Every day countless humans make and eat bread. If you are like my parents, you do it thrice a day. When I think of home, I think of roti, stuffed parantha (pan-fried flatbread) and poori (deep-fried flatbread). I hardly make or eat them when I am on my own. I have always been more of a rice-eater, a fact that continuously baffles my hardcore roti-eating north Indian family. Every phone conversation with my mom includes a few minutes of her trying to persuade me to make and eat more rotis. Of course, the same happened when I spoke to her this morning…which reminded me of the roti-making photos I had taken when I was in India last month. Learning to make rotis is like learning to ride a bicycle — once you know it, you don’t forget. When I go home for vacations, I make rotis once almost everyday and it always comes back so naturally.
Roti is the most basic Indian flatbread. It requires two ingredients: whole wheat flour and water. A pinch of salt, if you like.
First, you sift some flour, add a pinch of salt to it and using lukewarm water, make a soft, well-kneaded dough.
Next, divide the dough into smaller pieces, depending on how large and thick you want your bread to be (a thin roti is also known as a chapati). Keep some extra loose flour in a plate on the side. Using your hands, shape each piece into a round ball and then coat it with a little flour. This will make sure that the dough doesn’t stick to the rolling pin.
One at a time, place the dough balls on a flat surface and roll them out into round and thin disks using a rolling pin. If the roti becomes sticky while rolling, you can sprinkle a little flour on it to help you along, but don’t use a lot of flour. The Hindi names for the flat base and the rolling pin are chakla and belan. It takes some practice before one can make perfectly round rotis.
Next comes the baking. Roti that’s cooked in a clay oven or tandoor is known as tandoori roti and is usually thicker than a chapati. At home, you can make them on regular stove-top. You’ll need a flat iron-griddle (tawa). If you don’t have one, you can always use a heavy-bottomed cast-iron or a non-stick pan. The important thing is to sufficiently heat the tawa before placing the roti on it.
Once you see a few air bubbles on the top surface, it’s time to flip the roti. After a minute or so, you’ll see small brown spots on the other side as well. When that happens, take the tawa off the stove and place the roti directly on the flame with the help of a pair of tongs. Acting quickly, cook both sides evenly. If you are lucky, the roti will fluff up (called a phulka) but it’s ok even if it doesn’t. Here are two terrible photos:
Take the roti off the flame, and spread some butter or ghee on it. Put the tawa back on the flame and repeat the entire process with the remaining dough.
This might sound a little complicated, but it’s not. Once you get into the rhythm of making rotis, it doesn’t take much time. If you are not comfortable cooking the roti on the flame directly or if you have one of those horrid non-flame stoves, you can just cook the bread entirely on the tawa.
Hope you had an awesome weekend!