The National Bread Of Iran: Sangak

Traditional Iranian Sangak Bread topped with sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Widespread type of Persian bread.
Sangak. efired / stock photo

Travel to Iran and you will taste the national bread of this country, sangak. (Persian: سنگک‎, Azerbaijani: Səngək; or nan-e sangak نان سنگک). It is a remarkably large bread which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and belongs to that group of whole wheat leavened breads that are so indicative of the baking culture of the country.

Originally, the bread’s name means little stone and this owes to the baking method of using a small river stones in the oven on which the bread rests. It is hand-made and is distinct from Barbari bread which is a leavened white bread but also made in the same country.

The bread is prepared from wheat flour and sourdough. The most common type is plain and simple. More sophisticated versions are topped with poppy seeds and sesame seeds according to Wikipedia but there are supposedly other variants which use a variety of seed toppings to lift the flavour.

We are told that the bread was eaten back in ancient Persian history and as a staple their army marched on. There are references to it in manuscripts of the late 10th Century but it is most likely to be produced well before that time. The story goes that soldiers each carried small amounts of pebbles which were all brought together at camp for creating the cooking bed on which the bread would be baked.

Sangak has one of the highest total zinc and iron contents of all the breads because of the nature and type of extraction used to obtain flour. This flour is invariably wholemeal. It also has a very high phytate content which lowers its mineral availability especially in reducing the absorption of minerals such as calcium in particular.

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