Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The eternal quest for the perfectly poofy roti

This post is for Ria of Me and India, as reassurance that you don't have to have the absolutely perfect cooking implements in order to make rotis! Here, I am using a plastic cutting board in place of a marble chakla and a nonstick pan instead of a tawa. Basically you just need a small rolling pin, a flat surface, a nonstick pan of some sort, and a wire rack. You can do wonders with that. 

I'll skip the dough-making part in pictures. You need to make a springy dough that doesn't stick (too much) to your hands when it's all mixed in. Some people add salt to their rotis. I usually forget. I don't make them with oil either - for me, it's just flour (here I am using regular whole wheat flour from any grocery) and water. 

Take a ball of dough about the size of a small lime and roll it in your hands until it becomes round. Then squish it in a little bit of flour. The rounder the squished ball, the rounder the roti will be. Dip the other side in flour too, then place on your rolling surface. 

Don't kill the dough. Roll it gently. You may find it 'spins' underneath your rolling pin; that's good. Try to get it an even thickness. Evenness is more important than thinness. My mother-in-law's rotis are thicker than mine and much tastier. 

Now it's flat.

Pick up and immediately place onto your preheated tawa or nonstick pan. If you have an electric stove, set it at about 7 or 8. You'll know if it's too high. Make sure you also have a second burner turned on and preheated to about 8 or 9. Put your roti rack over it so you remember it's on and don't burn yourself.

Let this sit until a bubble or two starts forming. This will be maybe 10-15 seconds. Then flip it over and let the other side cook for about 15-20 seconds. Not too long. You can use a spatula to flip the roti or use your hands. I always use my hands. Don't burn your wrists on the side of the pan though, like I often do.

 The bubble means it's ready to flip over. 

Once both sides are cooked, take the roti off the pan and place onto the wire rack. Mine has a handle on it, so I'm holding the rack in one hand here. DO NOT set the rack directly onto the burner with the roti on it. I find about 1 cm off the burner is the best place for me to hold it in order to get the heat to puff it.
 A handheld rack also allows you to move the roti to the 'hotspots' on the burner so that it puffs evenly.

Your roti should puff within a second.

Once it puffs, carefully take it with your hand and flip it to the other side, and puff the other side.
Again, the rack is NOT TOUCHING the burner. You can do that if you like eating burnt rotis. 

Take the roti off the rack, put into your casserole dish, and start on the next one.

If it doesn't puff, don't despair. Just put it in the casserole and start on the next one. It's still edible. Practice makes perfect though, so obviously the only way to get good at this is to make and eat a lot of rotis. Tasty practice. :)


  1. You can off them under a grill ? I have a naan recipe where you grill them and they puff up in patches.

  2. Naan is supposed to puff in patches. :) Putting the rotis on a grill over a burner is the best way to get the direct heat to them when you don't have a gas stove. Out of a batch of eight last night, six puffed perfectly. The other two had some thin spots that let the 'bubble' burst when I put them on the grill. Ah well, live and learn.

  3. Once you add salt, it has a different name. I learned that from my favorite cookbook (Lord Krishna's Cuisine). This is the difference between a roti and a paratha if I remember correctly.

    I know a lot of girls talk about puffing up the chapatti's but I've never seen this done anywhere else. In Amritsar the only puffs I saw were poori's and that's a completely different thing (fried in oil and all). Roti's weren't puffed at all in restaurants, dhabas or in my MIL or Chachi's kitchen. I've seen them puff in MIL's kitchen (only a little) and she promptly flattens them back down while they're cooking so they come out nice and flat.

    When I make my own roti's I add cumin. I know, that's not the norm but I just can't stand the bland taste of flour and water so I have to add something. I rarely eat them though. Even in India I didn't like them. I know a lot of Indians talk about how bland British or American foods are but there simply is nothing more bland than a roti to me lol.

    1. Paratha is made with oil, and usually it's folded over into layers and re-rolled. I think you are talking about phulka chapatis? Not sure. Everyone uses different names for things and I can never keep them straight.

      My MIL puffs the rotis the same way I do (that's how I learned) and then they flatten back down in the casserole. They don't stay puffed up into circles. I think it makes them a little lighter-feeling and not so heavy when you eat.

      And yes, rotis are about the blandest thing you can eat! But I think it is good because they can accompany anything. A little butter and sugar on them, then roll them up - great quick sweet thing :)

  4. Situation is that I need to learn how to make roti, so my wife was busy teaching me how to make a sophisticated, authenticated, super round, homogeneously even and thin roti.

    After 3-4 hours of try, with broken heart I gave up. But after seeing your roti, I got inspiration. Someday I will surely be a successful roti maker and impress my wife. hahaha.


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