Roti is something that may be familiar to you from the breads section of a UK “Indian” restaurant menu. It is a round, flat, slightly layered bread, which is good for soaking up curries.
It clearly shares roots with Roti Canai, something ambrosial I first encountered in Malaysia. This is a puffy, crispy flat bread which is heavenly dipped in dahl, fish curry or topped with condensed milk.
So when we passed a Rotee stall near the lower end of Phra Pok Klao Road, Chiang Mai, by a Siam Bank, I was irresistibly drawn to it. The options were fairly limited, standard (which comes topped with condensed milk), egg (where an egg is broken into it and cooked), banana (filled with sliced banana) and a few other choices which I think were mainly combinations of the above.
I was keen on having the simplest version, so ordered one up as a trial.
The chef plucked a small ball of dough from a container, and placing it onto the oiled steel work-surface, pushed it out rapidly until it was very thin.
This was then placed onto the concave metal hotplate, which already held a tablespoon or so of oil. A little more oil was added then the edges of the dough were folded into the centre to form a square.
The whole thing was flipped, and a little spoon of something which looked like very yellow butter, but was presumably ghee, was added.
A quick drain on the side of the hotplate, and then it was placed on a piece of paper and topped with condensed milk (poured from a tin with holes punched in the lid) and a sprinkle of sugar.
It was then folded in half, and once more to make a long thin shape, wrapped in the paper and handed across.
And the taste? It was paradise. Hot, crispy, a little oily, condensed milk melting and spilling from within…a delight.
I tried a couple more from other stands over the next few days, but found them slightly less delicious as both stalls, if making a standard rotee instead of one filled with something, would just push the dough inwards to form a round. This made for a less crisp product than the folded version, and it was chewier and more doughy to eat. (This is shown in the first photo.)
On my final night I returned to the original stand and had a last farewell rotee. At around 15p, it is probably just as well they aren’t on every street corner in the UK, or I’d be house-sized in no time.