Saturday, November 07, 2009

Roti See, Roti Do

The Roti.

Indian flat bread. Perfection of such a simple recipe (flour, water and heat) has eluded me for years. My rotis come out like little hubcaps, Frisbees, disci, platters, cutting boards and Space Shuttle heat shield tiles. Yes, I make those for NASA out of flour and water in my very own kitchen. Years of perfection, I tell you.

No longer. I am now the Roti King, or at least the Prince of Rotis.

What changed?

I found a mentor who showed me the way, a veritable Yoda of Indian cooking:

Manjula Jain

Manjula has posted a series of Indian cooking videos on YouTube, just search for "manjulas kitchen" to find them. There's nothing like seeing a dish being cooked to understand what is meant by phrases like "reduce the liquid until the sauce thickens" or "add enough water to form a soft dough." How reduced, how soft? Those are questions that a cook answers while gaining experience, usually at the expense of not getting it right.

It turns out that my failure to produce nice, soft, pliable, chewy, delicate rotis lay in how I cooked them, rather, overcooked them, undercooked them and basically botched the process.

Manjula taught me several things about making rotis:

1. How thin to roll them.
2. Use a very hot, iron skillet or griddle.
3. Turn them twice, and on the second turn press and rotate.

The first time I tried making rotis after watching Manjula I felt the Power in my fingertips. My first rotis came out restaurant perfect. I was amazed, and you will be too. Now, rather than dreading the thought of trying to cook Indian bread I'm looking up more bread recipes to extend my range.

Thank you, Manjula!

And, now, watch as Manjula does the roti.


Jenny said...

We went to Singapore earlier this year where we found this awesome little shop in Little India. They made roti for our breakfast on several mornings, and we finally got a video of the guy making roti. Thought you might like to see this one too!

Great post! I'd love to make these at home - miss the banana roti with curry sauce. Mmmmm.

Bob said...

This reminds me of the pakistani bread I got while in Bahrain - but it is cooked on the side of a rounded oven.

Also - she said half-cup flour, half-cup water, but it looked like a cup of flour to a half-cup water?

in any case, it made me hungry for pakistani cuisine!

Bill said...

Yeah, Manjula isn't always precise in her descriptions. She definitely said "half a cup of flour" but the cup definitely said "cup and a half!"

I generally use 2 cups of flour and enough warm water to make a soft dough.

I learned from Manjula to be sparing with the oil, just a few drops do the trick.