Unpacking The Term "Flatbread" To Reveal Some Of Its Tasty Predecessors

Over the past few years, healthy eating has taken the forefront of the national culinary landscape, and one of the more noticeable advancements to come out of this health revolution is the emergence of the flatbread. This blanket term often refers simply to a pita or its derivative in many American markets, but the fact is that there are many globally diverse versions of the now-popular rising bread alternative. Here are a few predecessors to the flatbread that are worth checking out if you love pita sandwiches. 

Indian naan

Naan is a type of bread popular in India and the Middle East that closely resembles an oblong pita in form, but tastes quite different depending on how it is prepared. Eaten as more of a side dish than as a vehicle for meats and cheeses, naan comes in many different flavors and perfectly precedes any meal. In a sense, naan is like the Indian equivalent of having rolls or bread and olive oil before a European meal. Garlic and herb naans are popular in the US, while more traditional flavorings include spices like curry or fennel seeds. 

Ethiopian injera

Injera is used more like a utensil than a side dish in Ethiopian traditions, since it's used to pick up and move food rather than using a fork. Injera has a signature spongy look and feel that helps it to pick up sauces and bits of food left on the plate, almost like the Italian tradition of wiping up and eating red sauce with rolls at the end of a meal. What sets injera apart from other breads on this list is that it is a derivative of sourdough, giving the bread a slightly tangy flavor, making it a much tastier alternative to a fork. 

Israeli matzo

Matzos are well known in Jewish traditions as a sacramental food, but it should also be known that these tasty crackers are an optimal snack in many different applications. The culinary limits of using this crispy flatbread are nearly endless, with inventive chefs using it for anything from stuffing turkeys to making blintzes and just about everything in between. 

The increased use of flatbreads in the US has mostly focused on pita breads and tortillas, but keeping in mind the long and diverse history of the hundreds of different kinds of flatbreads opens a door to rich culinary traditions that span millennia, and offer you some tasty lunch and snack options, to boot.