India being the land of food, it is no surprise that there are many varieties of biscuits in India. If we look back to the oldest biscuit dated, we stumble across the Nankhatai which is essentially shortbread biscuit. The Nankhatai has been around since the existence of simple plain-Jane bakeries.
The name Nankhatai is made up of two words – Nan and Khatai. Nan is derived from the Persian word Naan, which is a type of flatbread. Khatai is an Afghan word and means biscuit. In fact, the biscuit is also famous in Iran and Afghanistan, where it’s called Kulcha-e-khataye. Kulcha too is a flatbread, similar to the naan. So let’s delve into a little history of how Nankhatai got famous .
Nankhatai is known to have originated in Surat which is a city in Gujarat, India. This was in the 16th century. Trade was taking place during this period between the Dutch and the Indians. A Dutch couple sensed a business opportunity and started a bakery where they sold breads and other confectionery item to the Dutch.
It is known that when the Dutch left the county, the couple chose to sell their bakery to an Iranian man, who baked and sold biscuits to the locals in the city. The biscuits weren’t gaining popularity and following losses in money, the Iranian man came up with the idea of dried bread to recover his business. He started aiming at dried bread instead of the biscuits (because of their popularity) and henceforth this bread was known as Nankhatai.
Traditionally, the Nankhatais were made on top of coal and fire and the recipe included sugar, wheat flour, gram flour, clarified butter and cardamon. It can be made in the oven as well but the traditional method was flavorful and attracted the locals.
Delhi is my first love and talking about winter time and Old Delhi, makes me wanna go there just for the love that people express with their food and specially the Nankhatai which lightens up my day. Hot and crumbly, these are best eaten with tea. It is found more often on the street carts of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi than it is in the bakeries. People buy in bulk so that they have enough for the winters.
Chandni Chowk is the oldest place in Delhi and is one of the most famous tourist attractions. The market is full of Indian street food where one can get tandoori non vegetarian food, gulab jamuns and golgappas. The best time to visit Chandani Chowk is in the winter as one can take in the aromatic flavours and the sweetness of people with which they serve. I love the fact that the people are dedicated and passionate towards whatever they cook or bake.
Let me tell you a story about this man who’s family ran the business of making Nankhatais before his birth. His name is Vinrendra Singh. His grandfather set up a cart in Galli Paranthe wali in Chandani Chowk where he made traditional coal Nankhatais. Now his grandson runs the family tradition. He has been running this business for over 15 years and claims that his father and grandfather ran it for 70 good years. This is the third generation running this business. He starts his work at 9 am and sets his cart at 3 pm. He daily prepares 10 kilos of Nankhatais. He shared that he is from a not so well-to-do family and is happy with the business that he has been passed on to by generations.
Link to the story :
After I found out about his story, I was intrigued and wanted to bake my own version of Nankhatais. I came up with two variants and love baking them. The best thing about them is the delicious aroma that finds home in the kitchen while I bake them.
Go ahead and enjoy the video and other recipes around the blog while I go whip up another batch for the evening tea!