Welcome to The Storied Recipe!
Shakila Majlid grew up in Singapore where she ate her grandmother’s Roti Paratha (aka Roti Canai) at home. On Saturday mornings, her father took her to the street markets of Singapore where she enjoyed the same Roti Paratha from the busy stalls of Mamak Hawkers. As you make Shakila’s recipe, please listen to her episode Roti Canai Across 4 Generations and 3 Continents!
Soft, flaky, pull apart layers - crispy, butter exterior - Roti Paratha (aka Roti Canai) is the best bread you'll find the whole world over!
And in fact, you *can* find this very popular flat bread all around the globe! It goes by different names - Roti Prata in Singapore, Roti Canai in Malaysia, Buss Up Shot in Trinidad - but the bread is beloved by all.
This authentic recipe for Roti Paratha comes from my podcast guest Shakila, who grew up in Singapore eating her grandmother's roti on weekdays and from street food vendors on weekends. To Shakila, this recipe represents stability, family, love and home across generations and continents.
Table of Contents (Jump To Section)
What To Expect
- Ghee, ghee and more ghee are added to this recipe at every steps. So, the bread tastes like... buttery, nutty ghee. The best flavor in the world!
- Much like puff pastry, Roti Paratha dough is wrinkled and spiraled to created lots and lots of air pockets. They'll fluff up into lovely, soft layers as soon as the the air is heated.
- The bread is fried in ghee, so the outside is super crispy and flaky..
- The round layered spirals are so fun to unwind - it's tantalizing to pull them apart as warm bready steam wafts out!
How do you make fluffy rotis?
Is it difficult to make Roti Paratha?
- It is not at all difficult to make authentic Roti Paratha! However, the process of stretching, scrunching, spiraling, and flattening the dough is time-consuming and may take a bit of practice.
- The important thing to remember is that you really can't mess this up. Shakila reassured me that a few tears are easily covered. The taste will more than make up for any deficiency in presentation.
THE key to make the shaping process fun & easy:
- Ghee! Apply liberally whenever the dough begins to feel dry, sticky, or difficult to work.
How to make Paratha Roti, Step by Step:
1) Form a very thin circle
- Let balls of dough rest overnight. Mild fermentation of the yeast will make the dough easier to stretch.
- Flatten a ball into a disc.
- Use the heel your hand to stretch the disc into a circle from the center out.
- Once the circle of dough is fairly thin, begin gently lifting an edge of the circle and pull. Go around the circle, continuing to gently it out until the dough is almost translucent.
2) Add layers
- Start at the bottom of the circle closest to you. Nudge the dough up towards the center, forming lots of wrinkles as you go.
- Then, start at the top and pull the dough, bit by bit, down to the center. Again, the idea is to form lots of wrinkles with plenty of air in them.
- The log will likely have shortened as you formed it. Stretch it out to the length of the disameter of the circle you started with.
- This is the fun part!
- Holding one end of the log firmly in place, spiral the around this center until you've used up the entire length of dough.
- Tuck the loose end into the bottom of your spiral. See the picture below
- Using a rolling pin or just the palm of your hand, flatten the spiral into a disc about 9 or 10 inches wide - whatever will fit in your favorite non-stick pain
- Tony Tan explains in great detail how the Roti Canai (Roti Paratha) man would flip the dough back and forth at Mamak restaurants or stalls. This technique was too difficult for me, but you may want to give it a try!
- I also recommend watching this video from Bea of El Mundo for an even better representation. Shakila recommended this video/post to me when she came on the podcast.
AP Flour vs. Bread Flour?
- Choosing the proper type of flour for roti bread is tricky – here’s why:
- You DO want very stretchy dough, which would suggest that bread flour is the correct choice for Roti Prata. After all, gluten forms more readily in doughs made from bread flour, which has a higher protein content. And some bloggers suggest using bread flour.
- However, as Nyonya explains, roti isn’t meant to taste “bready” in the European sense.
- Further, in southeast Asia, professional hawkers use a flour called ‘tepung gandum serbaguna’, which is NOT high in protein.
- So, for that reason, I agree that all purpose flour will give the most authentic and best result for your Roti Prata
- While AP flour will create less gluten, you’ll gain plenty of stretchiness by resting the dough and applying lots of ghee.
- For more flour information, check out this post from Nyonya Cooking.
Around the World: Other Versions of Roti Canai
Are Roti Canai, Roti Paratha, and Roti Prata the same?
- Yes! Roti Canai is the Malaysian name, Roti Prata/Paratha is the name in Singapore. And those aren't the only names:
- The Trini name is “Buss Up Shot” for how you “bust up” the bread in it’s final step of preparation.
- Porotta in Sri Lanka or southern Indian states like Karnataka
- Malawach from Yemen
- Parotta in Sri Lanka
- Kerala Parotta from Malabar, the southwest coast of Southern India
- Roti Thitchu in Thailand - similar to the Trini Buss Up Shot, this refers to the crumpling of the bread (like a tissue) after cooking
What does "Roti Canai" mean?
Actually, that's debatable and you'll find different answers depending on where you look.
Wikipedia explains the 3 most likely possibilities:
- Canai might refers to Chennai (Madras), a South Indian city where this version of roti may have originated.
- Canai may come from "channa", a chickpea curry that's often served with Roti Canai. (You can try my podcast guest Shayma's super easy Chana Masala here.)
- The Malaysian word canai means "to roll (dough) thinly", which is, in fact, one of the most critical steps to making Roti Canai.
What to Eat with Roti Canai
- Plain! It's delicious!!
- As a child, Shakila ate hers with cinnamon and sugar
- Chickpea Curry - Try Easy Traditional Chanay from Shayma
- ANY curry - You could also try this Mushroom Masala from Kaveri
- Many, many recipes use Roti Canai as the basis for an entirely new dish - like this Sri Lankan Chicken Roti Kotthu from The Flavor Bender where the roti is cut up and combined with lots of other ingredients.
Recipe Contributor: Shakila Majid
Roti Prata connected Shakila with her multi-cultural family that lived together on one compound in Singapore.
When she left for England, and eventually made her way to the US, Roti Prata was the bread she sought in each location, as it always reminded her of home and family.
Finally, this bread helped Shakila’s American son return to his Singaporean roots. If any of us ever doubted the power of food, Shakila's episode on The Storied Recipe Podcast will convince us that food is family, love, and memories.
When I moved to England Roti Canai was something that I missed terribly. It was one of those dishes that can be found in Mamak hawker stalls all over Singapore, so often there was no need to make them at home [although my grandmother often did].
One of my abiding memories of my childhood in Singapore is going for breakfast at the weekend with my father. My father travelled a great deal and could often be away months at a time so these weekend breakfasts were precious moments..
We frequented a small establishment on the side of a busy street. It was a small wooden building and if my memory serves me correctly, it straddled a large storm drain. At the very least it was right next to one!
Us kids would always have our roti with sugar while the adults would eat it with some form of curry or lentils. And my father would always order his drink of choice. Teh Tarik. Milky black tea which was cooled by pouring it from one receptacle to another form up high. The tea is literally 'pulled' through the air. It was quite the spectacle.
I mentioned above, that Roti Canai was not something we made at home regularly, but my grandmother certainly did. It was a labor of love and I remember being amazed at how thin she could stretch the dough and fold it to produce fluffy layers. She spent ages making these which were consumed in no time at all by us grand kids. My grandma's legacy lives on today.
My son who is a born and bred American and would consume beef burgers and pizza on a daily basis, seems to have acquired quite a taste for Singaporean food and in particular, Roti Canai.
For a long time, I would purchase the frozen version from the Asian Supermarket, just grateful that we could now get it a supermarket. However, it never tasted quite authentic enough. After much pleading from my son, I finally decided to try to find a recipe that might work.... and I finally found one which hit the spot.
My childhood memories are often marked by food. Today, cooking and baking is my meditation. My mother, grandmother (and frankly most of my Singapore family) taught me cooking and feeding anyone who walks through the front door is an act of love.
When I make Roti Canai, I feel extremely close to family in Singapore, my heritage and my place of birth.
Listen to Shakila's Episode on The Storied Recipe Podcast:
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Frozen Roti Canai - Costco's Version
- If you’d like to make the Roti Canai in advance, you can shape the discs and then freeze (up to a month) or refrigerate (up to 2 days) before cooking.
- Let the discs thaw before frying and expect extra splattering from the moisture after defrosting. Use extra caution when frying.
- If you're looking for something even faster - Shakila mentioned in her interview that Costco's Roti Canai is surprisingly authentic & delicious.
- We tried Costco's on Shakila's recommendation and found that – while not as good as homemade – they were truly excellent considering the zero minutes prep time!
Is it healthy? Calories in Roti Canai
- Google tells me quite a few readers want to know if Roti Canai is good for weight loss. So, I’ll be blunt: No.
- Although I’m a *huge* believer in moderation and enjoying ALL foods, I cannot pretend that this bread will aid your weight loss.
- However – no one dish will impede weight loss or make you unhealthy on its own. And there are healthy individuals and societies all around the world that enjoy Roti Canai!
- So I encourage you to try one of these delicious flaky flatbreads along with a meal is full of vegetables, fiber, and lean proteins. (See below!)
The perfect simple, staple dish.
It’s flavorful, easy on the stomach (and the wallet), pantry-friendly, full of fiber, protein.
An instant classic in our household.