Guyana Style Roti

by Kris on January 18, 2012

I have a love hate relationship with roti. It is the most wonderful thing to sink your teeth into, which is perfect because after trying to make it, the only thing that will relieve frustration is biting something (well, maybe kicking, punching, and crying helps too).

For years I’ve been trying to make this wonder of Guyanese cuisine. I always ended up with an oily tortilla like fry bread and ensuing anger. What makes roti so incredible are the light buttery layers inside the chewy outer skin.

I’ve begged Sonia endlessly to get her mother’s recipe to no avail. However,  she did tell me that the dough is not what makes roti so great, it’s the technique. I was determined to eat roti with my chicken and potato curry so I spent the afternoon watching countless youtube videos of old Guyanese women mixing and folding dough.

It seemed as though every woman had her own way of creating flaky roti, so I combined all this knowledge and went to work. My first batch ended terribly and I was left with my usual oily tortilla fry bread. Rather than giving up, I tried again.

This time I paid a lot of attention to how I rolled and folded the dough. I was very generous with oil on each fold and made sure after every step it had time to rest. I also remember Sonia’s mum covering the bowl of dough with a damp cloth, so I tried that as well.

Once I was ready to cook, I made sure I did not press down on the center of the roti while it was frying in the skillet. I carefully held it down on the edges while spinning it and flipping it every ten seconds. The hardest part of making roti is the end. In all of the videos, women would pick this hot oily bread up with their bare hands and clap it between their palms. This is probably the most important step as it removes the air inside and creates the thin flaky layers.

I attempted to do it bare handed, because these women made it look so easy. As I tried to clap the roti, I felt my skin burning with hot oil. I chickened out for the remaining roti’s and wore oven mitts. Regardless, the end result was quite successful! I have to practice this technique, but I am definitely getting somewhere with it! I combined all the knowledge I learned and created this recipe to help all of the roti newcomers out there. If it fails the first time, keep trying.

Do you have any roti techniques? I’d love to hear them!

  • 2 ½ cups all purpose white flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 Tsp. cumin
  • ½ Tsp. curry powder
  • 2 Tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil

Sift together flour, cumin, curry powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and slowly add 1 cup of warm water. Mix with your hands until a moderately soft yet workable dough forms.

Flour your work surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Rest for 15-20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 small balls and flatten them with the palm of your hand. Place dough back into the bowl, cover with damp cloth and rest an additional 10 minutes. Do not stack the dough.

Dust your work surface with flour. Roll one ball of dough into a 4 inch circle. Rub ¼ teaspoon of vegetable oil onto the dough and sprinkle with a pinch of flour. Fold the dough into thirds, rubbing oil on top of each fold. Ensure not to press hard on the dough when folding as you want to keep air between each layer.

You should now have a long piece of dough folded onto itself twice. Loosely roll it up so it looks like a croissant, oiling the dough as you go. Coat the dough in another ¼ teaspoon of oil and place on a flat surface covered with the damp cloth. Repeat until all the dough has been folded and rolled, rest for 10 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet or a tawa if you have one.

Flour your work surface. With a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a four inch circle. Place the dough into the frying pan.

A trick to I discovered to flaky roti is to constantly turn the dough as it cooks. Use a spatula to hold down the edges as you rotate, ensuring not to press down on the centre. After 10 seconds turn the roti and continue to turn. Toss it back and forth every 10 seconds for about two minutes until it has puffed up and light browning begins to appear.

Now comes the hard part. Traditionally, when the cooking is complete, you quickly pick the roti up with your bare hands and clap it between your palms to remove the air. It takes a lot of practice to get this right and it hurts! I did this process wearing oven mitts, and I recommend doing the same.

Place the cooked roti in a colander with a piece of damp paper towel on the bottom. Cover the colander with the damp cloth.

Repeat the process until all your roti is cooked. Eat immediately.

To store roti, place it between damp paper towels in a sealed container in the fridge. To reheat it, cover the roti with a damp paper towel and microwave for about 30 seconds. The damp paper towel helps it to stay moist.

Serves 4

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

nadine sage January 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Delicious! I’ve had Roti stuffed with chicken salad in the Virgin Islands … I miss it and your post has motivated me to make it.

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munchinwithmunchkin January 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

That sounds yummy!

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Jennifer Triplett January 18, 2012 at 7:51 pm

My husband and I love Roti. I’ll have to try this. Thanks for sharing!

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becca givens January 18, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I’ve never heard of these — but I am sure to love them … I never met a hot “bread” I didn’t like!! :-)

Continue to practice — now you’ve seen progress … promising success is within reach!! :D

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munchinwithmunchkin January 19, 2012 at 10:59 am

Thanks for the support!

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baobabs January 19, 2012 at 3:01 am

omg this looks amazing!!! i never thought we could make it in our own home and in a little frying pan! i am inspired to do more now. thanks for sharing. and stunning photos on the blog btw!

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munchinwithmunchkin January 19, 2012 at 10:58 am

Thank you! I find a cast iron frying pan works best as the heat is more consistent. Glad I could inspire!

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midnitechef January 19, 2012 at 9:59 am

I love naan, roti , good tortillas, anything warm to eat a meal with :)

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lorrielorrieb January 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Going to try the curry and the roti together this weekend!! Perfect for the awful weather we have been having! Thanks so much!

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Chad Miller January 19, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Looks so amazing

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Marilena January 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm

My dear – I was looking for a interesting looking (tasting) white egg omelet and I found my happiness on you blog :)).

Now looking around I came across this recipe. Never heard of Roti but it looks very similar to the moroccan pancakes. I have been obsessing on this recipe for years. Until I have found out this recipe is to be made with extra fine semolina (durum wheat flour). :)

I have found a recipe – just now – that look promising too :))
http://mykitchendiaries.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/msemen/

Take care,
Marilena

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I ♥ to eat February 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I’m making a Ghanian soup tomorrow and was searching foodpress for roti recipes… this will be perfect! So excited to try this.. do you think I could use olive oil instead of vegetable oil?

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chefconnie February 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

I have been wanting to try more flatbreads. I like this recipe and will try it soon. Very beautiful blog.

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Chef and Steward February 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

We have fond memories of Guyanese roti prepared by a warm Guyanese neighbour. Never got around to learning her technique so we are very happy we stumbled on your blog!

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Christina March 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm

My mom learned to make rotis from her friend from lebanon, they shape the dough like a hat which makes it easier to roll out into a circle. Put dough in the pan for a few seconds then over the burner with an uncoated wire cookie sheet over top, on high heat, it should puff up like a balloon.

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Kris March 19, 2012 at 10:07 am

Thanks for the tip. It seems every culture has their own trick for roti. I love learning about them! I’ll definitely try the hat trick, rolling dough into a circle is surprisingly difficult!

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JehanP April 22, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I commend you for even attempting to make Roti. It is one of those things that many Guyanese women do not know how to make, I still consider mine a work in progress. As for the clapping, I refuse to use my hands and put it in a large plastic bowl with a cover and shake it vigorously, it gets the job done!

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Kris April 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Thats a great idea! I’m going to save my hands next time and give your method a try! Thanks so much!

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Jihan May 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I never knew you can add cumin or curry powder, gotto try this now. And am going to show your pic to my husband as proof that the roti doesn’t have to be round to be called a roti… haha great post thanks.

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Kris May 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I’m definitely still a roti novice, so I’m sure the pro’s roti is closer to a perfect circle. As long as it tastes good I’m happy. :)

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Jihan May 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Ooh also try putting it in a mug, and covering the mug and shaking it up… I do that.

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Kris May 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Great idea! I’m going to try that! Thanks for sharing!

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Shrey July 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Being an Indian and living in India, I, sort of, have to eat Rotis everyday and I was glad to find a different approach to knead the dough! The traditional way of kneading the dough is very different here. We just use wholewheat flour, water, a tablespoon of warm oil/butter and water and kneading is more or less simple, you either fold it and knead it or mix it and knead it. Yeah, we cook the roti for like 30 seconds on either sides and then put it on the flame directly and it puffs up.. it takes a little practice to get it right! The Guyanese Roti seems interesting to me and I would surprise my family the next time I cook dinner! ;)

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Adriana July 31, 2012 at 5:01 pm

What a coincidence! Just today I came across a video demonstrating how to make Guyana style roti and now I found your blog:) The technique is fascinating and I can’t wait to try this. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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Phil August 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Well thought out technique and would like to try this recipe tonight. Could you clarify one ingredient for me — the ingredients list says baking powder but the step just below the list mentioned baking soda. Which one should I use? I suspect baking powder is the correct one.

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Kalai September 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Do you think this can be made with Bread Flour? I use it to make bread in my breadmaker and it’s all I have on hand :)

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Emanuel October 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm

A few corrections to the recipe:

A: You don’t need to constantly turn the roti while it’s been made. Just like a pie crust, it helps to use shortening that is cold, water that is cold (ice cold) as well as flour that is cold. I usually do all of the above, and refrigerate the balls before I flatten them to make sure little pieces of shortening don’t all melt. And finally, you HAVE to clap it when its done. While Guyanese just call it “roti”, the Trinis call it “clap roti” for a reason.

B: The technique my mother (and thus me) use is that when the oil is added, we cut a slit from close to the center to the edge and then roll the dough up so you end up with a cone (with several layers inside) and then you pull different sides to seal the cone, sit it down on the bottom then tuck the point into itself with your finger. The end result is a round, sort of cinnamon roll looking piece of dough, which helps it come out round when you flatten it. Yours is bound to be mis-shaped because what you start with is mis-shaped.

C: We definitely don’t add any curry/cumin since that means it would probably taste weird with anything but curry.

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tbee October 19, 2012 at 5:01 am

ha! the most direct and honest roti recipe i have ever read. I use a flat plate and microwave cover, but i must say the mittens method sounds much better, but hey, i may not feel like washing my mittens afterwards. My go-to roti clapping method on lazy days involves placing two or three hot roti in a long jar with lid, my cereal glass jar and shaking or making my friends shake them provided the jar is being shook and not the human.
I think you meant baking powder not soda in the instructions…

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Autumn January 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

My mother is from Guyana and my grandmother makes the best Roti you will ever eat! So there are lots of different kinds of roti but if you went to India and asked for roti it would be very different than what they make in Guyana. when I traveled there in 2008 I was in heaven when I found a roti hut!! Since my Grammy lives on the other side of the country- she often makes a batch and sends them in the mail! I have since learned to make my own, but its never quite the same as my Grammys! However, after looking at your recipe, I thought I might share a few differences you might want to try. First, we don’t season our dough… Just flour, oil and water. My Grammy also uses baking powder but I skip that and use self rising flour.
Dump your flour in your mixing bowl ( about 3 cups)
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil but do not mix yet
Now the tricky part- run a SLOW stream of Luke warm water from the sink faucet. Place the bowl under the faucet and maid the flour oil and water simultaneously with your hand. Do this until you get a solid pad of dough. It shouldn’t be sticky. If it is sprinkle a little flour.
Next place some flour on rolling surface and spread it around.
Roll the dough into one large piece. Add flour as you roll if the dough stars to stick to the pin.
Now take oil and spread a layer across the surface of the dough evenly.
Now take the end of the dough and hand roll up like you would a carpet or yoga mat.
You should have a tube of dough at this point.
Cut the pieces into 2-3 inch pieces
Take each piece and pinch the ends and tuck to keep oil from leaking out
Now using additional flour to keep flour from sticking to roll out each piece with rolling pin
A Tava pan works best but an iron skillet will work
Now cook each roti on the skillet allowing it to cook through before flipping
Clap and eat immediately or place folded in a paper towel lined colander and cover immediately

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