Indian Bread

Roti….chapaati 101,

The basics

To understand how to prepare Indian Bread or Roti, or chapaati, (it is nearly same, but each home has a little different version). It is circular by convention, and flat and thin. It is made of whole wheat flour, a little coarse in North, and fine in other states, some use all purpose flour. Coarse flour absorbs more water and cooks slowly, less contact area on the griddle, simple physics. A Gujaraati bride’s skill is tested by the thin-ness of her chapaati! Ghee applied on one side should appear on the other by permeation.

Three steps (“Small step for you, but long steps for mankind”, said Neil Armstrong)!

1. The dough….Never think you can’t do, because you can. Take whole wheat flour, and water, and a thick large spoon or a similar object (for mixing and maneuvering), which you can manage. A large Pan with elevated sides will help. Add flour and add water, very playfully, and enjoy mixing the two with your spoon or whatever you chose. You may end up with a slurry, but don’t you worry. You may end up with the flour getting all over you, it is edible and washable stuff!

If too thick, add a little more water, if slurry like, add flour. In India a USD buys you 4 lbs of best flour, you can surely play with it and if you can’t get a plastic clay consistency by end of the day, discard it, feed to the cow, wash your hands and be happy again. We will try another day.

I am sure you will get it, because Robert Bruce got it, oh, that is another story.

2. Preparing the thin round form…..The rolling pin and a slab are your instruments. Take a part of your clay and roll it with the pin anywhichway, till it is flat and thin. Keep on adding dry flour on top and bottom, more like the Sumo wrestlers’ ritual. Try it, you will love it. Roll it thin, and more thin. If it looks like Australia, it is OK, if it looks like a football, American or Indian, you get a B+.

We want to cook it and eat it, not keep it in Smithsonian, you got the point.

3. Cooking on the concave griddle (tawaa)…….Lift the flat, circular (or whatever) thin soft piece of art, and with a flourish, transfer to a hot griddle. Not cold, and not burning hot, mildly hot, so that Roti takes a while getting cooked, it will change color, it will tell you when to flip it with a tong (chimta) to cook on the other side.

3A. Cooking on the flame, or hot plate……..This part is as easy or as difficult as you make it. Indian mothers insist that if their d-in law can not manage to have an all puffed up Roti….it is time for harakiri (mother in law or d-i-l, I don’t want to know). Do not let it deflate your ego one bit if you can not get it. Smithsonian is NOT waiting for your flying saucer!

Again, my advise is not to allow anyone to advise you, you can improve your own game by playing. Here there are no opponents, If you are able to eat it, it is a good roti. Send me your photos, I mean your Roti’s photos, I will send you mine. Meanwhile look at the tools of the trade.

To mix flour and water
To mix flour and water
Water jug
Water jug
Rolling pin and the marble base
Rolling pin and the marble base
Tong (chimtaa) tuning fork style
Tong (chimtaa) tuning fork style
Concave Griddle
Concave Griddle

Cooking Basics

What can impart a sour taste to a vegetable dish in Indian cooking. You got a choice:

  • Unripe mango…..either fresh or dried and powdered
  • vinegar
  • Pomegranate seed powder
  • sour curd……old curd
  • Kokum (garcinia indica)
  • tamarind
  • lemon
  • Citric acid
  • aonla (indian gooseberry) fresh or dried and powdered
  • tomatoes

    Did I leave any stuff which gives sour taste?

    Each of these have their own typical taste, fragrance, texture and color. Additionally they go with specific type of vegetables. Moms have been using very specific combinations, because of the medicinal properties associated with each. Depending upon the thickness of the curry, and the mixture of sourness with sweetness that one requires.

    It also depends on the guy who is cooking and his preferences. I love to add sour curd, because I like the taste. In lentils, I add more of kokum, because it imparts a unique flavor and a little red color. Fragrance wise nothing to beat lemon, added after cooking.

    Bengal Gram (small hard colored variety)

    Aonla or gooseberry in powdered form can give a deep grey color which is needed by the Bengal gram curry.

    Tomatoes come in various shapes sizes and sourness. Use as pulp, or whole, without skin and seeds. Seeds are the sour portion.

    The dish has to be designed on the drawing-board of the mind of the chef before starting, and that will decide the ingredients. The spice should be subtle rather than bold unless you are cooking for Jats (body builders) who require even the spices to be robust and muscular.

    Good luck in the kitchen!