Chefs Luke Nguyen and Shane Delia tell us their favourite bread memories for our special bread issue.
By
Luke Nguyen, Shane Delia

15 Jan 2014 - 9:58 AM  UPDATED 5 Feb 2014 - 9:29 AM

Bread Finds: Luke Nguyen

A bread I discovered on a culinary trip was Naxi baba in the old town of Lijiang in China's Yunnan Province – the people are the Naxi, and baba is their bread. The wheat-based round flatbread can be sweet or savoury. I loved the sweet version; it is flaky and crisp, and it requires so much technique to make the multi-layered masterpiece.

Shane Delia finds saj bread in the desert

After travelling for hours through the Iranian desert, we stumbled upon a family of nomads who had created a makeshift tent village in a valley, framed by amazing mountains. Talk about rural living! No running water, no electricity, just a hole in the ground, tents, a fire and a river to draw water from. And don’t assume it would be hot – it was freezing cold!

The children I met there were some of the most beautiful kids I have ever seen; so full of life, innocence and happiness. They didn't need iPads or the new Justin Bieber single, they were just happy enjoying each other’s company. It reminded me of the feelings I had when I was a child with my siblings and cousins. Life was good then.

There was smoke bellowing out of the tent the kids were playing around, and I was welcomed inside to warm up. I didn’t expect to find what I did. There was a little, old lady sitting on the floor making a local nomadic unleavened bread on a saj (iron dome-shaped pan). Her skill and technique in slipping the thin sheets of bread through the air and onto the smoking hot metal dome was breathtaking. I had eaten saj bread many times before, but there was something about this experience that stuck with me. Apart from the bread tasting delicious and the old lady using hand-milled, local unbleached flour that gave the bread an amazing texture, the location, the smiles on people’s faces, the smell of the wood burning, the pureness and simplicity of the skill I was witnessing all contributed to an overwhelming feeling of happiness.

It’s moments like this I love when filming my SBS program, Shane Delia’s Spice Journey; when I have the chance to connect with people and experience something usually reserved for family. An invitation into someone’s home is the greatest form of hospitality you can receive.

 

As seen in Feast magazine, Mar 2014, Issue 29. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.