Photo: Ajna Jai / Contributor
Flatbreads were among the earliest processed foods, and evidence of their production has been found in the ancient sites of Mesopotamia as well as the Indus valley.
Roti, also known as chappati or phulka, is a round, whole-wheat unleavened flatbread native to the Indian subcontinent. Today artisan bakers craft fresh turmeric sourdough loaves with sprouted millet or sorghum, but leavened bread was so uncommon in India in the ’70s and ’80s that a plain loaf of white bread was called “double-roti,” which refers to the doubling of the dough when baked.
A lesser-known bread is the lowly loli — an onion- and spice-laden, twice-cooked flatbread native to the people of Sindh province. The dough resembles pie crust more than flatbread; has outrageous amounts of ghee or butter, and I indulge it in very rarely. However, on the rare occasion that I stay with my 82-year-old aunt in Mumbai, India, it goes without saying that breakfast will be a crisp loli with strawberry jam. And unless I protest loudly and clearly, a second one will land on my plate before the first is done.
As kids cavorting on the playground at a time when calories did not count, my brothers and I ate lolis for breakfast all the time. And even though I have no recollection of ever laying eyes on a fresh strawberry during my childhood, strawberry jam was readily available. I texted a picture of these leek lolis to my brother as a fond memory, and he informed me that when traveling through China on an eating expedition, the ubiquitous scallion pancakes reminded him so much of the lolis of our childhood. Do indulge in a loli someday, go all in and let the ghee flow. Just make sure to leave some time for a nap afterward. I promise you will need one.