Coconut Roti : The True Art of Meddling with the Texture and the Taste of Ceylonese Coconut Roti පොල් රොටි

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As a place to start from, coconut roti had been conquering Ceylonese breakfast tables since the ancient times from of peasants’ to kings’ except with the difference of; with which condiment that it was served which depended on their social standing and wealth. Throughout all-this-time, its simple recipe had been almost the same for generations, except for the change that, now, its prime ingredient is wheat flour. Earlier, before  wheat became popular among Sri Lankans, they used highly enriched ground grains as finger millet (Kurakkan) to prepare coconut roti. However, today wheat is known to be the “traditional” ingredient due to its extended use in this recipe  throughout the recent era. Sri Lankans accompany this dish with number of hot and spicy as well as mild Sri Lankan side dishes and condiments. While Lunu-Miris (Hot chili-and-onion-blend) is at the top, you can enjoy this with most of the Sri Lankan curries as Chicken curry and Dhal curry and so on.

Today, I thought of sharing my knowledge in how to meddle with its texture and the taste which had been practiced by the Ceylonese mothers and cooks from generations.

Ingredients

  • Fresh grated coconut – 2 ½ cups

Remember, this amount is just for the sake of this recipe, later I will tell you how you can alter the amounts according to your taste. Also, I will also give you of a substitute for fresh grated coconut at the end to use with this recipe; if you are in a part of the world where it’s difficult to get hold of fresh coconuts. But remember, if you live in Sri Lanka, NA NA NA or NO NO NO exceptions, use only freshly grated coconut.

  • 1 ¾ – 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as needed

Method

First, in a larger or sufficient-for-your-view bowl combine coconut and salt. Usually, for these amounts, I start off with ¾ tsp of salt and adjust during the next step, as necessary. Now, bring in the flour and thoroughly finger-mix all what’s in the bowl. Now you can taste and see if you need to add more salt. Remember, it is always better to add salt little more than the level of your taste. Because, after you pan-roast the roti, usually, the salt taste lowers from the initial level that you had when making the dough. So having that in mind, adjust salt accordingly. Anyhow, if you are new to cooking and handling salt, wait until you make the first roti and then adjust according to your taste. It’s clearly up to you.

Now, add water little by little while hand mixing the dough until you reach the intended consistency. Okay, this sounds absurd right? How do you know the “intended consistency” right? Ha, this is what all this post is about. So here we go…

Traditional longer-cooked stiffer textured roti:

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For this kind of roti, make the dough with less water and bring the dough’s texture to very non or very less sticky level. The best way to check is, take a portion of the dough on to your palm and attempt to drop it back to the bowl back and see if it drops without leaving a layer of the dough on you palm-surface. In other words, just make sure that when you handling the dough that you will always left with a dough-free palm.

Now, glaze a thin layer of oil and warm a pan under low-to-medium heat, preferably a non-stick pan. Traditionally, these were and are cooked on cast iron pans (Roti Thatiya) and with coconut oil. Then, take a small portion of the dough in the amount of your choice and form a ball with your hands; between your palms. Now, flatten the ball either in between your palms or on a plate and transfer on to the wormed pan. Remember, make sure to wet your hands prior handling and flattening the dough ball. To do this, keep a small bowl of water beside you. Ha, if you are flattening this on a separate plate, apply a very thin coat of water on to the plate with your fingers, each time before you start. Ok let us get back to where we were. If you are making this particular version of the roti, it is preferred to form it little thicker roti. Usually, make it somewhere from, approximately, 8mm to 10mm (1cm). Now, cook each side under low-to-medium heat or low heat level for an extended period of time. Ususally, under low heat it takes around 6 – 8 minutes for a roti to be well cooked (both sides). Frankly, don’t follow the time I have given here, check for its well-cooked texture and eye for the risk of over roasting the roti. And ha, if you used a generous amount of coconut, you will get a ravishing smell that will trigger your olfactory and then, respectively, a mouthwatering sense.

Thin and crispy coconut roti

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Make the dough little stickier than the above method. Here, add little bit more oil on to the pan and form a thicker roti in the same way as described earlier. Remember, unlike the previous method, here you cook this under medium heat level for a shorter period. Usually, you can cook this kind of the roti within less than 2 to 3 minutes.

Soft and spongy textured coconut roti

Make significantly more stickier dough with added additional water and cook under low-to-medium heat during the first half for about 2 minutes(1 min each side ) and then increase the heat to medium-high and cook accordingly until the outer layer is optimally roasted or not that over-roasted.

Roti as made in country style restaurants in Sri Lanka

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They cook this in “traditional longer-cooked” method given above with a slight exception. That is, they use a circular metal mould to form the roti to get a perfectly rounder shape.

Substitute for fresh grated coconut

If you are really really unable to get hold of a fresh coconut where you live, with a simple adjustment, you can use desiccated coconut top prepare this. Remember, traditionally, desiccated coconut had never been in the list of its ingredients. I am just trying to give a solution for people who have difficulties in finding coconut.

Here you go:

As a preparation, pour little bit of boiling water onto the desiccated coconut and let it aside for several minutes. Then, since it is important the coconut should be at the room temperature before combining with flour, keep it in the fridge as longer as necessary until it cools down. Here you go, now you have your coconut to work with the recipe.

One last tip; ratio-wise, the more the coconut you use; the more the tastier it gets. Just remember, the maximum recommended ratio is 1: 1.5 (flour: coconut).

Enjoy!

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9 comments

  1. As you have mentioned in a popular magazine, to add some flavour to this bread, you may add curry leaves, dried chillies, onions, carrots, and even an egg. This is the modern version of Sri Lankan bread that you had introduced last year. Even my family in the UK have tried it.

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