Bakarkhani: The tale of a puffed flatbread
The tale of Bakarkhani is popular in Bangladeshi folklore. But what does the history of Bakarkhani entail? Legend has it that Aga Bakar, a general in the army of Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah in the 1800s, fell in love with a courtesan named Khani Begum, who was also the love interest of a rival general. She was eventually murdered as a result of her two feuding suitors. The distressed Bakar is said to have inspired bread-makers to name his favourite bakery item as an ode to Khani Begum, his love. This is also how Bakarkhani gets its name.
A thick, spiced flatbread, Bakarkhani has developed into several regional variants throughout the Indian subcontinent now, of which the sweet bread is most the popular. A very common breakfast/snack in Dhaka, it is also prepared on certain Muslim religious festivals.
In the past, the bread-makers used to light up the tandoor after midnight so that the bread would be ready by the morning. A dough of white flour and mawa was thoroughly mixed and kneaded for hours before stretching it thin by hand over a wooden board. Ghee (clarified butter) would be spread over it, with flour also strewn in. After a sizeable number of such small doughs were ready, they are made into rotis on the board, and teel (sesame seeds) were spread on it. The rotis were then baked inside the tandoor, with milk being sprinkled on them twice.
Over the years Bakarkhani is made by kneading flour, ghee, sugar, salt and a few cardamoms together with water. The bread is made by stretching a sheet of dough repeatedly and enclosing it with ghee, molasses, saffron water, poppy or nigella seeds before baking it in a tandoor or an iron griddle.
Bakarkhani is known to be listed in three variants- gao-joban, shuki (shuka), and nimshuki. There are also other variations available including, kaicha-ruti, malum, and chinshuki.
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