Roti Canai has to be one of the most delicious Asian breads you’ll ever eat. Roti Canai (pronounced Roti Chanai) essentially means ‘flat bread’ in Malaysian, where ‘Roti’ translates to bread in Sanskrit and Canai means ‘to flatten or thin dough using hand or other utensil’ in Malay.
It is a golden, crispy, buttery, flaky Malaysia flat bread, originating from southern India (and also known as Paratha). Think of it as the Asian version of a croissant in texture!
It that can be enjoyed on it’s own, savoury or sweet or as a delicious side for dhal and curries.
If you’re in ever in Malaysia, you’ll find Roti Canai sold by Mamak (Muslim-Indian) hawkers and street stalls all over the country. However, you’ll also see this Indian-influenced flatbread found in several countries in Southeast Asia, including Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore.
Makes- 12 roti
Cooking Time- 1.5 hours (plus 2 hours minimum resting time)
Skill Level- Easy
- 500g (3 cups) of plain flour, sifted
- 1 generous pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon of caster sugar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 60ml (1/4 cup) of milk
- 190ml of water
- 250ml (1 cup) vegetable oil, plus an extra tablespoon for the dough
- 125 g ghee or clarified butter, melted
Watch the process
- Start making the dough by combining 3 cups of flour, a generous pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 lightly beaten egg, 1/4 cup of milk, 190ml of water and a tablespoon of oil in either a stand mixer or bowl. Combine until the dough comes together into a rough ball and then turn out onto a lightly floured bench and begin kneading for about 8 minutes or until you get a smooth ball.
- Place into a lightly floured bowl covered with a damp tea towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, roll it out back onto your bench top and roll into a cylinder before dividing the dough into 12 equal parts. They should be approximately 60-70g in weight if you want to make them consistent in size.
- Begin rolling them into round balls by pinching the ends and pushing them into the centre until you get a smooth round ball and then place into the same bowl as before.
- Cover with 1 cup of vegetable oil, making sure they are fully coated in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature from anywhere between 1 hour to overnight and up to 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the more flavour will develop in the dough.
- Now take one of your balls and using your hands roll it, into a thin large circle on an oiled bench. Use your fingers to gently push the edges of the dough out until you get a paper thin dough that you can see through. You can also gently lift up an end and then stretch it out if you prefer. Don’t worry if you start getting a few holes, that means your dough has stretched it it’s capacity.
Lightly dab the top of the dough with melted ghee. Then grab one end of your dough and lift it up so you get a long rope like piece. Hold it above your bench and then slowly lower it down whilst twirling the dough into a circular disk. Tuck the ends into the centre of the roti and place onto an oiled tray to rest for another 10 minutes. Repeat for the remaining balls of dough.
- Firmly flatten your disks one more time until it is half a centimetre in height.
- Heat a large fry pan or skillet on medium, place a spoonful of ghee and once melted, place your roti in and cook on each side for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the roti from the pan and transfer to your bench or a chopping board. Using a clapping motion, clap into roti with your hands pushing it between your hands. This separates the roti layers making it light and fluffy.
- Continue to cook the rest of the roti in the pan.
- Serve warm on it’s own or as a side with dhal or curry.
Do you substitute the ghee with butter?
Ghee is what is traditionally used for making roti. Ghee is clarified butter, which is the clear yellow liquid in butter that you see when you melt it versus the whitish parts. It has a higher smoking point than other fats which makes it great for frying with and is available from most supermarkets, but cheaper from Asian and Indian grocers.
You could absolutely use butter instead if that's all you have at home, but vegetable oil will also work too as a substitute. You could just use the leftover oil that you rested the dough in also.
Can you make this recipe without using a stand mixer?
Absolutely! You can mix the dough by hand and it's very easy, just like my focaccia recipe!
Why does it require so much oil?
It needs to be covered in oil so that it doesn't dry out or develop a skin whilst it is resting/ Having said that, you can rest your dough a few different ways.
If you don't want to use as much oil, you can just roll them in oil or ghee and place them into a baking tray covered with plastic wrap to rest, but sometimes they can still dry out as they will absorb that oil over time. Having them submerged in oil guarantees them staying moist, and I decided to do this method to be 100% sure the dough works out.
Is this a sweet roti or plain bread roti style?
This is a plain Roti Canai, but you can add toppings to make it a dessert roti like condensed milk!
The sugar used in this dough just helps it caramelise when it's frying as opposed to making it sweet.