Bread in India is generally flat and thin. From pretty thin to very thin to extremely thin. This is because Indians traditionally don't have ovens, though a few in the cities have them today. Bread is baked either on a flat or almost flat pan or in a Tandoor. The tandoor is a kind of oven, but its extreme heat and vertical geometry are not conducive to thick loves.
More on Bread.
Tava: In Indian homes, the Tava is the
traditional surface on which flat bread is baked, sometimes simply
placed over a bucket of hot charcoal. Our Tava (right in photo) is
rather upscale with a machine formed bowl and riveted handle - common
tavas are pounded by hand out of sheet metal and many lack a handle,
being manipulated with tongs. The tava is not at all suited to our gas
and electric stoves. Being concave they are unstable even on a gas
stove, and must be used with a wok ring - they are pretty much impossible
for electric stoves. In India they are often used convex side up, which
is an even worse problem. I strongly recommend the Lodge 10-1/2 inch
L90G3 round griddle (Mexican "Comal" - left in photo) - a great piece of
hardware, perfect for dry roasting spices and also for heating or
frying Indian flat breads (and Mexican tortillas).
Tandoor: Leavened bread In India is baked in a
Tandoor. Indian homes do not have a tandoor - it is too expensive both
to build and operate. It is normally a community or commercial device.
Naan bread is prepared at home and taken to a community or commercial
Tandoor to be baked. Dough is slapped on the inside wall of the tandoor,
where it sticks and bakes quickly at very high temperature. It is then
retrieved with a hook. Naan bread baked in such an oven will be of
uneven thickness and of a sort of teardrop shape. Here in California,
production bakeries have designed continuous industrial tandoors which
produce breads that are round and even in thickness. Tandoor ovens are
also much used in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan.
Photo by Vinisfera.Pl contributed to the
Subst: Whole wheat Tortillas are a dead ringer for
Chapatis. In the photo, the roti to the left is actually a chapati
obtained from an Indian market in Artesia. The one on the right is a
whole wheat tortilla, obtained from a local multi-ethnic market. They
look exactly the same, and they taste the same too. This is only logical
- they're made from the same stuff, whole wheat flour, and the chipatis
are made on easily available tortilla making equipment. Incidentally,
for those who still want to make them at home, Indian markets here now
sell tortilla presses to make it much easier than rolling them out.
Naan Bread - [Tandoori Roti]
Here in Southern California, naan bakers use continuous process industrial "tandoors", so the breads are round and without holes, but otherwise pretty much the same. Naan bread can usually be found in the freezer cases of markets serving an Armenian, Indian or Pakistani community. They just need heating up on a grill, grill pan or oven (400°F/200°C for about 1-1/2 minutes). Hot naan bread is often brushed with butter for serving.
Subst: I have purchased Greek style pita bread (the
non-pocketed style) and found it essentially identical - not surprising
since that bread was made by an Armenian bakery that also makes naan
bread (tandoors, called "tonir" are much used in Armenia). Regular pita
bread wouldn't be as similar, but if a moderately puffy variety, it can
serve. Small bare pizza shells would also be similar.
Puri - [Poori, Boori]
An essential ingredient is papadkhar, which acts as a preservative
and is also responsible for the bubbling. It is sodium benzoate, which
may be substituted by a 2:1 mix of sodium carbonate and sodium
bicarbonate. Made in India, 7-1/2 inches diameter, 0.020 inch thick
and weighing 5/8 ounce (16 grams). Urad dal, black pepper, salt,
asafoetida, papadkhar, vegetable oil.
Dosas & Idlis The next two items differ from the above in that they are generally available only fresh in restaurants and Indian delis. They are also a bit of a problem for making at home, as idlis need an idli steamer or similar, and both need the Dal and Rice ground very fine to a paste. This is normally done with a Wet Grinder, an appliance very popular in India but almost unknown in the West - and they cost around US 2014 $200 to $275. A very powerful blender can be used if the grains are well soaked (a food processor definitely can't).
Today, in India, many homes make "instant dosa" from rice flour, semolina flour and other finely ground flours, possibly with a little baking powder or buttermilk.