Flatbread for a fork

A vehicle for spooning food into your gaping maw. Posted by Hello
Bread is my favorite food in the whole world. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I could live on bread and water alone. I first discovered how good fresh bread could taste when I was in culinary school. The Baking class would send up rolls and loaves of freshly baked goodness to us Culinary students who were usually hard at work at less exciting tasks like butchering a pig or trying to clarify a stock.
I still remember the first time I ate bread that was fresh out of the oven – its skin crackled and burnished from the heat of the flame, its aroma tickling my nostrils. And the taste, oh, the taste! A confluence of flour, yeast, and salt merged and mingled to create powerful waves of doughy gloriousness. It’s a rapture that I haven’t forgotten. It was so powerful that it propelled me to teach myself how to make my own bread. (A topic for a future post.)

The bread that you see above is my favorite type of flatbread: a Roti canai (ROH-tee CHA-nigh), also called paratha. Roti is a general Indian term for “bread,” in this case, an Indian flat bread that is rich and flaky. The flakiness is achieved by smearing the dough with oil or clarified butter (ghee) then rolling and folding the dough over itself. The process is repeated about three times, rolled out to its desired size, and then fried in oil or cooked on a tava or grill. The pastry layers separate and flake during cooking.

This rolling and folding process is similar to the procedure used to make Danish pastries and flaky Southern biscuits. I’ve been told that experienced roti bakers will forego the rolling pin and flatten the bread by rolling it between their hands, gently pressing and pulling, and then throwing it in the air, (think pizza dough). I’ve tried this “spinning it in the air” bit, and it is
dif- fi- cult to do, believe you me.

Indian flatbreads are best with specific dishes: the oval, white naan is usually paired with dry-cooked meat and vegetable dishes, the flat, chewy chapati for lentil dishes, etc. Anyone who appreciates Indian food (me! me!) knows how important flatbreads are in the meal, for scooping up food or a means to wipe up the remaining sauce. I of course, am happy with just an order (two, please!) of roti canai and a side dish of choleh masala, (a saucy garbanzo/chick pea dish), no fork and spoon necessary.

These are my favorite places to enjoy roti canai, listed in order of preference:

Hossein’s Persian Kebab
Banana Leaf Curry House

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