A few months ago, on my Making Roti post (where I promised a longer
and as yet unrealised musing about roti) Cynthia had asked about the differences if any, in making the dough for the different types of roti. Mom was supposed to answer this, and as she is here, I got her to sit down and discuss the differences in the dough or loy.
We make about 4 different types of roti in Trinidad; possibly the same or similar in Guyana. And when I say “roti” I mean what is also called in Trinidad, the roti “skin“, as “a roti” has also come to mean the dhalpuri roti wrapped around a curry filling. Therefore the “skin” is the dhalpuri. Which is also a type of roti. We confusing ent? Reach Guyana now, and “roti” is something that looks like Trini paratha, and cooked very similarly, but not bussed-up. Trini dhalpuri is called very simply “puri” in Guyana and I have heard Guyanese say that puri is not roti, puri is puri. Roti is the paratha. But we both have sada roti. Not sure about dosti. But onto the post, wherein perhaps there is greater clarification. Or greater confusion depending on your particular experience. But all in the name of food!
Wikipedia defines roti as a bread:
“Generically, the word roti may refer to many different kinds of bread, such as chapati and phulka, each with its specific name. In Kannada and Tamil, roti is pronounced Rotti. In Marathi, roti is often called Chapati or Poli. In Gujarati it is rotli. In Punjabi, a light, easily eaten roti is called Phulka. Roti is usually used to refer to the round flat unleavened breads eaten throughout India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, in contrast to the yeasted naan breads originating primarily in the north-west of the South Asia and Central Asia.”
The entry also describes the types of roti made in the West Indies, although, they omit the Barbados roti. And they call fry bake a type of roti. Hmm. That’s deep fried. But we’ll get to that.
Roti (whatever the variety) in Trinidad, and Guyana refers to a flatbread cooked on a tawah (flat cast-iron or iron round plate). Whatever its origins, I don’t think any of us in the region think of roti as anything else. Which means deep fried bakes – NOT roti. Bakes (really baked, in ovens) – NOT roti. Except that people do make tawah bake. Different from roti because no sakaying (brushing with oil) and it wouldn’t swell. Breads made like this may be considered roti in other countries, but we have a different picture in our minds and a different vocabulary. And as I said before, we only have a few types of roti.
Dhalpuri is a filled roti – stuffed with ground cooked dhal (yellow split-peas) which has been seasoned with geera/cumin, garlic, pepper etc. The dough is made out of flour (wheat), baking powder, salt and water. We use about 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour, and knead lightly. You want the dough or loy to be a little elastic, but still soft and pliable. Mom also puts a litle oil over the dough after mixing and kneading to keep it soft. After filling little balls of dough, you have to carefully roll the balls out thinly without bursting it. You don’t want it too fragile or the dhal will poke through and burst the roti. This is then cooked on a tawah, brushing each side lightly with oil (sakaying). It should puff a little as it cooks, as the air inside the filled layer heats up.
This is the roti that is used in Trinidad to wrap around fillings of curried meat and vegetables, with potato in Trinidad. In Guyana, the “puri” is usually served with a dash of “sour” or chutney in the middle, then folded up. Many roti places in Barbados may be run by Trinis or Guyanese and these will resemble the wrapped dhalpuri roti. But I notice Chefette’s has always sold a “roti” with a roti skin that is not filled and in some cases tastes just like a thin tortilla. But the curry isn’t bad, even if they sell rotis WITHOUT potato. Sigh. A wrapped roti in my mind, starts with the dhalpuri, put the potato THEN other fillings. To each his own. I mean, I think dhalpuri is excellent toasted, or eaten with eggs.
I have posted a recipe for paratha or buss-up-shut. It is flaky, rich and layered and not quite the paratha known through most of the world. Making paratha is a multi-step process, involving making the dough, making the layers with oil/ghee/butter, rolling out flat and thin then cooking on a tawah while brushing with oil (sakaying). Then comes the bussing of the roti to make the layers separate and get flakier.
Because a good paratha should be light and flaky, it’s a good idea to think of it as pastry rather than bread. So the dough is made with flour, baking powder and salt, just like dhalpuri, but very light on the baking powder – about 1/3 teaspoon per cup of flour. And don’t knead very much and let it rest and relax between each step. You don’t want to exercise that gluten too much – it’ll become too elastic and tough and when it cooks it may be very stiff, rather than light and flaky. If this happens by accident, you have to let it rest a LOT, preferably in a refrigerator overnight. In fact, that’s not a bad idea anyway, to let paratha loys relax and chill. Think pastry remember. And cook on medium high heat. Too much browning too fast won’t help the layers come apart in the right way.
In Guyana I believe the preparation of the dough for paratha is very similar, except they clap the roti to make it separate a bit, but not flake away into layers.
Sada roti is home food. The kind of food I grew up eating at home, but didn’t really want to take it to school where everyone had sliced white bread. I clearly had typical wanting-to-fit-in issues in primary school. I didn’t like to take hops bread sandwiches either, but that’s different. I don’t think hops bread is as palatable when eaten in a sandwich that has been in a lunch box or bag for half a day. It needs to be hot or toasted to get the crustiness right.
Anyway, back to sada. It is made from a simple dough of flour, salt, baking powder (1 tsp per cup of flour) and water. Some people may use yeast, but I don’t (Mom does – she says a pinch of yeast keeps it nice and soft). You can knead this more than other roti doughs, but you still should let it rest to ensure that it will swell nicely when cooked. When both sides are just cooked, you put it over an open flame and very quickly turn it round and round, so it gets even heat and does not burn. This heat will (if you made it right) make the roti swell all the way through until it’s almost round. Then when you cut it into quarters, it makes it easy to put things inside.
It’s supposed to be a quick to make flat bread/roti and was commonly made every day in some homes and eaten with various vegetable chokas. In our house we liked butter, and especially when you get it hot off the tawah, and you put cheese in it so it melts…mmm. It’s been quite a long time since this joys of the sada roti have spread far and wide in Trinidad and Tobago so that it is now a regular breakfast menu item where local food is served.
Apparently people used to also make sada roti with coconut milk instead. This they ate with buljol. Also, the basic recipe for sada roti can be used for fry bakes with success.
Dosti roti is made from a dough similar to dhalpuri in terms of the amount of baking powder etc. However, this roti is essentially a layered (although not bussed up) roti. When you make the dough, you break it off into balls and flatten them a bit. One one side of each flattened round, you spread butter/oil then sprinkle a bit of flour. Press the oiled sides together, then roll out thinly. When cooked on the tawah, the dosti will be able to separate into two thin rotis. This can be made with more than two layers, which allows for even thinner rotis. While dostis can be used as regular roti, eaten with curry etc, it is also commonly used to make the wrapping for samosas.
According to Wikipedia, dosti is not made in Guyana. Any confirmation?
The rotis listed above are the more common ones that most people may know about in the Caribbean (or at least in T&T, Guyana and Suriname). However, I did grow up wth some variations which my mother will insist I include here.
Aloo Roti – this is like a dhalpuri, but filled with mashed potato, seasoned with geera/cumin, pepper etc. It may be similar to the parathas the rest of the world knows.
Sugar Roti – yes, sugar roti. Mom grew up with sugar roti and has made it for us a couple times. It’s sada roti, filled with sugar. Her grandmother used to make it for her when she came home from school lunchtime. Apparently Mom didn’t eat what her grandmother cooked (the things you can learn when you question falling-asleep people – it’s like the time she finally admitted that after decades of telling us that she had a great first pregnancy, that labour was the longest and worst). Her grandmother would cook it on the chulha and it would get brown and when you cut into it the sugar oozed out.
Coconut Roti – like sugar roti, but filled with coconut and spices (“googia“).
And then there was a thing her mother apparently called Egg Roti, which Mom says was really like a pancake, with nutmeg and cinnamon etc.
And that’s my roti musings. I think there are other things I could say, but some of it requires research beyond my personal knowledge. I really would love to know about other people’s roti experiences, since judging by my family, there are variations that aren’t common in the public knowledge.
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