The Lechasseurs' Recipes

Only the "keepers"

Trinidadian "Roti" or Flatbread

From the Advani household
Sada Roti

The Indians who were brought to Trinidad as indentured laborers carried a culinary world with them on the ships that transported them to an unknown island. But this world was mostly in their heads. The realities of a very harsh life led to constant adaptations and changes. Their daily bread, the whole wheat "roti," could not be made without the very finely ground ata they were used to, so they picked up white four instead. All around them breads were made with fermenting agents, so they too slowly began to use baking powder, insisting still on rolling out their fat breads the old fashioned way and cooking them on a cast-iron tava or griddle.

This is the basic bread, thick and pita like, that is generally eaten by the Indians in Trinidad at breakfast, especially in the small towns and villages, with dishes like Eggplant and Tomato Choka (page 186). You may also eat it with beans and chickpeas at lunch or dinner or quite simply with cheeses and salads or with butter and jam.


3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose white flour, plus a little extra for rolling out
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt


Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Add about 11/4 cups or a few tablespoons more water-enough to form a soft but not sticky dough. Knead well for 10 minutes. Form a ball of dough and then break it into 8 even parts. Form 8 smooth balls with these parts. Put them in a bowl and cover them with a damp cloth. Set them aside for 30 to 60 minutes (or even longer, refrigerating in a plastic bag if needed and then allowing the dough to come to room temperature).

Set an Indian cast-iron tava, a cast-iron frying pan, or a cast-iron griddle over medium-high heat. Allow it to heat up. Make a small wad with a piece of paper towel or a cloth.

Now dip the dough ball lightly in flour and then roll it out until you have a 7- to 8-inch round. Slap it onto the heated tava, pan, or griddle. Cook for 45 to 55 seconds, or until one side has reddish-brown spots. Turn it over and cook another
45 seconds, or until the second side too has reddish spots. Turn again and cook for 30 seconds, pressing down on the bread with the wad in quick strokes. Turn and cook another 30 seconds, again pressing down with the wad. Now turn and cook
20 seconds. Turn again and cook 20 seconds. Turn and cook 10 seconds. Turn again and cook another 10 seconds. Remove the bread and keep it between 2 plates, the top one upturned over the bottom one. Make all the breads this way, turning the heat down to low when you have to stop to roll out the next bread. Turn the heat up just before slapping the next bread onto the pan.

The breads will stay hot stacked this way for a good 20 to 30 minutes. If you wish to prepare the breads well in advance, let the breads cool off between the plates and then store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The breads may be reheated one at a time for about a minute in a microwave oven, or they may be stacked, wrapped in foil, and heated in a medium oven for 20 minutes.

These breads can also be frozen and then reheated as suggested above.


Madhur Jaffrey, World Vegetarian