I recently got inspired to learn how to make roti (flat unleavened bread) and poori (flat unleavened bread which is deep-fried, ooooh yeah). I realized my Indian culinary skills can’t progress if I don’t master the bread, and poor Varun must be getting homesick with all this tortellini and pasta salad.
I gathered my flour, my allrecipes.com and got to work. Let me warn you about the hazards of making roti. First off, it’s harder than it looks! When I was in India, the lovely woman cooking for the Rana’s, Hoosna, simply patted the dough, threw it on the tawa and then finished the roti off by putting it directly on the flame. Voila, thin and lightly-browned roti.
I should have known from the beginning that something wasn’t right. First off, the dough was sticking to the “lightly buttered bowl” and my fingers had gathered nearly 50% of the dough. I left it to rise, or whatever it is unleavened dough does, and got ready to cook. I filled a pot with oil. Yes, you read that right. I put 700 mL of OIL into a small pot. I wondered as I poured, is this right? Could one person possibly use so much oil in one go? Is this even moral?
Doubtfully, I set it to boil.
Back with the dough, the roti would not roll out into round, flattened forms. In fact, they stuck to the rolling-pin, the cutting board, my fingers…So I did what any Martha Stewart would do: I doused them in flour. So much flour, in fact, that when we were eating them our hands were dusty. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first bit of dough was placed gingerly into the vat of boiling oil. Unlike the demonstrations by Hoosna, this would-be poori did not bubble and get fluffy floating at the top. Nope, this bad boy sank like a rock. A badly formed, oil-soaked rock.
Repeat 4 times.
In desperation I set the oil to cool (I did save it in a yogurt container for future poori making ventures. Is this unhygienic?!)and decided to just make roti. The dough goes into a tawa (like a frying pan) and is let to cook, then flipped, then, if you have a gas stove, you remove the pan altogether and let the roti quickly cook on the flame. Somehow this is done without burning your hands. Since I have about as much grace and quickness of hand as a two-toed sloth, I used chopsticks. Yup. Not tongs, not even a utensil from my continent. I thought I’d make it easier to grab something out of fire by using chopsticks.
Did the plastic on the tips of the chopsticks melt? Umm. It’s not my fault someone painted a design on the tips!
Needless to say, Roti Attempt #1 was an epic fail, but my brave and ever-loving husband gulped the rotis down, and would have eaten the poori had I not wrested the oily-doughy mass from his hands.
Roti Attempt #2 was a vast improvement and I’ll post the recipe shortly so you can have your own mishaps. The only disconcerting part of that attempt was when Varun asked me if the tawa is lead because it smells like a welding project. Am I cooking with lead?