Bored of curry and rice? Well don’t despair, roti jala makes for a fantastic alternative to your traditional curry fare. Lighter than other types of rotis, roti jala is perhaps the ultimate way to enjoy your favourite curry!
More of a pancake than a bread, roti jala’s name is inspired by traditional Malay fishing nets, known as jalas. Also widely referred to as lace bread, roti jala is a delicate web of coconut flavoured batter, lightly fried and then served either with curry or as a traditional sweet, eaten with a mixture of boiled coconut milk, palm sugar and pandan leaves called serawa. Personally I’ve never eaten it as a desert, so to my mind roti jala is very much a savoury treat. Perfectly designed to mop-up sauces, I suggest pairing roti jala with a good chicken curry with plenty of gravy, such as the classic kari kaptian or even a Cape Malay Chicken Curry.
Whilst the recipe for this lacy delight is very straightforward, unfortunately roti jala can be a little tricky to make. Made with a special 5-holed ladle or pourer, roti jala requires a steady hand, some assured wrist-action and plenty of trial and error. As with all “pancakes” you can expect a few mishaps in every batch you cook, but you should yield about 12 roti jalas out of this recipe, give or take the ones you’ll inevitably throw away.
I won’t lie, making roti jala can be a frustrating affair, at least initially. Between getting the batter to the right pouring consistency, that damned wrist-action and maintaining the perfect heat, it is easy to become disheartened, but don’t – you’ll get it right eventually! I’m still getting the hang of making it, but I like to think that I’m slowly getting there. To be honest, I doubt that I will ever truly master the art of the perfect roti jala, but when trial and error tastes this damn good, I’m happy to keep on muddling through!
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Roti Jala: Makes 12
- 150g white Cake Flour (all-purpose)
- 150ml coconut milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 150ml water
- Vegetable oil
- Combine the flour, egg, salt and coconut milk
- Little by little, add the water, whisking till you have a smooth batter. You want the batter to be of a pouring consistency. Set aside for 15 minutes to allow the batter to rest
- Heat a large non-stick heavy based pan over a medium heat. Pour in a touch of oil and then wipe it around the pan using either a brush or kitchen paper
- Place your roti jala ladle in a small bowl or dish. Pour in 2 tbsp. of the batter and then quickly bring the ladle over to the hot pan. Using your right hand, quickly spread the batter onto the pan in a smooth and assured circular motion, creating a web of batter
- After a few seconds, the batter will start to brown and come away from the pan. Flip the roti over and continue cooking on the other side until the roti is cooked through. Once cooked, fold the roti jala in half and then in half a second time, creating a fan shape. Place the cooked roti jala on a plate and cover with a tea towel. The whole cooking process shouldn’t take more than a minute and a half
- Wipe the pan clean and continue until all the batter is used up
- Before serving, reheat the roti jala in a steamer for 5 minutes