These fluffy, pastry-like breads are part of Malaysia’s unique cuisine known as mamak. Crisp, flaky and the perfect accompaniment to dhal and curry sauces, roti canai are served at street stalls around the clock.
- 450 g (3 cups) plain flour
- 50 g ghee, plus extra, to grease
- 125 ml (½ cup) milk
- 1 tsp white sugar
- vegetable oil, to grease and fry
- dhal, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time overnight
You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead.
Place flour in a large bowl, then using your fingertips, rub ghee into flour until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Combine milk, sugar, 1 tsp salt and 80 ml (⅓ cup) water in a small bowl. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, then using your hands, mix until a dough forms. It should be soft but not too sticky; add more water if the mixture is too dry. Knead dough on a lightly floured work surface until smooth and elastic. Divide into 12 balls, then generously coat each one in ghee. Place in a large, wide bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand at room temperature overnight.
Grease a work surface with oil. Using the palm of your hand, flatten a ball of dough by moving your hand in a circular motion. Lightly drizzle dough with oil; this will make it easier to work with. Using your fingertips, gently stretch out the dough until thin and translucent like tracing paper. (If you’re game, try the traditional technique: using your fingers, one hand facing up underneath dough and one hand facing down on dough, lift the edges and, in quick waving motions, lift the dough, then flick it back down. Repeat until thin and translucent.) Fold the edges of dough into the centre to resemble an envelope. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Working with 1 roti canai at a time, cook for 2 minutes each side or until golden brown.
Quickly scrunch up roti and serve immediately with dhal.
Place stretched, unfolded dough into a hot frying pan, then top with the following: roti telur (lightly beaten eggs); roti bawang (fried, sliced red onions); roti pisang (sliced banana); or roti kaya: (coconut jam, available from Asian food shops). Fold in edges of dough to resemble an envelope and cook as per step 3.
Photography Anson Smart.
As seen in Feast magazine, Sept 2011, Issue 1. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.