Anyone who’s watched Masterchef Australia would have heard of these things. I'm actually one of the rare few who HASN’T watched a single episode, yet even I know that Malaysian-born Po made this flatbread for one of her challenges.
Roti Jala (roti=bread, jala=net) is a lacy crepe made from flour and coconut milk. The flavour is pretty bland but its main role is to mop up sauces. Therefore it is always served with something “wet”, eg: chicken curry.
Say hello to the Roti Jala contraption.
Scary looking thing isn’t it? It works a bit like a watering can. You put the batter in the top, then pour it onto a lightly oiled frying pan while making circular motions to get the characteristic shape of the bread.
I probably purchased this based on looks alone because truth be told, I found it too slow, the batter came out in drips rather than in a “line”. I could have made the batter thinner but then the crepe texture would have been affected.
Pouring the batter out using the roti jala mould
There is also a plastic version of the roti jala mould and you can see it in action here on Youtube
What if you don’t have one of these things? Use Fingers. Yes, easy as that. Just dip one hand into the batter and swirl it round and round (spread fingers a little bit to get more strands). The resulting bread won’t be as pretty. The strands will be thicker than the ones made using the mould, but it certainly works a heck of a lot faster (although messier). I made the rest of the roti using my finger method.
Fingers produce thicker strands, but just as tasty
My “Mama Hand-Me-Down” recipe collection contains two recipes for roti jala. One uses coconut milk and the other uses evaporated milk. “Which one is best?” I asked Mum over the phone the other day. “Both also good” came the answer, so I pick the one using cup measurements.
I did find it pretty tricky to fry the roti without it browning too much. The end product should be quite “soft” and the colour should still be pale yellow. No hint of crispness desired. Mine went a bit brown on one side and I think I used too much oil to begin with. It’s better to use a non-stick pan (I switched to a bigger pan after taking my photos) and just a smear of oil (use a wadded up piece of kitchen paper to “rub” the oil onto the pan).
No complaints about the taste or texture though. I’d served it up to friends as part of a Malaysian meal and the whole lot was polished off. The mini-critics loved it too.
And Mr. Kitchen Hand? Another win!
The MKH Scale-O-Meter.
Appearance: 4: "Nice shape without being too lacy"
Texture: 4: "Held up nice and soft even when cold"
Taste: 3.5 . "Neutral, perfect with the curry sauce."
2 cups plain flour
2 ¾ cups evaporated milk (you can also use coconut milk instead)
(note: I started with 2 cups flour and found that my 375ml tin of evaporated milk didn’t quite make 2 ¾ cups, so I topped up with water. A little bit of water is ok, but don’t use too much as it can cause the roti jala to “toughen”).
Pinch of salt
Pinch of tumeric powder (optional) or yellow food colouring (optional) – this gives the crepe its distinctive yellow colour.
Vegetable oil for frying.
Lightly beat the eggs and the milk together until well combined. Place flour, salt and tumeric (if using) into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the egg mixture. Use a fork to draw flour into the liquid and keep mixing until a thickish batter is obtained (consistency of pouring cream –adjust with more flour or milk if necessary). If mixture is lumpy, strain through a sieve.
The original recipe doesn’t say to let the mixture “rest” but I let mine stand for about half and hour.
Heat a non stick frypan on medium-low heat. Lightly oil (using wadded up kitchen paper or a spray), then swirl the batter over. Cook until set then fold into quarters or roll up into “logs”. There’s not really any need to flip over and cook the other side (like a crepe), but it makes me feel better to do so and I turn the roti over for a couple of seconds to make sure there are no “runny” bits.
Keep warm and cover with a clean tea towel. Serve with curry.