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What Is Rumali Roti?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2016
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Rumali roti is a type of bread that is made in Northern India. It is made from only a few simple ingredients, including flour, water and oil that are mixed and rolled into paper-thin sheets of dough. The dough is traditionally cooked on the bottom of a rounded cooking pan called a tawa. The bread is usually folded when served because the name translates literally into "handkerchief bread" and once was actually used in this way after a meal. The finished rumali roti can be served with different types of curry or alongside any meal during which it can be used to scoop up the food to be eaten.

Making rumali roti begins with forming the dough. This starts with deciding what type of flour to use. Traditionally, it is a combination of white flour and wheat flour. The dough can be made from just white flour, but it will have a lighter color and a denser, sweeter taste. Using only wheat flour can actually cause problems, because the lack of gluten can make the dough stiff so it does not roll out or cook easily.

Some oil is added to the flour, followed by water. The dough is kneaded until it is smooth and has a slight sheen to its surface, indicating all the ingredients are incorporated and the glutens in the dough have developed. It is then allowed to rest from 10 to 30 minutes, after which time the dough is broken into small balls.

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Each of the balls will become a single sheet of rumali roti. They are rolled out on a floured surface until they are very thin, just slightly thicker than a sheet of paper. One method used to get the sheets as thin as possible is to toss the dough into the air, spinning it as it is released. As the dough spins in the air, the sheet is stretched thinner and thinner with each toss.

Once the sheets are complete, they need to be cooked. This was originally done on a wok-like pan that was turned upside down over a flame. If this method is not possible, an overturned cast iron pan also can be used or, alternately, just a standard cast iron pan. Oil is brushed on the hot cooking surface and a sheet of rumali roti dough is placed on top. The cooking time is only a few seconds, and the bread is done when some air bubbles and slight browning have appeared.

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