Nankhatai – The Dying Indian ‘Biskoot’
The soft crumbly nankhatai brings back many a fond memory. The word ‘Nankhatai’ comes from the Persian word ‘Nan’meaning bread and ‘Khatai’ probably comes from ‘Catai’ or ‘Cathay’, the older name for China. Thus, translating as ‘Bread of Cathay’. Another version from Northeast Iran or Afghanistan is a type of biscuit, also referred to as Kulcha-e-Khataye.
Origin of nankhatai
The history of the nankhatai in India is quite interesting. Towards the end of the 16th century, a couple of Dutch dudes set up a bakery in Surat to cater to the needs of the local Dutch populace. When the Dutch were leaving India, the owners handed over the bakery to a very enterprising employee, a Parsi gentleman Faramji Pestonji Dotivala. Since the bread was made with palm toddy for fermentation, it didn’t find favour with the local Indians. In order to save his bakery, Mr. Dotivala started selling the old bread and puff, which became dried, at a really cheap price. This dried version became so popular that he started drying the bread before selling it. Later, the dried version came to be known as the ‘Irani Biscuit’.
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