What Is Roti Canai?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Roti canai is a flatbread that is one of the most popular kinds of breakfast foods in Malaysia. It is much like kerala porotta and paratha breads in India. This circular, flat food consists of dough made with butter, egg, flour, and water, which is kneeded and flattened by hand, then twirled or spun much like pizza dough. The name itself is derived from the word roti, which means bread in the Hindi language, and canai, which is either a derivative of a city in India named Chennai, or channa, a dish consisting of chickpeas, which are used to make roti canai in Northern India. In Malaysia, it comes with a lentil curry called dhal.

It is common in Malaysia to see roti canai being made outdoors at a mamak stall. The popular delicacy is usually eaten for breakfast or late at night, and is available in many common variations that incorporate fried eggs, onions, margarine and sugar, sardines, or banana bread. Typically circular and flat, roti canai is twirled into thin pieces of dough and folded into a circular form. It can also be thinly spread out prior to folding the bread and adding oil. People have come up with their own forms of roti canai, including flatbreads with tuna, cheese, pork, beans, or root beer, which makes the bread fluffier.


Chicken, beef, or fish curry have also been incorporated with the flatbread to create unique dishes. Crispy versions are popular as well, formed by quickly hitting the fried dough between both hands. The many different types of roti canai are sold by outdoor venders and in restaurants. Other creative dishes have incorporated it into salads which have vegetables and mayonnaise wrapped into the dough. Customers can also purchase pastries made of the flatbread, which are pre-made and packaged, and fry them in a pan at home to make roti canai any time they wish.

This flatbread is also fried and cut up into other dishes at many restaurants. Roti canai is usually round in shape, but flatbread that has fillings inside is folded into a square. The Malaysian delicacy is so popular that vendors usually keep a bucket of roti that has already been formed, and then heated up just before serving. Finicky customers can order it round at almost any mamak stall if they prefer it to be made fresh on the spot.


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Post 2

There are recipes for nearly everything else online. I wonder if I could possibly find a recipe for roti canai. Since they eat it in northern India, maybe I can locate a recipe on an Indian food blog.

I would like to try this particular dish.

Post 1

Now this sounds tasty! I'm a fan of most flatbreads and this sounds great. I guess nearly every culture has a flatbread and I love most of them. I'm sure I would like this, too. I don't know of any Malaysian restaurants in my area, but I may ask someone at the Thai or Vietnamese places if they have ever heard of roti canai and if they've ever had it.

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