What is the Difference Between Roti and Roti Canai?

  • 01 of 07

    Roti canai is the Malaysian adaptation of the Indian paratha roti

    Roti / roti canai / paratha
    MR.SURAKIT HARNTONGKUL / Vetta / Getty Images

    Roti refers to an unleavened flat bread eaten in India, other South Asian countries, and in some parts of the Caribbean and Africa. There are many varieties but, for purposes of differentiating the terms "roti" and "roti canai", we focus on the North Indian paratha roti (parotta in South India and Sri Lanka). To make paratha, bread dough is coated in ghee (clarified butter), rolled very thin, sprinkled with more ghee, folded like a paper fan, rolled into a coil, rolled thinly...MORE then cooked in an oiled griddle called tawa.

    Indian migrants brought their cuisine with them and influenced the cuisines of their adopted countries. In Indonesia, paratha roti came to be known as roti cane. In Malaysia, it became . In Singapore, it is called roti prata.

    The main difference between the original paratha and its adaptations in Southeast Asia is the preparation of the dough. In South Asia, the dough is rolled. In Southeast Asia, the dough is flipped and spun in the air, and thrown against the oiled work surface until paper thin. In South Asia, the thinly rolled dough is folded like a paper fan. In Southeast Asia, the paper-thin dough is folded like an envelope. Irrespective of the preparation, the cooked bread is layered, flaky on the outside and slightly chewy inside.

    The next six photos illustrate the making of the basic roti canai.

    Continue to 2 of 7 below.
  • 02 of 07

    Making the roti canai dough

    Making roti canai
    Inmagineasia / Getty Images

    Roti canai dough is made with flour, milk, salt, sugar and ghee (or oil). The ingredients are mixed until it forms into a ball then it is allowed to rest. The dough is kneaded and allowed to rest once more. The dough is then cut into pieces and rolled into balls. The balls are coated with more ghee (or oil), covered with a damp towel and allowed to rest for a third time.

    The rested dough is rolled thinly on the oiled work surface.

    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    Tossing the roti canai dough until paper thin

    Tossing roti canai dough
    Inmagineasia / Getty Images

    If you've watched with amazement how pizza bakers toss the dough into the air, spin it and repeat the process until the dough has doubled or even tripled in diameter, wait until you see what is done to roti canai dough. Like pizza dough, roti canai dough is thrown and spun in the air, and slapped against the oiled work surface. Unlike pizza dough, it is not enough that the dough be thin; roti canai dough is thrown, spun and slapped continuously until almost paper-thin.

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Folding the dough like an envelope

    Folding the roti canai dough like an envelope
    Inmagineasia / Getty Images

    The almost paper-thin dough is laid flat and sprinkled or brushed with ghee (or oil). The two sides are folded so that they slightly overlap. Then, the top and bottom are folded in the same manner. The folded dough is lifted and dropped gently so that it naturally falls into a rough circle. Some cooks skip the last step and cook the square-shaped dough directly.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Cooking roti canai on an oiled griddle

    Cooking roti canai on an oiled griddle
    Inmagineasia / Getty Images

    The hot griddle is brushed with ghee (or oil) and the roti canai is dropped onto it. The bread is cooked on both sides until dark spots appear and the surface is crisp. The ghee (or oil) will separate keep the layers separate during cooking to create a flaky bread.

    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    Squashing the roti canai to separate the layers

    Giving the roti canai a whack to fluff it up
    Inmagineasia / Getty Images

    When the roti canai is cooked, it is returned to the work surface for one last procedure. With the hands held perpendicular to the bread, the roti canai is squashed lightly to separate the layers make the bread fluffy. This gives the unleavened flat bread body and more texture.

    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    Roti canai is traditionally served with lentil curry

    Roti canai with curry
    Jignesh Jhaveri / StockFood Creative / Getty Images

    Roti canai and curry is a popular breakfast dish in Malaysia and Singapore, but it is also served as a snack or a quick lunch. The bread can be accompanied by soup or some other stew instead of the traditional lentil curry.