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On asking the owner of a restaurant, he told me that the Tandoori chicken I was served was meant to have burnt edges because it is roasted on charcoal. I checked, and found it to be true.

But, I see restaurants all over India serving parathas, naan, and roti with black spots all over them and customers happily chew away on it. They laugh at me (and say it is normal to eat the burnt parts) when I pluck out all the burnt spots and keep them separate because I get stomach pain when I eat them. I don't understand why anyone would eat burnt food! Even when food is roasted over a camp fire, I assume people throw away the burnt portion of the meat that's exposed to the fire and smoke, and eat the cooked meat inside.

So is it an understood part of cooking parathas, naan, and roti, that it has to be cooked until it gets burnt spots? Or is there a way to cook it fully without it developing burnt spots? Whenever I've seen a restaurant serve these without burnt spots, I've also noticed that the inner layer (and sometimes the outer edges) of the paratha, naan, or roti is still raw.

Some images:
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    Note that "you can make them without char" and "making them with char is normal" is not mutually exclusive. "Normal" means "it is what you'd encounter most often", in its literal sense it does not suppose that deviations from the norm are bad. In fact, people do use it in that sense, but if the norm is charred chapatis, then non-charred ones would be the bad deviation and seen as wrong by most eaters. If everybody in N India eats them with char, saying "you can make them noncharred" will not make them say "The chapati I have been eathing forever are not normal, thank you for correcting me" – rumtscho Jan 7 '17 at 10:58
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    @Nav - Looking at black garlic oil, burnt sugar syrup, charcoal bread, and even smoke-flavor seasonings, people really do like the scorch as long as it's properly balanced with other flavors - it adds a depth, bitterness, complexity. You don't have to like it, but that doesn't mean those who do "can't cook properly". You did not skeptically question, you offended. – Megha Jan 11 '17 at 5:20
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    There are people who love eating marshmallows that have actually caught of fire. You can't get much more burnt than that. If the images in your question represent things you think are "burnt" then your idea of what that means and mine don't match up. So if those don't illustrate what you are trying to show, that's part of the problem. – Catija Jan 11 '17 at 17:30
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    I've moved most comments to chat. I did leave several here, though, namely the ones that appeared to possibly apply to the question even in its current form. Nav, if you feel details need to be fleshed out, the way to do it is to edit your question - but please be careful to avoid the health claims and belittling language that have appeared at times here. – Cascabel Jan 11 '17 at 19:24
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    Nav, I understand that you have a health theory and want to bring it out to the public. However, this site does not allow its users to use it for that purpose, this is why it has had the "no health discussions" close reason from the beginning. Please stop adding any information on the health-related context between the question, no matter if it is within the text or a link to somewhere else. Also, please refrain from telling people to proselytize your preferences (that's the part I removed from your self-answer). The culinary part is fine, anything beyond that doesn't belong here. – rumtscho Jan 14 '17 at 14:17
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The charring is crucial to both the flavor and the texture. The charred part itself brings a bitter note to the flavor. If you don't like it, you can cut it out, but many people would miss it. It's also crunchy, which provides a pleasant contrast to the chewy parts of the bread.

It's also incidental to the way it's cooked. In order to get the flavorful Maillard reactions (the brown spots), you need to subject it to very high heat. Because you're cooking it without fat, some parts are closer to the pan than others. So some parts become brown, while other parts remain white, and a few spots become black.

Similarly, that high-heat cooking is important to the texture. It's what gives you a crispy outside without drying out the inside. If you cook thin breads like this at lower temperature, they will eventually become brown without burning, but they'll also become hard.

If you don't like it, discard it.

  • @rumtscho: I had health-related stuff in there because I felt that the question considered it a health concern. Is that not the way you read it? Or do you feel that it required links to back up my assertions? – Joshua Engel Jan 6 '17 at 16:33
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    The OP does have health concerns, but all health discussions are off topic here, no matter if you can back your assertions up or not. So, when a question mentions health concerns, answerers are expected to simply ignore them. In this case you did not (maybe did not know it?) so I also removed that part from the question. – rumtscho Jan 6 '17 at 16:35
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    I know, our nutrition-related policies are somewhat complicated. In the meantime, I remembered that we have a meta question on this case, meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/3270/…. – rumtscho Jan 6 '17 at 17:39
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    @Nav after seeing this second comment of you, I am inclined to delete the whole question. This site is for people who want to learn new information. If you have instead made up your mind to what the answer should be, and are looking for people to tell you "you are right, and others are wrong", and are protesting when answerers tell you something to contradict your premade opinion, then this is not a question. We call it "rant in disguise", and it is not permissible on any Stackexchange site, see the Help center: cooking.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask – rumtscho Jan 7 '17 at 11:02
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    @rumtscho given that the OP wrote and accepted his own answer, you're right that this is a rant in disguise. – verbose Jan 14 '17 at 23:18
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No. They do not have to be burnt. Burning it is a sign that you need to adjust your cooking technique. Roti's and parathas can develop brown spots which are ok and very dark brown spots which are also ok. But if it is black and has a burnt taste, you can be sure the person cooking it has not exercised due care.

Burning/charring till black spots are visible, is not an inherent part of the recipe.

For those who love the smoky, burnt flavour: Yes, there are recipes of other dishes (like the burnt cake or the smoked brinjal) where the recipe explicitly mentions burning or smoking, so that you get that flavour. But that's not the case with parathas, naans and rotis.

Here's what you need to know:
Parathas:
Recipe1: Mentions "...make sure you keep on regulating the temperature while frying as too hot the tava may burn the paratha".
Recipe2: Mentions "If the paratha sticks to the tava, it is not hot enough, if it become too dark quickly or burn it means it is too hot adjusting the heat accordingly".
Recipe3: Mentions "Ensure that oil is sufficient and paratha does not burn".

Naan:
Recipe1: Mentions "The secret to cooking a good naan is to cook it as fast as you can without burning it!".
Recipe2: Mentions "Do not let garlic naan get burned. Cook till it gets golden brown color".

Roti:
Recipe1: Mentions "Use your judgment as not to burn the roti off".
Recipe2: Mentions "cook the side down keeping an eye that it doesn't burn the roti on side down".

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    An excellent point on the garlic naan -- burnt garlic is just nasty. – Joe Jan 11 '17 at 14:15

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