Friday, August 15, 2008

On Making Rotis/Rutis...

I have just about picked up the process of making chappatis.Or rotis.Or rutis.Well, whatever.What’s in a name? True enough, but only if they are edible and shapely enough to make you feel that effervescent. Which is not how it makes me, yes, ME, the unholy creator of the same food article, feel. I have felt so much about my roti-making skills (or the lack of them ) in the last two days that I think I might be the next volcano to erupt and spill lava (er, do I mean flour?! ) over all of you.

Let’s get down to the facts first. Well, I thought I was overloaded with the theoretical knowledge of making a roti and all I needed was monopoly over the kitchen to get my creative flour (er, juices ) flowing. Turns out no knowledge can ever be enough, as Newton rightly and a bit too humbly, I always privately contemplated, asserted. Mamoni (my mother-in-law, for the uninitiated, blasphemously ignorant sundry) always told me that making rotis was one of the toughest things to get the hang of, but I, a versatile Gemini, always thought that I knew better. Turns out that one’s mom-in-law is always, somehow, infuriatingly correct. For starters, I knew that I needed to mix flour and water and initially, a little bit of oil, to make the rotis smooth and soft. But that was until I actually began to knead the dough. I realized that you really need to get your hands on the thing (no pun or metaphor intended) to comprehend all the possibilities of the theoretical process not materializing quite in the proper envisaged form, even in its simplest application (and thank heavens, I’d not even begun dreaming of parathas and luchis/puris). The dough either turned out too lumpy and dry (when I went overboard with the flour) or too sticky and viscous (when I went wild with my water-adding flourishes). The only thing that seemed to strike a healthy balance and make the entire thing (sorry, I am too disgusted to endow the so-called product with a proper Christian name) worthy enough to take further trouble with was the few teaspoonfuls of oil Namita was good enough to advise me to add. After that, I at least had the courage (if not confidence) to move onto step 2 of the terrifying process, i.e. ‘ruti byala’.

This was even worse than the first step. For starters, the way the raw rotis would turn out seemed to depend primarily on the quality of the dough, which means I was doomed from the start to a dismal failure. Add to that the wonderful and happy discovery that (1) the slicing/cutting board for vegetables was not an even surface to churn out rotis on and (2) I had been brilliant enough to bring the byalna/belan from home and leave the chaki behind….and yes, now you know what a nightmare I was in for. My rotis were anything but even approximately circular. They were not even remotely close to any of the shapes I had been taught to recognise since childhood. If anything, they were - not to mince words - shapeless.After several sweaty attempts to make a circle out of a rectangle/ oblong/ oval/ shapeless flat sheet of dough, I was good enough to put all my attempts at running circles around the bizarre shapes (pun definitely intended ) to rest. Squares with rounded edges was the closest I arrived at on the second day of my futile endeavours at the same Mephistophelean metamorphosis that has been endearingly nicknamed roti-making. K tried to fashion some humour out of the situation by telling me that I would probably make better parathas than rotis (he was referring to the shapes, you obtuse people out there) but I think my vicious manual gestures might have been fluent enough to make him retreat into a sombre sobriety.

Oh, and to think I had not even started enumerating the strange problems I seemed to be having with getting the so-called roti off the byalna/belan, once it had been somewhat composed (er, I mean, begun to assume diameter). It was exceedingly attached to the byalna/belan and started making a huge fuss about parting ways with it. In short, it stuck to the goddamn implement and my cautious and time-consuming efforts at removing it resulted in several pieces of roti. Which implies that I naturally had to start making the raw roti all over again. And again. And…..

The easiest (Einstein knew his relativity alright) step seemed to be the ‘shnyaka’ of the roti. That is the enterprising task of dumping it into the frying pan (a not-too bad substitute for a tawa/chatu) and warming it evenly on both sides. Followed by K gingerly inserting the naam-ke-waste rotis into the same pan one-by-one, holding them firmly at their midmost point (a locus actually, when you consider the bizarre shapes of each roti) and turning them over individually so that they were (he kept on hoping) ready to eat (high hopes).

We (I insist on identifying an accomplice) consequently produced twelve of the worst samples of roti ever envisioned (and better, if not reiterated) by human beings who are even remotely aware of what a roti should be like.

I refuse to entertain you further by elaborating our experience of actually assimilating those ‘rotis’ into our delicate metabolic systems. Let tragicomedy suffice for the present. I only conclude with a tiny but rather relevant anecdote. When I announced to K that I could not undertake the torture of participating in this tortuous process all seven days of the week, he observed with an injured and lofty air, that it had only been 2 days into the Inquisition (I am not quoting him verbatim btw for obvious reasons). I grimly proclaimed that when it came to maths and the kitchen decisions, I insisted on having my way. He promptly shut up. Good for him.


Clytemnestra said...

Okay tips from self-proclaimed expert roti-maker:-

1. To make for s slightly easier roti-byala, try preparing the dough 15-30mins. prior to the byala... it gives time for the flour to soak up the water and become more elastic.

2. Unshapely unsightly rotis? No problemo! Here's a li'l trick (but don't tell anyone else especially men AND the mom-in-law)-
just take the lid of any appropriately sized steel container and use it to cut out perfect rounds out of those self-shaped monstrosities. The lid functions as a large cookie-cutter and BINGO! You have the rotis that are the pride of the Great Indian Kitchen Goddess!

AND I HEREBY BIND YOU TO ABSOLUTE SECRECY ON THE 2ND POINT ABOVE. Betrayal ensures NO MORE miraculous kitchen tips from me!
Hehehe ;D

Tina said...

well...i only wondered how good you were in geography in high school...You should have at least gotten some to map on the globe I guess....lets not make it the last hurrah!spend a little money to get the readymade rotis from'll have the tarkari /bhaji to boast about...and what's thr roti without the bhaji....
something's always cooking!

Casuarina said...

Well, I forgot to give you guys and gals the latest update on my ruti-making skills...I'm actually churning out circular, soft and edible rotis...that magic is thanx to an 8-min video by a lady named Manjula on the omniscient YouTube (where else!)...the secret involves adding a pinch of salt to the flour before adding water !

malini said...

absolutely hilarious, not to mention the deja vu, especially with the "mom in law" factor!! :)
i too was initiated into the adventurous world of roti making by my mom in law (never thought of taking up the belan b4 i got maried...he he he)...only thank heavens i had enough hands-on training under her guidance to have not had to battle the calamities alone!! :D :D :D
keep your creative juices (or flour!!) flowing...and keep us entertained...he he!!


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