Sumati Huber on the art of making round, round rotis.
Today we will learn how to make a basic Indian staple, the roundest, softest, fluffiest most delicious roti in all the land, or the very least your mooban.
The first step in your roti-making journey is to find your way to the kitchen. It’s that room where your house helpers spend their days attached to their phones with their earpieces in so they can never actually hear you when you ask them to make roti. Don’t worry, that’s why you are going to learn how to fend for yourself so you never go hungry.
You will need to locate atta, the fine wheat flour that roti is made of. If you don’t have any, call your mom to send your driver to the corner Indian store to buy a bag. Immediately regret calling your mom who will use this as an opportunity to lecture you for not knowing anything about your culture and how shameful it is that you’re all grown up and never learned how to cook.
Once you have the atta, use scissors to cut a fine line along the top of the packet so you can pour out the flour carefully. You will spill some anyway but that’s OK. This is also a good opportunity to learn how to clean up.
Since we’re new to this we will start with one cup of atta to make about four rotis. Slowly add water a bit at a time to the flour and start mixing with your hands.
Knead out all the frustration of the things your parents never let you do. Remember that senior year beach trip all your friends took but you couldn’t go? Yes, make sure the dough feels that.
Some people add a bit of salt or ghee to the dough but that’s optional depending on the method your house subscribes to. It doesn’t matter what you decide though because whatever you make will never be good enough for your mother-in-law anyway.
Once the dough is firm and doesn’t stick to your fingers you’ve completed the beginning of what will soon become roti.
Let the dough sit covered for about 20 minutes to soften up so it’s easier to work with when the actual roti-making begins. It would be wise to leave the kitchen during this time otherwise you may end up eating a whole box of cookies while you wait.
After the dough has rested (and you have to from all that hard work) portion off a bit of the mixture and form it into a smooth ball reminiscent of an uncle’s belly after he has hit the sangeet buffet and bar too hard. Flatten the ball slightly between your palms to represent what his stomach will look like after his wife puts him on a diet.
The shape of your roti will determine how successful you are, how much money you earn and how fruitful your marriage will be. To make them perfectly round will take practice but for now move the rolling pin evenly through the dough. Dip the dough in atta as you work so it doesn’t get too sticky.
Roti is traditionally made on a tawa – a flat skillet. Make sure the pan is hot then put the rolled dough on and let it cook for about 30 seconds until some bubbles form. Flip it over and let the other side cook a bit longer till brown spots appear. There may be some dark black marks on the roti but don’t fret. That’s normal for roti but definitely not acceptable for your face which needs to be fair and lovely.
Some people put the roti on an open flame after this to let it puff up, or you can use a cloth to press the roti on the tawa so it inflates. You want the roti to puff up like an aunty’s hair after she leaves the beauty salon.
Lather on some ghee like your grandma told you to once the roti is done cooking. Now you’ve successfully mastered roti!
But what will you eat it with?
Guess you should have listened to your mum and learned how to make some Indian curries too.
An unreformed party girl and mother of two, writer, editor and observer Sumati Huber tries to make sense of our unique Thai-Indian society and the aunties that she will one day become.