Uighur Nan

June  7, 2011
4 Ratings
  • Makes 8, 9-10 inch breads
Author Notes

I was very lucky to travel to the most western parts of China along the Pakistan and Afghani borders a few years ago. Areas that are now closed to foreigners due to terror concerns. The Uighur people who inhabit this part of China are far more like their neighboring Asian cultures than they are Chinese. They are descended from Kyrghyz, Tajik, Turkmeni, and Uzbek people and their faces, food, music, and culture reflect this. One of the most ubiquitous street foods in this region, which is still largely populated by farmers and shepherds, is their Nan. It's different from Indian Naan. It's a flatbread, cooked in a Tandoor oven, but it is pricked all over by an instrument called a durtlik before baking, both to keep the bread from puffing up, and as a decorative measure. It's also seasoned lightly with cumin and sea salt, although rosemary is very nice too. It's basically pizza dough without the oil, and it's made the same way. You could mix things like other herbs into the dough as well. It's the perfect thing to tuck in your backpack for a long hike like we did, or to wrap in a cloth with some fruit and dried meats - as the locals do working in the fields or tending herds. The Tandoor oven gives is a nice charcoal bottom, but you can make them on a pizza stone at home. Enjoy the photos I took. This dish is the perfect compliment to another popular Uighur street food - kebobs and pulao. I posted those recipes here: Offerings

What You'll Need
  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 7-8 cups all purpose flour, plus plenty for hands and surfaces
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of good sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • feel free to sprinkle with chopped shallots, rosemary or anything else you like to make it your own.
  1. Pour the warm water in a large bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and stir to dissolve.
  2. Whisk in 3 cups of flour and stir to create a batter. Let the mixture sit, loosely covered, for a couple of hours (or even overnight) to develop the glutens and flavor.
  3. When ready, sprinkle in the tablespoon of salt, and another 2 cups of flour, incorporating well.
  4. Pour yet another cup of flour onto a floured surface or board. Make sure your hands are well floured at all times throughout the process, dump the dough into the pile of flour and start incorporating it.
  5. Knead the dough, adding more flour as needed, until the dough is no longer sticky, but smooth and elastic. This will take anywhere from 5 - 8 minutes.
  6. From this point on, it's much the same as pizza dough. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean dishtowel and place it somewhere for about 2 hours to rise.
  7. While it's resting / rising, place your pizza stone in the upper third of your oven to heat and set the temp to 450F.
  8. After the dough has rested, turn it out onto a well floured surface, and with well floured hands, form the dough back into a ball, and cut it into 8 equal pieces by cutting it in half, then half, then half - you get the idea.
  9. On a floured pizza peel, or board, roll or stretch a piece of dough into a 9 -10 inch circle, and form a very slight rim using your fingers. Since you probably don't have a durtlik, simply use a fork to prick the dough all over. If you have a meat tenderizer with a patterned bottom, you could use that too.
  10. From above, scatter sea salt and cumin seeds evenly over the top of the dough.
  11. Place the peel onto the pizza stone and slide the Nan onto it. Cook for about 8-9 minutes until golden. Repeat for the other breads.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Carolyn Hodge
    Carolyn Hodge
  • Niknud
  • Droplet
  • duclosbe1
  • boulangere

33 Reviews

Carolyn H. August 8, 2017
Loving reading these recipies, reminds me when I was watching grandma bake (did she Ever. ) . Good memories. And the smell that was thru the apartment it was amazing! So I'm going to pick up her tradition.
Niknud December 28, 2011
These look amazing! Sigh. I miss Uzbekistan. Every day for lunch I would order a bara shashlik e yaram naan in my pidgen-hybrid Russian-Uzbek (one kebab and a half a naan). I've made osh (or palov) since I've been home but I haven't had the nerve to try the naan yet.....perhaps it's time to give it a whirl!
solmstea July 28, 2011
This bread always looks so beautiful (see also: In Uzbekistan they call this type of bread "Pat'r." You might like to try this similar verson of non which is you don't dock all around, but only in the center:

And yes, you can use a fork instead of a durtlik (or, in the rest of central asia, a chekich), though it's more timeconsuming. I'm thinking about making my own chekichs if anyone is interested in that.
Droplet June 28, 2011
These are so impressive that it will take me awhile before I dare to pinch a bite from it. Thank you for sharing.
duclosbe1 June 23, 2011
I just saw this featured on The Kitchn! How cool is that?!?! I love these photos! It must have been an amazing trip!
boulangere June 18, 2011
Can't believe this wasn't even a candidate for an EP...
Burnt O. June 18, 2011
Aww- that's sweet! I was thrilled to pieces that the photo made the "Feast Your Eyes" column this week! It's kind of a one note wonder as far as street food goes. You almost need all three recipes for the lamb kebobs, pulao and this together, which is why I think the Silk Road Lamb Burgers were a lovely EP choice. You really get all the flavors, and it was a nice adaptation for US kitchens. I think they were looking for recipes a little more well rounded that could be more of a meal - this is a staple, not a meal. They eat a lot of it though, we heard the phrase: "a kilo per man per day" more than once in reference to the amount of Nan eaten in a day.
heather H. June 18, 2011
These look lovely and I can think of a million things to dip, scoop, and wrap up insider of them. Where does one get a durtlik? No really, I want one!!
Burnt O. June 18, 2011
I've never seen them for sale outside of our trip, although they wouldn't be hard to make. The bread is almost cracker like in the center, and puffed and soft at the edges. See if there is a Uighur, Uzbek, or Tajik restaurant in your area - they may have them or know of where you might get them. I did find a website that used to sell them, but they've suspended shipping due to violence in the region.
meganvt01 June 7, 2011
How beautiful, love the pictures and the recipe.
boulangere June 7, 2011
OMG! After all the discussion about Google and recipe search, go to this link and look at the 4th entry! Granted, I didn't do a recipe search, but still . . . . .
boulangere June 7, 2011
I mean is this amazing, or what!
EmilyC June 7, 2011
Wow -- as others have said, what beautiful photos and a great recipe.
Emiko June 7, 2011
Beautiful photos. I grew up in Northern China in Beijing - there was a Uighur community there that I remember as a kid where you could find these stalls of food so different from the regular Beijing street food. This brings back some lost memories. Thanks for sharing :)
Burnt O. June 7, 2011
There's a large Uighur community and some good Uighur restaurants in DC near here.I adore authentic Chinese food, but I decided not to post a recipe or photo of Beijing's "Snack Street" with all the skewers of insects, scorpions, silk worm pupae, chicken parts and stinky tofu - just to mention a few. I even saw whole star fish and seahorses on a stick! And bowls of chopped sheep uterus served with lime and chiles. Looked like a bowl of dirty dishtowels. yikes. Some street food is better left to the locals.
boulangere June 7, 2011
or to the street . . .
Panfusine June 7, 2011
how did you get those beautiful patterns on the nan? its gorgeous!
Burnt O. June 7, 2011
This is a photo of a Nan I bought in the market. You make the patterns with a tool called a durtlik. Look through the rest of the photos and you'll see.
Panfusine June 7, 2011
i did, as soon as I posted!! beautiful! By far, this has been one of the most informative contest theme, I mean so much culture behind each of these treats.. I do hope that food52 will take these factors into account when judging & not just the taste & how it looks..
Speaking of the snack street (referred to as Khau (eating ) galli (lane) in hindi), the saying goes ' the dirtier the vendor, the tastier the dish!!)
tweaks R. December 30, 2011
Burnt Offerings, after looking closely at the design, I wonder if one might use a small glass, shot glass, and touch the dough over and over until the surface is filled. I believe the resulting design would closely resemble your picture. Then, maybe not.
Sadassa_Ulna June 7, 2011
This is stunning. Such gorgeous photos. I wonder if one could approximate a durtlik by carefully pounding nails into a palm-size piece of wood? Thanks for posting this!
Burnt O. June 7, 2011
If you look at the rest of the photos, you'll see a picture of a basket of durtliks in the market. As you can see, they are simply pins stuck into a wooden handle. I imagine you could make one simply by sticking pins into the back of an old wooden spoon and pounding on it a bit.
Burnt O. June 7, 2011
Some of the bread bakers identify their bread with their own unique pattern on their durtlik.
TiggyBee June 7, 2011
I love this...thanks so much for posting and sharing!
Burnt O. June 7, 2011
It's pretty awesome stuff first thing in the morning when they're still warm with fresh yogurt. They cost about a nickel.
TiggyBee June 7, 2011
amazing! probably the best nickle ever spent.
inpatskitchen June 7, 2011
How beautiful!!
boulangere June 7, 2011
This isn't bread, it's art!
Burnt O. June 7, 2011
Oh - boulangere - you are so right. They make beautiful designs with nothing more than flour, yeast, water and a little salt. I took a picture of a durtlik, I'm trying to find it. I bought one in the market - I'll just take a photo of mine if I can't find it.
boulangere June 7, 2011
I want a durtlik for Christmas! Beautiful photos! I truly want to to home and try this. Will a fork do for docking it?
Burnt O. June 7, 2011
Yeah - fork is fine!
Midge June 7, 2011
Yum, sounds so exotic. Love your travelogue. Looking forward to the pictures..
Midge June 7, 2011
What awesome pictures. And gorgeous breads!