Making Net Bread

Roti Jala [Foreground] served at our
Ramadan breaking-of-fast meal
Roti Jala literally translated as “net bread” is a firm favourite of mine, eaten with a generous drizzle of spicy chicken curry.  Even though it is called roti or bread, it is essentially a delicate crepe made with a simple recipe with ingredients like flour, egg, milk and a pinch of salt.  The pretty pale yellow colour can be created by adding artificial colouring but the traditional way is to use a sprinkle of tumeric powder.

When my friend Shafina invited me over to break fast with her family at Ramadan, I did not know that I was also going to have my first lesson in making roti jala.  I was already honoured to be invited home to share a family’s breaking of fast meal but I felt so privileged that I was going to savour her husband’s favourite dishes – personally cooked by him!

“Come into the kitchen,” said Shafina in response to my query if I could help with anything.  Fairoz, her husband was there, putting the final touches to the simmering dishes he was cooking and trying to get out of our way.  Then I spotted the traditional cup-mould and recognized it among the paraphernalia to prepare roti jala.

“You can help to make the roti jala,” she said casually, gesturing to the batter she had already mixed and the pan warming up on the stove.  I have watched how the net crepes were made and only have a theoretical idea but never a hands-on experience.  So I quickly confessed before we ended up without any roti jala to eat at the breaking of fast!

Shafina is aware that I do such a lot of food-tasting that I hardly do any cooking so she demonstrated the art of making roti jala for me to watch and learn.  After the warm pan is greased, the cup mould is placed over the pan before pouring a scoop of batter into the mould.  The mould is then moved in a circular motion, allowing the batter to form a lacy pattern on the pan. 

Even though it looks easy and a whole lot of fun, there is a skill in swirling the mould in that circular motion because the batter should be “woven” in such a way to create a net with distinct outer edges. 

Let the batter cook for a few minutes until the crispy edges of the crepe curled up.  It’s interesting that the batter is so delicate that it is only cooked on one side!

The cooked crepe is first folded in half and flipped into a quarter before being stacked neatly on a serving plate.  Then repeat the process until all the batter is used up.

It takes only a few minutes to eat this delicious crepe but I appreciated it much more because it took a little longer to prepare over a hot stove.  As I savoured the roti jala with delicious gravies, I thought the meal was more tasty not only because I’m sharing it with a dear family but mostly because I had a hand in making the “net bread!” 


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