‘Veechu’ translates as ‘thrown’ in Tamil, referring to the hand motion used to form this simple bread. They were introduced to the island by early Arab traders and resemble khobz flatbreads.
Influenced by Middle Eastern traders, these breads are perfect on the side of your favourite curry.
- 5 tbsp oil (3 tbsp for the dough and 2 tbsp for frying)
- 500 g (1lb 2 oz/4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 200 ml (7 fl oz/generous ¾ cup) water
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.
First, heat 3 tbsp of oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat until nearly sizzling.
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and pour in the hot oil. Mix it in well with the handle of a wooden spoon. Add water little by little, stirring all the time, until it all begins to bind together. Then, start kneading the dough.
At first, the dough will stick to your hands but as you continue kneading it will lose its stickiness and become a firm, round ball. Knead well for about 10 minutes. Cover it with a wet cloth and set aside for at least an hour.
Taking a handful of dough at a time, shape it into 12 large lemon-sized balls. Set them aside.
Heat up a flat griddle pan or frying pan (skillet) on a medium heat. While it is heating, place one dough ball on a work surface and start to flatten it into a large, very thin circle, using a rolling pin or your palm.
To stretch the dough out very thin, experienced veechu rotti makers hold two corners of the flattened dough between their thumbs and index fingers, and roll it in a circular motion through the air, moving their hands around the circle as they go.
Lay the stretched-out dough on a work surface and fold in each side to make a 15 cm (6 inch) square.
Spread 2 tbsp of oil on the now hot pan and fry the folded rotti one at a time. Cook for 2–3 minutes until golden brown on the bottom, then turn over and repeat on the other side. Pile them up as you continue cooking the rest.
Serve warm with any curry or Pol Sambol or Seeni Sambol.
Recipe from Sri Lanka the Cookbook by Prakash K Sivanathan and Niranjala M Ellawala (Murdoch Books, pb, $39.99). Photography © Kim Lightbody.