Over summer I spent 2 months in South-East Asia, discovering the land of things that shouldn’t taste good but do. Fish sauce is made from rotting fish and smells like a dock during a power outage but cannot be substituted in many Thai dishes. Green chilli’s with eye watering amounts of capsacin, natures way of campaigning your body’s supposed dislike of pain so that you won’t eat it. When sampled alone, soy bean paste really makes you question your decision to play the Asian food ordering game with your travel mates (pick 2 numbers at random, open your numbered menu, and commit). It makes you wonder how fermenting became a thing. Food must have gone off… somebody would have eaten it anyway and generations later we have soy bean paste, blue cheese, red wine, and sweet sweet whiskey.
So, since my livelihood as a refrigeration engineer depends on slowing reactions like fermentation, I choose to promote this fermentation-free recipe from my travels, Roti Canai. It is bread without those tiny fermenting bacteria known as yeast to puff it up, so it is folded to trap air. It should taste good, and it does.
Roti Canai is a common breakfast in Malaysia, and definitely my favourite way to take a break from the markets. It is served with curry sauce and a “milo dinosaur” if you’re game. A very simple meal but it was one of the culinary highlights of my trip and I was determined to recreate it. It took me a few tries to perfect, the keys to getting it right are using warm water to approximate Malaysian room temperature, kneading it for a long time to develop the gluten and resting it to let the gluten relax. Stretching it out take’s a bit of mastery as well, I don’t even try to do it the way the Malaysian hawkers do by flinging it like a matadors cape against an oiled surface. Just lift an edge, pull and stick it back to the bench. Don’t be put off though, it’s great fun to see how paper thin and translucent you can get it without making a hole. Give it a go on your next curry night!