Uyghur Nan Bread

Newnan5
My version of Uyghur nan bread, with nigella and sesame. The bread stamp gives it the nice patterns.
NanBread2_3
Uyghur nan bread made without a bread stamp.

My quest for perfect Uyghur nan bread is still ongoing. In the seven years since I was in Xinjiang, I have never eaten anything like the freshly baked nan bread sold in the streets. Of course, there are countless different varieties of bread being sold – but my favorite was the big, disc-shaped bread. Thick around the edges and thin in the middle, slightly oily and usually topped with sesame and sometimes onion or other spices, it is sold on the street in every city in Xinjiang for only 1-2 kuai.

naan
Selling Uyghur bread in Kashgar.

I’ve eaten at several Uighur, Uzbek, and other Central Asian restaurants in the US since then and I’ve never found it. They serve a bread called лепёшка(lepyoshka) in Russian that is thick and bready, but nothing even resembling the big disc bread.

LepeshkaBrightonBeach
“Lepyoshka” bread from Cafe Kashkar, an Uyghur restaurant in Brighton Beach.

The big oily round bread is not the only type of bread in Xinjiang.  One other variety is a big, round, thick, extremely dry bread that can be stored for a long time. Other nationalities in the region (like Kyrgyz, Kazakhs) make this bread too. I remember visiting a Kyrgyz yurt where the hosts kept a big partially eaten round of dry bread in the corner covered with some cloth. They took it out and served it to us with tea. This bread is usually eaten with soup, sauce, or other liquid as it is too dry to eat on its own. Yet another common variety resembles a bagel, or more precisely, a bialy. We’ll cover this variant in part 2.

Turpan Nan Selling
Various types of Uyghur bread being sold in Turpan.
UyghurBagel
Baking Uyghur “bagels” in Kashgar.

My own attempts have been getting better after many tries and many burned or misshapen breads. I’ve gotten good results with a pizza stone, but I suspect the perfect nan bread requires a tandoor oven. FarWestChina has a good post and video about how Uyghur bread is made in Xinjiang.

Before buying some bread stamps in Uzbekistan for cheap ($2-3 for each one), I bought an Uyghur bread stamp from Taobao – just do a search for 囊戳子 and you’ll find plenty of them. It is a bit tricky getting it to the US – I went through a Taobao agent called Bhiner that was fairly straightforward. The shipping ended up being far more expensive than the stamp itself (it cost around $30 total and the stamp itself was only $9). You can sometimes find bread stamps on Ebay or Etsy as well, though it is quite expensive (the shop I linked charges $50 including shipping!). The stamp is definitely important in making an authentic bread, but I have used a fork plenty of times with decent results. Finally, in New York, Fortuna grocery in Brooklyn sells bread stamps (they keep them behind the cashiers where they sell plates and teapots).

Chekich
My Uyghur bread stamp.

This bread tastes good by itself and especially with soup or sauce (like dimlama or dapanji). I also like eating it for breakfast with kefir or yogurt.

Ingredients
Flour (experiment with all purpose or bread flour, they will give different results)
Egg (optional)
Warm water
Yeast
Salt
Sugar

Directions
1. In a large bowl, make a mountain of flour and indent the middle. Pour warm water into the middle, add 1/3-1/2 packet of dry yeast, salt, and a bit of sugar. Mix well and let stand for a few minutes. When it has gotten frothy, add the egg in. Then mix everything well, adding water as needed.
FlourYeast

2. When you have a somewhat firm mixture, flour a surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes until firm.
kneading

3. Lightly oil a bowl and put the kneaded dough ball in, cover with a cloth and let rest for at least 40 minutes in a warm place.

4. When the dough has finished resting, punch it down and knead it a bit more. You will have to eyeball how much dough you want to use for how big/thick you want your bread.
RisenDough

5. Roll the dough out into a round, flat circle. It should not be too thick or too thin, maybe a bit less than 1cm thick. Do not let the dough get too thin, or it will burn when you bake it! Let the dough rest for another 20 minutes.
BreadDough

6. Form an edge all around the bread with your hands. If you’ve rested the dough for long enough, it should mold easily without resistance.
Bread1

7. Time to stamp down the center. If you have a bread stamp, stamp concentric patterns all around the center, making sure to press hard so the spikes go all the way through. If you don’t have a bread stamp, use a bottle or other round object to stamp around the center. Then use a fork to poke holes, poking all the way through. There should be holes all over the center. This helps prevent the center of the bread from rising up (we only want the edges to rise in the oven).
StampBread

8. Lightly brush oil all over the top and sides of the bread. Then put the toppings onto the center, pressing in lightly so they stick. I usually use sesame and nigella seeds, sometimes with very finely diced onion. Some people also put black pepper and/or cumin seeds. Experiment with what you like; there is no fixed recipe.

BreadToppings

10. Ready to bake. Put the dough into your 500F preheated oven (I use a pizza stone) and bake until the bread is golden brown all over (10-15 minutes). If you like, you can lightly brush the bread with oil after it is baked. Enjoy!

NanBaking
NanBread_3

NewNan3_600px

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Uyghur Nan Bread

  1. PetersFoodAdventures November 18, 2015 / 12:40 pm

    Looks great! I haven’t thought of a bread stamp, great idea! Now to track one down! 🙂

    Like

    • Pilar July 15, 2016 / 10:57 am

      Hello. I’m searching for the bread stamps and called Fortuna Grocery. They didn’t know what I was talking about. Is that where you got yours? I’m wondering if in one of those Russian, Uzbek places in that area they might have them. This bread is soo delicious .

      Like

      • pravit July 15, 2016 / 12:32 pm

        Hi Pilar, they definitely sell them there, or at least they did when I was there 2 weeks ago. The people who work there can be kinda clueless though. The bread stamps are sold behind the cashiers on a shelf where they sell plates and teapots. They’re small and wooden.

        Like

    • john November 25, 2016 / 3:47 pm

      as stated i just found one on etsy. the only one currentley, but keep looking.

      Like

  2. Jane C. October 2, 2016 / 9:25 am

    Approximately how much flour do you use? Thanks.

    Like

    • pravit October 2, 2016 / 4:04 pm

      Maybe 3-4 cups but it really doesn’t matter because you can just make the bread larger or smaller or make multiple breads if you have too much dough. As long as your dough is kneadable and does not stick too much after kneading for ~10 minutes then you have the right flour to water ratio.

      Like

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s