My dear husband experienced roti jala for the first time in Malaysia at the home of a longtime friend in January of 2010. He’s been singing the praises of roti jala since then and they’ve been falling on deaf ears here. When we were there this past December, he once again came upon the elusive roti jala at a hotel breakfast buffet in Penang where he also got to see how it is made – with something called a roti jala funnel. He instantly recognized it as something that we have in our kitchen – “Wait… don’t we have one of those at home?” Uh-oh – nowhere to run, nowhere to hide! The matter was settled as amicably as possible, with me trying to distract him with the buffet’s magnificent display of dragon fruit and promising to provide roti jala on a regular basis once we got back to Brooklyn. So, two nights ago, we had our first roti jala adventure – made with freshly-squeezed coconut milk, which is a whole other blog post. Let me just tell you that while it is normal to use only fresh coconut milk back home in Malaysia, here in Brooklyn it’s completely unheard of and we went to great lengths to make some.
Roti jala is a quintessentially Malaysian dish – a combination of Malay and Indian influences, it is a wonderful example of the fusion of cultures that is uniquely Malaysian. The batter is poured into a hot pan with the aforementioned funnel, resulting in a lacy, crepe-like, melt-in-your-mouth bread that is prefect for soaking up a spicy curry gravy. As I write this, I’m wishing we had leftovers. Perhaps we’ll have to make it again this weekend?
Roti Jala (serves 5)
3 cups all-purpose flour – sifted
3 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Coconut oil – to grease the pan
In a large bowl, beat the 3 eggs. Add the coconut milk, water, salt and turmeric powder and whisk well. Slowly add the flour and stir to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients, until the batter comes to a smooth consistency. Strain the batter through a fine sieve to remove any lumps – this step ensures that the batter will pass through the funnel’s multiple tiny outlets instead of clogging them up.
Heat up a flat griddle pan or large nonstick frying pan and then turn the heat to medium. Grease the pan lightly – I use coconut oil whenever possible, but your choice of vegetable oil will do just as well.
Fill the roti jala funnel about halfway and let the batter drip onto the heated pan. Beginning on the outer edge of the pan, move the funnel in circles to create a lacy circular pattern. My first couple of attempts at this were kinda miserable – the strands were thick and did not resemble the delicate roti jala we enjoyed back home. It’s all in the technique – with a little bit of practice, I managed to re-create these to perfection. The trick is to keep that funnel moving quick – the slower you move, the thicker the strands are. Here’s a video from that breakfast buffet in Penang to show you how it’s done:
Here’s a picture of the funnel – see the five pointy things on the bottom? If you can’t get your hands on one, but are determined to try this recipe, have someone who is handy with a hammer and a nail punch 5 small holes in the bottom of an empty can. Make sure to hammer down any sharp edges and be careful. If you absolutely MUST have one of these funnel thingies, email me at [email protected] and we’ll try and get one to you.
And finally, here’s a pic of the roti jala served with my mum’s incredible chicken curry – recipe to follow shortly. I hope you’ll make this and share it with your friends and family – it’s really super easy and you’ll look like a genius in the kitchen.