Malaysian Food : Roti Canai or Roti Prata
Malaysian Favourite : Roti Canai
In Malaysia, eating food is considered a national past time and breakfast is the olympics of the masses. During breakfast you will be able to find a selection of food which initially started out as a breakfast dish and ultimately graduated to become a dish enjoyed almost through out the day. This can be in the form of Nasi Lemak, Nasi Dagang, Roti Bakar and Roti Canai. For this post, we will be exploring the favourite delicacy of Roti Canai also known as Roti Prata.
What is it?
Roti Canai, the ubiquitous breakfast food that is second best enjoyed right after Nasi Lemak. If you go out for breakfast in Malaysia, most places (aside from restaurants and cafes) would be able to serve you at the very least a plate of Nasi Lemak and Roti Canai.
Essentially, Roti Canai is a flatbread fried over a pan that is of Indian origins and widely available in south east asia. This flatbread is made from dough that has been flattened up from a dough ball and spread out very thinly and subsequently wound up as a knot to be fried up into a piece of bread on a flatpan.
What types are there?
In general, the roti canai is the most fundamental purest form of the food. It however is able to be made into multiple forms. Tradtionally, Malaysians enjoy having a slightly varied type to add savouryness or just enjoy it as with an additional item and these traditional variety are available as:
Roti Telur (roti canai with egg Included),
Roti Telur Bawang (same as roti telur but with onions to savour up the bread),
Roti Sardin (roti canai with sardines scrambled with egg which is included into the bread),
Roti Pisang (roti canai with banana slices included into the bread); and
Roti Tampal (similar to roti telur but instead of the egg being included into the bread, it is added on top of the bread)
In most ‘mamak’ shops, it would not be surprising to find numerous types of roti on the menu and if you are keen to try, each will have a delectable surprise for you. But if not, we suggest to stick to the traditional ones as stated above as some are surprising even for local palate (were looking at you Roti Milo, Roti Sayur and Roti Kopi)
Where can it be found?
Roti canai (and its varieties) can be found in most stalls and mamak shops scattered through out the city. One way of identifying if the shop has roti canai available it would be by seeing if they have a flat pan and a table for thinning out the roti and spreading it out.
How is it enjoyed?
When ordering this dish, you will usually be presented with a plain roti with dhal a form of chickpea gravy dish which is vegetarian and quite enjoyable. Together with this in most shops a small scoop of sambal which usually consists of the sambal from the nasi lemak itself (if they serve it there) is added to the dhal. As a preference and if you are not able to handle spicyness, you may ask for the sambal to be separated or not to be included at all.
To do this you should say
“Sambal Asing” (for it to be served separately).
“Sambal tak nak” (for no sambal to be served altogether).
Also, another type of gravy that is usually included would be form of curry. This may be fish curry, chicken curry or even mutton curry (very rare). But in most shops, you may request for your preferred type of curry to be enjoyed with the roti.
So when you are presented with the roti. You can tear it up and dunk it in the gravy and enjoyed.
ALTERNATIVELY you can also try a unique way of eating it (with all the calories) by ordering the roti but as banjir. Banjir is Malay for flood and thats exactly what they do. They will chop up the roti and serve it up flooded with the gravy. This is a unique way of eating but still enjoyed by the masses. You should try this form only after enjoying it as it is first.
To order it this way you should say :
Roti [ roti canai type] banjir [and specify which gravy]
ALSO if you have children or do not prefer to eat curry, another favourite by locals is to order the roti with condensed milk (which is very sweet ) or with sugar. So these you will dunk the cut up small piceces of roti with the condensed milk or sugar as an alternative to gravy.
To order it this way you should say :
Roti [ roti canai type] kuah susu. (for condensed milk)
Roti [ roti canai type] gula cicah. (for sugar)
For the roti banjir, there is also another version which is called roti banjir special. Now this is very rare and not that many shops serve this, however you can try to order it if you encounter a shop serving it.
What is essentially consist of is roti banjir with a half boiled egg served on top of the roti canai. Now what this creates is an amalgamation of flavours that is savoury from the gravy and eggy goodness with the yolk also enhancing the flavour of the gravy.
How much is it?
For most restaurants the price of the roti canai would roughly be around RM 1 and goes up based on what additional order you make. The other premium roti’s such as roti sardin, telur etc will add on a bit but in essence it would not go beyond 3 or 4 ringgit.
We hope that the above guide will help you understand what is roti canai and how to order is the Malaysian way. We hope that you will get to enjoy this dish as much as us Malaysians.
As they say in Malaysia… Jom Makan!