I'd like to duplicate the roti that I've had first at a Trinidadian place and second at a Malaysian place. In both cases it was a cross between Indian naan bread and a pancake accompanied by wonderful curried chicken with chunks of potato. I have plenty of recipes for the curry but am getting nowhere with the pancakey bread---have looked in my Indian cookbooks and Malaysian chapter of a pan-Asian book and also on Epicurious. Does anyone know whether I should just do a kind of naan or chapati or is there something more specific?
Look at Caribbean cooking/recipes. Here is one. A bit complicated but that could be the secret!
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teas baking powder
1 teas salt
3 tablesp butter
Sift dry ingd.s into bowl . Rub in butter until fat is in small flakes. Pour in 1/4 cup COLD water and mix to make stiff dough. Add more water a tablesp at a time til the dough holds togeter but is not sticky. Knead til smouth. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1/2 hour.
Knead again and divide into 4 balls. Roll each on a floured board out to 10 inch rounds. Brush with ghee, then sprinkle with flour. Fold in half, then in half again and rest covered for another half an hour.
Shape roughly into a circle and roll out to a 12 inch round.
Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle so that flour sprinkled on it will brown instantly. Cook one roti, for about 1 minute then turn and spred a thin layer of ghee, cook 2 minutes. Then spread with ghee, cook one minute longer, then turn and cook again one more minute.
(here's the fun part) Then remove it from the pan to a board and hit with a wooden mallet all over til flakey. Wrap in a towel and keep warm til other roti are cooked, serve at once.
I don't know much about Malaysian roti, but having spent the greater part of my life in Trinidad I should be able to tell you something about our style of roti.
Roti is a name for various types of flatbreads introduced to Trinidad by immigrants from India about 150 years ago. For several reasons (the passage of time, lack of contact with India etc.), the term "roti" as used in Trinidad no longer means the same type of flatbreads that you will see in Indian cookbooks. So Indian recipes are not the best choice to use to replicate your experience in the roti shop.
To make roti you will need a cast iron griddle, or a "tawa" - a flat iron griddle. You may be able to buy a "tawa" in a West Indian grocery.
Trinidadian roti shops usually serve two types of roti :
1) paratha (I think that the original Hindi word is "parantha") - also called "buss up shut" - the most stupid name for a food item ever. See, it looks like a white shirt torn to shreds, so it is a "burst up shirt" - when we pronounce it in our Trinidadian street dialect it becomes the aforementioned idiotic term.
Ciaolette has already posted a recipe for paratha. It is served separate from the curried meat and potato and other vegetables. You are supposed to take small pieces of the paratha with your hands and scoop up the meat and vegetables.
2) Dhalpourie (many variant spellings exist)
This flatbread consists of two thin layers of dough with ground yellow split peas ("dhal") inside. It is often served in roti shops as a wrapped-up package, with the meat and vegetables inside.
Its preparation is more elaborate and time-consuming than paratha because of the split pea filling and the necessity of letting the dough rest. You can take the easy way out, as I do, by ordering the rotis from a roti shop - ask them for roti "skins", meaning the plain rotis with no meat or vegetables.
If you think that you have the time, and are up to the challenge, here is a recipe for 8 dhalpourie rotis.
1/2 lb. yellow split peas ("dhal")
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed finely
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin ("geera")
1 lb (or 4 cups) white flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 and 1/2 cups water for mixing the dough (approx.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted margarine for brushing the roti while it is cooking
A few pats of butter or margarine
Mix together flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt and water to make a dough. You will have to use some elbow grease here. Knead the dough until smooth and soft. Let the dough rest for about 30-45 mins.
While the dough is resting, place the dhal (yellow split peas) in a stock pot and add enough water to cover. Boil the dhal with the turmeric, 1 tsp salt and garlic for about 15-20 mins. until firm but cooked. You should be able to easily crush the pea grains with your fingers, but do not let it boil until it disintegrates. Drain. Grind this cooked dhal to a powder/paste consistency using a food processor, meat grinder or better yet, a hand operated grinding mill - the way my mother still does it.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan and cook the ground dhal for 1 minute, turning constantly to avoid sticking or burning. Add cumin and salt to taste and allow to cool.
Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Shape into round balls. Rest again 10-15 mins.
Poke a hole in the top of each ball by making a depression with your thumb. Put 3-4 tablespoons of the ground dhal mixture into the cavity. You can also put a small pat of butter or margarine if you wish. Close up the sides to reform the ball. Dust the ball lightly with flour to prevent sticking. Let rest again for 5-10 minutes.
Dust a flat surface with flour to prevent sticking, and use a rolling pin on the surface to **carefully** roll out the dough ball into a flat, even, round pancake. Be very careful not to break the dough and expose the dhal filling or it will make an awful mess. Roll it as thin as you can without breaking the dough.
Heat the griddle or "tawa" and apply a light coating of oil, using a pastry brush or a barbecue "mop". Carefully pick up the rolled out dough by the edges (again, try not to break the dough) and place flat on the griddle. Cook for 1 minute. Turn over the roti with a spatula and brush with oil or melted margarine using the brush or "mop". Cook for 1/2 minute and turn over and brush again with oil. If the roti puffs up like a balloon, *don't* pop it - it will deflate when it cools after cooking. Cook until slightly brown. You may have to repeat the turning over and brushing with oil.
Transfer to a dish lined with a large kitchen towel. Fold the kitchen towel over the roti - this will keep the rotis warm until serving. If the roti had puffed up like a balloon on the griddle, it will deflate slowly while cooling.
You can serve the roti separately from the curried meat and vegetables, or make a package as I described above by placing the meat and vegetables in the centre of the roti and wrapping the edges around.
I hope that this works out for you. I must confess that I have never done this entire process - I merely helped my mom along the way. She does not do this very often any more, because it is too time consuming.
There are other types of roti in Trinidad, but these are the most popular.
I was out showing houses to a Malaysian woman this afternoon and asked her about Roti. She said you don't make it, you buy it frozen at the store and to be sure to use lots of butter when you cook it. She says that she can buy the dough at Oriental groceries also frozen but she buys the ready made.
if you want the malaysian style of "roti" look for recipes for roti canai. Its rather an intricate recipe with sort of a spiral, layered shape. Intrinsically, its not all that different from a paratha which has flaky layers, so if you are mainly interested in taste, you could I guess buy the premade parathas and grill in butter ghee.
re: jen kalb
If you wish to make Malaysian-style roti paratha without the hassle, the Kawan brand is quite good. They are usually found in Indian and SE Asian grocery stores here (NYC). Just slap it on your skillet with a dollop of butter and you'll have a tasty, flaky morsel in minutes.
There is also roti jala, a Malaysian version eaten with curries. They are lacy and elegant in appearance and are sure to be a conversation piece at any dinner party. See below link for recipe. In the absence of a 'roti jala cup' (a tin cup with four spouts), use a ketchup squeeze bottle:
My mother's caregiver is from Fiji. She was telling us about Roti last night....
My husband loves Dosa and was asking if there she was familiar with it from Fiji as there is Indian presence there...she didn't know what it was but when he explained it to her she said "OH....Roti!"
She's planning to show us her recipe next week....is it really similar to Dosa or very different?