Malaysia Food Exploration: Roti Canai

In all conversations about what we should eat when in Malaysia, the top of our must-haves list was roti canai (pronounced “rote-ee chan-i”).

I touched on this delectable bread a while ago in a post on the rotee stalls that lurk seductively around Thailand’s streets. Roti canai can be found on similar stalls, but is exceedingly common in the many Indian restaurants that inhabit the Malaysian food scene.

H spent some of his formative years in Malaysia, and fondly remembers breakfast roti with fish curry as a Sunday treat. Served with a frothy mug of teh tarik (tea sweetened with condensed milk and poured at a distance from cup to cup to aerate it), he reckons it is one of the finest ways to start the day.

roti canai and teh tarik

Our hotel in KL, the Frenz, included a buffet breakfast at the Zam Zam Restaurant next door (home to our first-night murtabak). For our inaugural Malaysian breakfast I felt our money-saving practices should remain in effect, so we made the most of our free food. There was roti canai but cooked mass order buffet style, so while it satisfied the craving a little, it was not enough.

The next day we decided to skip Zam Zam and splash out on some roti (I should point out that “splash out” means spend a bit over a pound). While walking to a nearby station, we passed Restoran Mawar (south end of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, around number 35 according to my fairly illegible notes; I’m still a bit worried as to whether that is even the right restaurant name!) and after peering through the door, headed in.

We ordered up some roti and the much-vaunted teh tarik for H (iced Milo for tea-hating me) and enjoyed a delicious breakfast. The rotis automatically came with a little dish of dahl to dip them in, but one could request extra curries if desired. Crispy on the outside, puffy and moistly flaky on the inside, we dragged large pieces through the mildly-spiced soupy lentils and devoured them.

In the following days there were a number of roti breakfasts. H preferred to skip the cutlery, eating in the traditional fashion using only one’s right hand. I scrabbled around with fork and spoon, resorting to fingers when required.

One can find roti canai in the UK. Most places seem to serve frozen ones, but I believe there are some places in London that make them from scratch. I tried it myself once but was not very successful as I couldn’t get the dough thin enough and the resulting breads were thick and tough. Perhaps that is something I should work on mastering though, as H has already bought a tin of condensed milk to try making teh tarik (and been banned from attempting it indoors to minimise the risk of tea-soaked flooring).



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