues.
3. Regular parathas, prepared using olive oil in place of ghee can increase the healthy unsaturated fat level making them better for heart patients.
4. Similarly, using finely chopped or minced ginger and garlic, that has been fried in little olive oil, in the dough can not only enhance the flavour but provide anti-inflammatory effects of ginger and anti-microbial effects of garlic in persons suffering from arthritis or certain infections.
5. Stuffing the plain paratha with plenty of sautéed and spiced vegetables like carrots, beans, onions, tomatoes etc., can be a healthy meal that may be eaten on the move.
6. For athletes and body builders with high protein requirements, paneer or scrambled egg whites stuffed paratha can be the ideal breakfast to jumpstart the metabolism and supply energy and plenty of quality proteins.
7. Weight conscious persons can appease themselves by making mini paratha rolls stuffed with lightly sautéed and spiced sprouts and finely chopped onions, beetroot and carrots as this is high on protein and is quite filling, making the use of smaller portions a reality.
8. Parathas made a little crisp can be used as a healthier alternative to a pizza base that is usually made of refined flour. In fact the same sauces and toppings on the paratha base can significantly improve the nutritive value by adding more fibre and B-vitamins. Toppings of healthy fresh bell peppers, mushrooms, corn in a tomato sauce, with plenty of fresh and dried herbs and some low-fat cheese topping can make a truly nutritious paratha.
9. Instead of using bread, a healthful paratha sandwich can be prepared by placing some fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomato slices along with some cheese, pepper and salt in the middle of two halves of the paratha.
10. Shredded paratha strips can be innovatively added to a raw salad with some sliced cabbage, onions, carrots, bell peppers, chopped walnuts, flaxseed and had with a tahini sauce along with a glass of chilled iced lemon tea or peppered tomato juice to give the body an antioxidant boost.
Parathas have garnered immense popularity over the years and this has lead to the development of instant, ready to make frozen versions of the paratha with the authentic multiple layers and varied flavours, especially for the convenience of office goers and more so for the Indian community residing in the western countries.