It usually starts on an early morning; the art of roti making for me. In this post, we’re highlighting paratha in particular. Paratha is a flaky, layered kind of flatbread that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a snack. It’s indigenous to Indian cuisine and usually accompanied by a combination of fillings or the paratha itself can be stuffed with one (like aloo/potato or peas) to make it more wholesome by itself.
There’s something so relaxing and purposeful about prepping dough for roti, especially when the sunlight is soft and neighbourhood quiet. It can take awhile but is worth the time and effort, especially when you taste the different filling flavours, hear the response when the meal is served and get to eat with your hands.
Prepping the dough for paratha is done in 3 stages with 2 “resting” points where you let the dough ‘sit’ for a bit to rise and soften in texture and pliability.
Those pauses in between can be handy for doing things like:
- washing, sorting and soaking peas
- making sure all pots & pans you’re using are washed and dry
- cleaning off the counter top (where you will roll out the dough)
- gathering the ingredients and setting them out in one central space for easy access
Because prepping dough involves a degree of attentiveness and concentration, it helps any you focus on the task (literally) at hand and set any distracting thoughts aside. As you work with the dough getting it where it needs to be for whatever stage it’s at, you might find that light, peaceful thoughts float in and out of the mind as opposed to the conveyor belt of things on your daily to-do list. At least, that’s how it is for me.
The 3 stages of dough prep
- making a shaggy dough
- shaping the loyas (layered dough balls)
- rolling out the roti to set on the tawa
(A tawa is a flat cast iron hot plate set on the stove and used to heat the roti.)
Ingredients (for dough)
3 cups of plain or chapati flour (I use tea cups)
1 and 1/2 tsps of baking powder (I usually just pinch out how much)
A pinch of salt (optional)
3/4 stick of Anchor butter or some ghee or a light oil (from the loya-making stage, not shaggy dough step)
Fresh coriander or dill (to add extra flavour to the paratha if you like)
- 1 tawa (a large flat-as-possible frying pan or baking tray can also work depending on paratha shape and size)
- Mixing dish
- A belana (rolling pin) bay-lay-na
- Clean kitchen towels/tea towels or a damp paper towel (to cover dish when dough needs to ‘rest.’)
- Utensils (to measure & to slice butter)
- make sure your hands are clean since you’ll be scrunching, folding, kneading, shaping the dough at different stages.)
- Dabla/Cou-cou stick or spatula & wooden spoon (to turn roti on tawa)
Eating with your hands
Growing up with a parent from Trinidad & Tobago (and on Trini food), eating with your hands for some meals is something you get used to, and roti, like “doubles” is one of those moments.
Feeling the textures of your food makes the flavours spring forward even more and taps into that tactile part of our brain where we fully engage in the experience and are more connected with the food with eat. It also reminds us that utensils are handy but not necessary to enjoy a meal.
Think flavours, colours and textures. From peas and potatoes to greens and tomatoes, there’s no limit to the amount of fillings you can make to fill or scoop up with your paratha roti (skin.)
Curry, masala, geera, cilantro and salt in different quantities are a given when it comes to making a fundamental filling that usually involves some kind of peas, whether it’s channa (chickpeas/garbanzos) split peas or red lentils. Each of those has health benefits and taste points. I ‘chunkay’ (temper) whatever peas being used as a main filling in that (after soaking them and before boiling) in a special spice blend I’ve tested and fine-tuned over time.
The Plating Process
Like how the Ethiopian food favourite, injera is served on a colourful plate with complementing fillings, roti offers the same tactile culinary journey – just with its own flour foundation, distinct curry flavours and standard set of filling favourites.
Roti can be stuffed, wrapped (like a filled floured pocket of mixed contents) or enjoyed as a scoop-what-you-like-and-eat-as-you-go style meal. Even if you don’t have any prepped fillings, roti ‘skin’ can be tasty as ever with butter on it for breakfast or as a daytime snack. It takes some time to get the pace right when it comes to dry-frying the paratha on the tawa while rolling the next one in line, but you can prep a few beforehand so as soon as one is ready to be taken off the tawa (and wrapped in clean tea towels to stay warm and soften) another is ready to go on.
There are different ways to make roti and many different styles of roti. It’s definitely an art that both requires and generates patience, but when you get to enjoy the wholesome meal of a well-made roti with the right combination of delicious fillings, you’ll understand why so many are willing to spend hours preparing it. Once the dough is made, you can save some in the fridge (for a couple days) or freezer so the rolling and heating process takes less time.
Ever had roti? What 3 fillings would be in your ideal roti?