Roti Can’t-I

Flour + Water = Flop

Flour + Water = Flop

I wish I had paid more attention. Not that it would be helping me now. But I didn’t fully appreciate roti canai while I was in Malaysia, eating it every third day or so.

Roti canai (pronounced chahn-eye) is a flatbread with a crispy outside and flaky, soft layers inside. It is a Malaysian variation of Indian parathas, another flatbread. Most of the time there was one Indian man at the bread table, making these to order.

Sometimes we had it plain, for dipping in curries. Sometimes it had onions inside, cooked til crisp-tender and sweet. A dessert version contained bananas, palm sugar, and butter or margarine. I’m drooling just thinking about them.

Of course I want to be able to make some at home. Internet searching produced several different recipes and a number of videos showing the shaping of the bread.

The dough gets flung in circular motions, somewhat like the skirt of a flamenco dancer, until it is thin enough to see through, and large as a pizza. It is folded over onto itself like an envelope, which traps bubbles of air and fat, giving it flaky layers.

My first attempt wasn’t too bad, but the dough never got really thin, and there were no flaky layers. I decided to try a different dough recipe.

Last night the dough balls soaked in a bowl of oil. Today I attempted to shape them into thin rounds, and while the dough looked more like how it does in the videos, and I could get it much thinner, it was still not working.

I used whole wheat flour, which may have been part of the problem, since the bran and germ seemed to contribute to all the holes I was getting. I’ll have to try again using unbleached flour. My technique isn’t too bad, considering I’ve only done this twice. It almost looks like the people in the videos, except that my dough doesn’t land in a graceful circle on the counter. It sort of crashes, the way some ducks and other birds land on water, stopping forcefully and suddenly, jerking forward and smashing their faces.

Here is what roti canai is supposed to look like:

Roti Canai

Roti Canai

Here is what mine looked like:

Uh...nope.

Uh...nope.

I may have to go back to Malaysia to eat more!

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