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One of the questions that I got frequently asked by people which I absolutely hate is…

“What is your favourite restaurant in Sydney?”

I really hate that question. I can tell you which pair is my favourite undies, but favourite restaurant, no. Restaurants come and go, restaurants have good days and bad days, different restaurant serves different cuisine, sometimes I feel like Thai, and the next day I could be craving for Italian. I definitely do not have one favourite restaurant that I will keep going back when there are so many choices out there. I have many favourite restaurants and list them all, but I don’t think that really answer your question when you are kind of expecting me to pinpoint out the holy grail.

Usually I will say that Mamak on Goulburn Street is possibly one of my favourite restaurants that I would recommend people to go and check out their awesome roti, but I still won’t consider it as my ultimate favourite restaurant of all time. I mean, I am happily to go back for my roti fix when the queue outside the restaurant is less painful. Otherwise, I will have just have to go home and make the roti myself!

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Roti Canai, is an Indian-influenced flatbread found in Malaysia but go by with different names in other part of the world, they are called Roti Pratha in Singapore for instance. This round flakey flatbread is often sold at Mamak stalls in Malaysia. The Malaysian Mamak are Indian Muslims, whose forefathers mostly migrated from South India to the Malay Peninsula centuries ago, where intermarriage with local Malays have taken place. Hence many Indian cuisines were also introduced into the country including the roti canai.

Some believe the term “canai” derives from the name of a city in India, Chennai. Roti Canai is presumed to have been introduced by immigrant from Chennai, where a similar roti served with lentil curry is common there. Wherever the origin is, everyone should try Roti Canai at least once and I guarantee you will be hooked.

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I have to admit Roti Canai is not the simplest thing to make. It sure takes some practice to twirl and stretch until the dough is as paper thin as possible. But once you get the hang of it, you will be a roti twirler pro in no time. The roti is commonly serve with a plate of dhal curry on the side as dipping sauce. This simple recipe is easy to prepare, you don’t even have to soak your lentil. But of course, you can serve your roti with chicken curry, or even make a sweet version by drizzling it with condensed milk.

Roti Canai and Dhal Curry

(Recipe published in Home & Decor Magazine Malaysia)

Roti Canai
300g all purpose plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup ghee (clarified butter)
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup water
2 tablespoons condensed milk

Dhal Curry
1 cup Channa dhal
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 cups water
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 onion, cut into small chunks
1 handful curry leaves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon turmeric powder

Salt, to taste

Method

1. To make the roti, add flour, salt, sugar in a mixing bowl of a food mixer. Pour ¼ cup of ghee into the mix and start mixing with a dough hook on low speed until dough clumps. Then add egg, water and condensed milk, and keep kneading until the dough is soft and elastic, about 5 minutes.

2. Cut the dough into 6-8 equal size pieces, about 100g each, then roll each dough into a ball. Coat each ball with a teaspoon of ghee, then place them in one single layer on a large mixing bowl, plate or baking tray. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in room temperature, overnight.

3. Prepare a workspace by oiling a substantial area with extra ghee. Take one dough out and place on the bench, flatten it with your palm and stretch the centre outwards until it is around 0.5cm thickness. If you choose to use the traditional stretching method, grab one edge of the dough, lift it up in a swift motion and quickly slap it back on the bench. Keep doing it in a clockwise direction and the dough will start stretching as thin as paper. If you are not confident with the traditional method, alternatively you can just keep pushing the dough outwards with the palm of your hand in all directions, eventually it will become paper thin. It is okay to have a few tears here and there on the dough, as it will be folded later on.

4. Once the dough is paper thin and almost see through, fold four corners inwards into a square like a parcel.

5. Lightly grease a large fry pan with ghee then heat it over low flame. Place the folded dough in the pan and cook slowly on one side, about 2-3 minutes then flip over and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Once both sides are golden brown, transfer the bread to the bench, then using a clapping motion and slap the bread together to ‘fluff’ it up, be careful as the bread will be hot.

6. To make the dhal curry, place dhal, turmeric powder and water in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and keep cooking until the dhal is soft, it takes about 30-45minutes depends on the quality of the dhal. Keep adding more water now and again if it dries up when the dhal start soaking up the water.

7. Toast the mustard, coriander and cumin seeds in a fry pan on low heat for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer toasted seeds into a mortar and pound them with a pestle into powder.

8. Heat oil in a wok on low-medium heat, fry the onion until softened, then add the pounded spices, curry leaves and turmeric powder, stir fry for another minute.

9. Place the cooked dhal in the wok and stir well. If the consistency is too thick, add more water until it is the right consistency to your liking. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes while stirring occasionally, season well with salt. Serve the dhal curry with roti.