Friday, 4 November 2011

No that's not a chapatti... now this is a chapatti

Loving the randomness that the online world brings I enjoyed getting an email this morning demonstrating the making of GIANT chapattis. If you aren't already familiar, chapattis are a North Indian flat bread cooked over an open flame or or tawa (hot griddle or pan). I grew up calling them 'roti' and from watching this and many other videos this is exactly how we make them (some internet searches will suggest that chapattis are the triangular multi layered bread but anyone from Malaysia would know that as 'roti'). At the end of the day it doesn't bloody matter, they taste good, are a labour of love and are not gluten free.

This style of chapatti making is prevalent in Pakistan and as you can imagine one would feed many many people. After burning my fingers more times than I can care to mention, I am in awe of these men who no doubt have no feeling left in theirs and manage to handle the dough and the chapatti that looks like it is meant to be worn rather than eaten. Great way to stay warm in bitter winters!  I have also seen this type of chapatti called "roomali" which I can only guess is a reference to it resembling a giant handkerchief (if you know please leave a comment!).

This video captures a Pathan from Pakistan demonstrating this skillful art.

Don't you love the similarities to skillful pizza dough making? Watching how flat breads are made around the world is one my favourite pastimes.  I even use a Mexican hotplate as a tawa as I couldn't access decent Indian grocer when I needed one and 15 years later it is still going strong. The weight of it is ideal and it has a handle.

Guess it wouldn't be fair to leave you without a recipe right?  Kneading this hot dough was such a pleasure on really cold Wellington days!


  • 1 1/2 cup white flour
  • 3/4 wholemeal (you can replace both of these with 'atta' flour which is now available in Australia - especially Masterchef fans who may recognise the brand promoted by Jimmy)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 75g unsalted butter or ghee (preferable)
  • 1 cup boiling water (it has to be boiling)

Melt ghee/butter and rub into the flour and salt. Try to moisten as much of the flour with the ghee as possible. Slowly pour the boiling water (which kicks off the kneading process) and commence kneading the dough. This is a dough that really benefits from being well kneaded till you have a soft dough. Set aside for 30 mins.  

Good time to start heating up your griddle/frying pan/tawa. I keep melted ghee ready for cooking but health watchers may like to minimise the use of this to a light brush at the end (or use a paper towel soaked then squeezed of ghee to pat on).  Heat it up so there is a decent even heat, then turn down low to start cooking.

Knead the dough again and form into pingpong size balls. Roll in your hands to get to this shape. Flatten the ball between your palms before rolling out thinly on a floured surface. Breakfast plate size is large enough.

Throw the rolled out chapatti onto the griddle, when it starts to show heat bubbles at the top, turn it over.  Leave it on this side for a bit longer, use your finger tips to rotate in the griddle to even heat it. When bubbles start to form, use a clean teatowel folded up in your hand to gently push the air around to fill the rest of the chapatti (the true test of a great chappatti maker is being able to get that sucker to fill with air before deflating - a sign your dough is good!). Turn over and finish cooking. You are looking for a light speckled finish. Quickly brush with ghee and place on a plate or a roti container (lined with lunchpaper). As they stack the heat from each will keep the bread soft.

Your mastery will be assessed by having a soft, pliable roti that is not too thick and dry! It increases your marriageability status also!

Tip: To help reduce the amount of ghee/butter needed add a little yoghurt to the dough (e.g 1 tbslp to every 2 cups flour). Helps keep the dough very soft and roll out easily. Let me know how you go!

Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue


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Hey thanks!