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Hooked on roti canai

Updated on March 23, 2011

Roti canai aka roti paratha

It's always exciting to see your food prepared before your eyes and then to eat it the way it's meant be eaten. But after watching numerous culinary shows and live cooking demos you may probably say, "so what's the difference?" Well, the difference is in the preparation. Not only are the ingredients unique but so is the manner in which they are prepared which employs both culinary skills and a bit of showmanship, which of course can be exaggerated to suit the situation.

The food referred to here is not something that's served only in fine restaurants even though it is, but one that is very common in small eateries and even stalls. It's called Roti Canai aka Roti Paratha and it has become a very popular food in Malaysia.

Having it's roots in India it's not surprising that most if not all Roti Canai vendors are Indians. However, customers come from all walks of Malaysian life - students, office workers, laborers, singers, politicians - you name it, they all love it. Roti canai is most suitable for breakfast just as it is suitable for lunch and dinner.

It's made from flour dough mixed with ghee - made elastic after a lengthy beating - which is stretched almost paper-thin and nearly transparent. The stretching is where the artistic part comes in. The experienced roti canai maker first slaps the dough down repeatedly sometimes with a distinct rythym, picks it up and waves and spins it in mid-air with an agility that could amaze even the greatest juggler. Some maker incorporates dancing into the waving action which makes for a good entertainment for diners. The waving and spinning action causes the dough to thin and widen to about the diameter of a medium-size umbrella.

The stretched dough is then folded and grilled until the outer layer is brown and flaky. Some like their roti canai crispy on the outside.

Roti canai is most usually eaten with curry which itself comes in different varieties, and dahl (chickpeas stewed Indian sytle). Filings can also be requested. Most popular are sardines, eggs and margarine. But today most roti canai vendors improvise on their art, giving diners more options on the fillings.

Roti telur

Roti telur
Roti telur | Source
Roti canai (roti kosong/ original)
Roti canai (roti kosong/ original) | Source

The different versions of roti canai

Roti Canai or Roti Kosong

The original

Roti Sardine Special

Roti with sardine filling

Roti Bom

A smaller, thicker but oilier roti.

Roti Pisang

Roti with banana and sugar filling.

Roti Planta

Roti with generous margarine filling.

Roti Daging

Roti with chicken or stewed beef filling.

Roti Gula

Roti with sugar.

Roti Keju

Roti with shredded cheese filing.

Roti bom

Roti bom
Roti bom | Source

How to make roti canai

Teh tarik (pulled tea)

Eating roti canai is never complete without an accompanying drink and the drink most suitable is teh tarik, a thick, sweet milky tea. Teh tarik litterally means pulled tea. It is prepared by pouring the tea from one cup to another repeatedly until it becomes frothy. The distance between the two cups is limited only by the length of the tea man's arms, and again showmanship is incorporated into the preparation. Some tea tarik pullers do stunts like pouring the tea behind their backs or dancing to imaginary music.

The usual and best way to eat roti canai is with the hands. Forks and spoons are always prepared but are quite useless when tearing the elastic bread.Tear off a bite-size chunk, dip it in the curry sauce and stuff in in your mouth. After you've savoured the unique taste of roti and curry it's time for a chaser - the extremely sweet teh tarik.

Teh tarik
Teh tarik | Source

The different versions of teh tarik

Teh O

The "O" is the letter O but it actually means zero. This is tea with no milk.

Teh Kosong

Kosong means empty. You ordered plain tea, with no sugar or milk.

Teh Madu

Tea with honey.

Teh Susu

Susu means milk. Be sure to indicate your choice of milk - condensed or raw pasteurised milk.

Teh Ais

Ais means ice. You get the idea.

Teh Halia.

Tea with ginger juice.

Teh Masala

Teh brewed with Indian spices

Teh Tongkat Ali

This is tea made from Eurycoma longifolia* known as Tongkat Ali in Malaysia. It is believed to have medicinal properties. Some Malaysians testify to Tongkat Ali having sexual enhancement properties.

* See

How to make teh tarik video

Authentic Recipes from Malaysia (Authentic Recipes Series)
Authentic Recipes from Malaysia (Authentic Recipes Series)

This book is perfect for one who is looking for exotic foods recipes and or culinary adventures. Complete favorites Malaysian recipes such as roti canai, curry, laksa, noodles, popiah, sambal, satay, etc. Well written and illustrated with beautiful pictures, easy to follow recipes and great price.



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    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 6 years ago from USA

      Oh I miss roti canai...

    • profile image

      Marco 6 years ago

      There is a great Malaysian restaurant in Newtown Sydney called Chennai and they serve the best Roti Canai and varities I've had since leaving KL.

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 6 years ago from USA

      YOu are welcome.

    • Silver Fish profile image

      Silver Fish 6 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Thanks for this hub, lovely memories of delicious food.

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 6 years ago from USA

      I like roti pisang too. Thanks for visiting

    • oldrick profile image

      Richard Ingate 6 years ago from UK

      My favourite was roti pisang...those were the days.

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      thanks for commenting. I have Mongolian friend who like to introduce me into Mongolian cuisine..

    • ugina profile image

      ugina 7 years ago from Bhutan

      Looks yummy. I love your hubs with the unique foods. Keep up the good work. Glad you love momo. where did you eat it?

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      Yes, it looks like crepe. Thanks for commenting. I am glad you are roti canai lover..

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      It looks like crepe, but it doesn't taste like one. :)

      I love Roti Canai and can't live without it.

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      @toknoinfo: thanks

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      Thanks. I hope you will like it

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Wow, thanks for this hub. You expanded my world, and I am going to try this out. Voted up and useful.

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      Yes it is. Give it a try..

    • lotuslove19 profile image

      Sarika Mehra 7 years ago


    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      @May PL, thank you.I am glad you love roti canai. It's nice to taste something new and unusual.

    • profile image

       7 years ago

      Having tried different versions of roti perata, I still prefer the original plain version as it brings out the full flavour of the flour. By the way,in Singapore, that's where I am in,it is commonly called Roti parata,in northern Malaysia,it's commonly called roti canai. Nice hub!

    • May PL profile image

      May PL 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I love Roti Canai. We have a restaurant here in Melbourne Australia called Rich Maha whose Roti Canai is to die for. The curries they offer along with it is a kind of dahl and Fish Curry. Sensational stuff! Thanks for sharing this hub. Nice writing.

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      You are welcome. they are delicious..

    • nifty@50 profile image

      nifty@50 7 years ago

      The Roti Canai looks similar to a French crepe, the Roti Bom looks equally delicious, Thanks for sharing.

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      Thanks. Yes those kind of food make us always homesick

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 7 years ago

      Roti canai, roti prata and tea tarik--you make me homesick and wishing for these foods. Maybe, June, when I go home for a visit. Until then, I can drool over these pictures. Lovely and rated up.