Sweet and Savory Malaysian Flying Bread

August 28, 2014

Malaysian cuisine is a unique melting pot of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Nonya cooking layered with complex flavors and spice. Roti Canai or “flying bread” is the bread and butter of a typical Malaysian breakfast.  The flaky griddled flatbread is typically enjoyed alongside a hot cup of pulled tea. Roti Canai is traditionally made with a mixture of white flour, water, and clarified butter (or ghee) and a secret touch of a little condensed milk. The dough is then rolled into balls and hand-tossed into paper-thin circles before cooking on a flat iron grill. It is best eaten when dipped in freshly made potato coconut curry, or for a sweet variation combined with Nutella or coconut jam.

Malaysian Flying Bread - Roti Canai
Courtesy of Malaysia Kitchen

1 cup Water
2 Tbs. Sweetened condensed milk
¾ tsp. Kosher salt
2½ cups High-gluten flour (more for dusting)
1 ounce Ghee or clarified butter, at room temperature; more for brushing and cooking
1 Tbs. Vegetable oil 

Mix the water, condensed milk and salt in a bowl.

In a different bowl, mix the flour and ghee and make a well in the center.

Pour the liquid ingredients in the well and knead outwardly until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Knead for about 5 minutes more to form a soft dough.

Drizzle the oil on the dough and knead for a couple more minutes.

Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for about 1 hour at room temperature.

Divide the dough into 8 portions and mound each into a ball. Coat the dough balls with a bit of ghee so they won’t stick to each other. Let rest for 2 hours.

On a large, lightly floured surface, roll each ball until paper thin and between 24 and 30 inches in diameter. (Malaysian cooks achieve this thinness with a special technique called “tebar,” by which the dough is flattened and tossed in the air several times.)

Fold four sides of the dough into the middle to form a square.

Melt a little bit of the ghee in a preheated cast-iron skillet (or a large griddle) over medium heat. Cook the roti one at a time, turning once or twice, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. (If using a griddle you can put as many roti on the griddle as there is space for).

Put the cooked roti on a flat surface and give it a light whack with your hand, then turn it 90 degrees and give it another light whack (doing this separates the layers a bit and makes the roti fluffier). 

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