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Real Roti Canai

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I've been to several Malaysia restaurants since moving to New York four years ago, and was a little surprised to find that none made real roti canai. Some, like Nyonya, serve the reheated frozen kind (which ARE tasty, but which I can buy at Patel Bros. for $2.50 for 5, so...) or, like Sentosa, which serves very large and flat rounds piled prettily on the plate, if a little rubbery.

Real Roti Canai should be crispy and light with buttery bubbles of air, sweet and soft on the inside, endless crunchy brown crinkles on the outside, made by tossing out a ball of dough so it's stretched thin and round, and then folding it over itself as you fry it.

There's so much obscure cuisine here, and Roti Canai is something I ate almost every day when I lived in Malaysia, and is made from a very simple and cheap dough.

Does anyone know if Fatty Crab's (or some wonderful place I have somehow missed's) Roti is the real deal? What is going on here that the 10-15 Malaysian and Indonesian restaurants in NY can't get this right?

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  1. I'm sorry I don't know the answer to this. But is there a certain brand that's best for the frozen kind? And where in Manhattan would have it? Hong Kong Supermarket, probably?

    3 Replies
    1. re: traceybell

      I can't recall the name of the brand right now, but I believe it says on the packaging "#1 brand in Malaysia" somewhere. It is sometimes also called by the Indian name paratha.

      1. re: thinthukgirl

        OK, I found the brand. The packaging should look like the photo. http://www.kawanfood.com/product/para...

        If you can't find this specific brand, buy any brand that freezes the roti in dough form, not already cooked. That's what makes it different. Then I heat up a non-stick pan with no oil, turning down the heat before placing the roti on it. I flip frequently but this may not be necessary.

        1. re: thinthukgirl

          thank you!

    2. This is a really good question ...

      From my tour last week of Malaysian restaurants in Manhattan, I found that all except for one -- Nyonya -- were serving a certain kind of roti that were so similar that I really believe that these were all the same factory-made variety. Nyonya's was different from the others, bigger, lighter, thinner, but I since I've never been to Malaysia, I can't compare with what is available there.

      The Kam Man grocery store on Canal St. in Chinatown has a Singaporean brand of frozen roti called "Chinatown." I picked some up there on Friday. With some effort, you might be able to achieve the same effect you describe above with these items, but ... I don't know. The ones I heated at home were very oily.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodmonk

        I did go to Nyonya several years ago, and remember it being the same as the others, but most likely I am remembering wrong.

        Yummy:
        http://www.kuala-lumpur.ws/images/foo...

      2. Have you ever eaten in Nyonya? Because its definitely not cookie cutter round.

        1. Try the following -
          New Malaysia Restaurant - interconnect next to Jin Fong on Elizabeth
          Overseas Asian- On Canal next to Orchard
          Malaysia and Indonesian- on Doyers St.
          Jaya on Baxter

          I do like fluffy ones too.

          1. I don't know about these days, but Nyonya in Chinatown used to have a dedicated roti maker, and they were definitely freshly made. Certainly the ones at Nyonya in Brooklyn, where I go often, are the real thing.

            http://petercherches.blogspot.com

            2 Replies
            1. re: Peter Cherches

              I second this. and overseas were very good the last time I went, but it has been a while...

              1. re: ghbrooklyn

                Overseas is the place run by the former Ipoh Garden folks, right?

            2. I haven't been to Nyonya in a couple of months but I can't believe they gave up making the roti canai fresh - actually if you're on the sidewalk and look to the left of the window you can see a guy making them almost one after another.

              1. Penang

                1 Reply
                1. re: sushiman

                  The rest of the menu at Penang isn't great, nor authentic, but the Roti Canai sounds as you've described, and it's tasty. I used to stop in to the SoHo location for a roti canai and a beer when I spent more time in that area.

                2. Have you tried Skyway on Allen near Canal? I liked it when I tried it last year, haven't heard much about it lately.

                  1. There's also the old-style roti canai, which is a much thicker and wider-diameter eggy flatbread cooked on a griddle. Skyway's roti telur is something like that. I prefer the old style of roti canai. Not having looked into their kitchen to check, I couldn't say for sure whether Skyway makes the dough from scratch or not, but I do like their roti telur (and the roti canai is pleasant, too).

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Pan

                      I will have to try Skyway and Penang. I tried Nyonya again today, and although I was wrong about it being one of the frozen roti guys, it was pretty similar to Sentosa's, which is also handmade, but unless I'm remembering my 10 months living in Malaysia completely wrong, is too rubbery and is fried in only one layer (no bubbles or folds) so is not exactly what I'm looking for.

                      The irony is that the frozen roti actually gets closer to the layered texture I tried to describe above, and which made the roti I remember from KL far more substantial.

                      The answer to my dilemma is probably the obvious one, which is that roti canai is a Malaysian Indian food, and all the Malaysian restaurants I've been to in New York have been Chinese owned and operated. Nyonya the word itself refers to the Chinese-influenced strain of cuisine native to Penang.

                      1. re: thinthukgirl

                        "The answer to my dilemma is probably the obvious one, which is that roti canai is a Malaysian Indian food, and all the Malaysian restaurants I've been to in New York have been Chinese owned and operated."

                        I agree with you that this is a limiting factor. All West Coasters, too. (Well, I heard that Eastanah serves some Kelantan food, but I've also heard their food is unspicy and not so cheap, so I've never been.)

                      2. re: Pan

                        Its frozen at skyway.