I have never imagined myself making Roti Canai on my own. Thought roti canai is the most difficult thing to make.Grew up watching my aunt; from kneading to stretching this roti I knew I would fail this mission if I were to make one.
I wasn’t wrong at all. The first time, the 2nd also… is very predictable what would the outcome be… the bad one always goes to the chicken, you know it. Would I say Roti Canai is very tricky to make? Yes it is to me. But is it impossible? No, it is not. Because finally I made it, so can you.
To get the dough consistency correctly is what makes it adventurous, I had to ask around including my mother-in-law(MIL) who makes very good roti canai. With some of her tips I benefited, I should thank her. Oh yes, I did!!
Stretching roti canai.. It scared me big time. Safe to say, even more challenging, but not after several practices! Just like the one professional pizza makers do – they stretch and throw, almost exactly. I still remember, I learnt stretching and throwing my wet kitchen towel and got caught by hubby, he wondered what I was trying to do, some workout routine? Aha… may be!! Well, it can also be done by stretching out the dough on a big plate till the dough gets really thin, according to my MIL. I think it’s a genius idea too!
The best part is when it just cooked – warm, flaky and soft. Serve it with Dhall Curry with dollop of Sambal (chili sauce)… or dip in anything… try with a little bit condensed milk, trust me… you couldn’t get any hyper-ly happier.
Now, isn’t it piece of cake!! You think?
Roti Canai (Makes 8-9 medium size roti)
4 ½ cups all purpose flour ( Extra 1-2 teaspoons if needed)
1 tsp fine salt
1 cup water ( 250 mL)
1 large egg , room temperature
¼ cup condensed milk
1 Tablespoon melted butter
Enough canola or other cooking oil and butter for submerging/soaking / coating and stretching .
1- In a large mixing bowl, mix all purpose flour with salt. Make a well in the center.
2- In a small bowl, stir together water, egg, condensed milk and melted butter until mixed.
3- Gradually pour in the mixture from small bowl ( wet mixture) into the prepared well in the large mixing bowl.
4- Using fingers to work the flour into the liquid until we can form a ball. Knead the dough until it is very smooth but we might notice the dough is a little sticky. Do not add flour just yet.. Keep kneading for about 10 minutes in total.
5- Cover the dough with kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
( Note: This process helps the dough absorb the liquid evenly and to relax the gluten ever so slightly.)
6- Continue to knead the dough for another 8-10 minutes until elastic and feels like satin. Now, at this point.. we will notice that dough will be no longer sticky. BUT if it still is.. please add only one teaspoon. Continue kneading. Cover and let is rest once again for another 15 minutes. ( Kneading resting process helps minimizing development of the gluten and makes stretching and shaping the roti way easier without over tearing it.)
7- Knead the dough , this is to assure that all ingredients are evenly absorbed. At this point, we should be able to get a very elastic and smooth dough.
8- Divide the dough into half. Divide each half into 5-6, repeat with the other half, we will get 10-12 portion total. Form each portion into a ball.
9- Now, it’s an optional whether to coat the balls with butter or oil.
If we choose butter, grease the bottom of a large pan with generous amount of soften butter so the balls won’t stick. Then generously coat each ball with butter, please make sure that each of them are well coated otherwise they stick to each other.
If we choose submerge them in large amount of oil, simple!! Pour small amount of oil into a medium bowl.. enough to coat the bottom of the bowl. Add the balls , all of them.. yes, lay them stack on each other.. don’t worry, they won’t stick cause you will add more oil into the bowl enough to cover the top of the balls.
To my personal opinion, submerging into cooking oil is much easier to work with , plus if coating with butter.. still we will need some amount of oil while working on the dough later.
10- Cover the bowl/pan with plastic wrap. Let them rest in the refrigerator for more than 4 hours. Preferably overnight, 12 hours.
11- We are ready for the adventure ; shaping, stretching and frying. Before that, remove the bowl/pan from the refrigerator, let them sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Just so the dough will be easy to work on.
12- Working on the dough, we need a large working space – about 35 inch or bigger table , counter top etc. With palm, press each balls to make 5 inch diameter disk, one at a time. Let them rest for another 5 – 8 minutes. ( yes, a lot of resting require to minize the gluten from developing.)
13- This time we will have to play with oil.. lotsa oil.. Oil the working surface/board .. including our hands.. oil them generously. Oil prevents friction between our hands and the dough and between the dough and the working surface. Oil also keeps the dough moist. This is very important method to be followed otherwise we will have difficulty to stretch the dough really thin and the dough will stick and messy and tearing everywhere.
14- Start with the first pressed dough, lay the dough on oiled working surface.Brush the dough with oil or oil plus melted butter. Lightly press in middle of the dough with fingers, from the center.. start pulling and stretching the dough evenly. Be careful not to tear it esp in the middle because the tear will grow bigger as your stretch and you really need to start over. Just lightly press it until we get about 8-9 inches disk. If by chance the dough spring back when stretching, let it rest for 5 minutes and then come back.
15- If the dough gets dry, brush more oil. Then work at the edges, with the heel of palm, press the edges .. stretching the dough evenly so as not to tear it and working all around the dough in a circle.
16- Oil our hands and the dough again. Take the dough from one edge with one hand. Slam the dough quickly and working all around in circle the same way. This is what we call ‘kebar/tebar’ or stretching roti canai. Repeat until the dough gets really thin and translucent. There will be tears and holes at the edges, do not worry, they will be covered by the many layers on untorn part.
If this method is found tricky .. yes it is for the beginner. Here is another method we can try.
On oiled big plate, lay the dough in the middle. Stretch dough (See step 14 and 15) until we get to edges of the plate. Keep oiling the dough if it start to dry out. Stretch and pull into thinner sheet.
17- Bring one side of the thin dough to center. The other side to center to form a long dough. . If we can get air trapped in the thin sheet at this point, don’t press air out as it would give a lighter fluffier result.
18. Hold one end upwards and the other end on the working surface. Swirl it down to form a piece of swirly turban . Let it rest for about 15 minutes, the longer the better ( reason? Because later we will pat it to make a larger and thinner turban, so we need to rest the gluten again to make it easy to shape it.)
Repeat step no.13 – 18 with the rest of the balls.
19- Pat the turban dough with tips of our fingers. If needed,Only slightly stretching required. Pat until 10-12 inches disk is formed. Preheat a medium pan on medium heat, pan fry/cook the roti . Flip on the other side when it start to bubble , slightly brown and crisp. Keep flipping until cooked. Repeat with the remaining.
20- Serve it warm with Dhall Curry with dollop of sambal or anything to your liking.
Troubleshooting and Notes to success :
1- Whole wheat flour is not recommended for this recipe.
2- This is important to get a very elastic dough before resting it, too soft dough may cause lots of holes and tears on the thin dough. The right consistency of the dough is very crucial in making roti canai.
3- I know, this roti canai method requires several of resting process but I can vouch you, iA.. the end result that make you thank yourself. It worth the waiting. Flaky, light and pliable soft roti canai is what we aim for.
4- Work the dough very quickly to avoid the dough from drying and tearing.
5- Brushing the dough with oil and butter makes our roti canai flakier and layery . Either way works just fine.
6- Do not overcook the roti canai cause it will get too flaky, dry out and crumbly.
If cooked fully, store them in a clean and dry Ziploc, refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. If planned for longer storing, cooked the roti just until bubbled and slightly crisp , lay each half cooked roti canai on a parchment paper, stack on each other. Place in a Ziploc /freezer bag, double it. Freeze for up to 4 months.