Monday, February 1, 2010
LACE CREPES ~ ROTI JALA
This was my father's favourite must have for the festive season and I remember mother sitting on a squat stool in front of a very low stove (she did not want to stand for hours) assembled as a temporary stove the night before, probably by my father, and twirling roti jala-s on the morning of raya.....
....agitated and stressed out..... because she had to make quite a fair bit and then rush to take a shower, put on her make up, do her hair and slip into her prettiest dress so that she looked breathlessly beautiful before the guests arrived. (Pun not intended)
I don't blame her. Because to make a fair amount of roti jala takes up quite a lot of time.
And in those days you couldn't simply step out the door and buy food. These, however, are sold by the kilo nowadays by housewives who run little home food catering businesses. Very convenient.
Or do like I do. Make them ahead of time, freeze them, thaw them and when the day comes steam them, in small batches at a time, a few hours before you're expecting your guests.
These are served cold with a warm beef or chicken curry so there is no worry about keeping the roti warm.
The making of roti jala is therapeutic but only when it's not done under the duress of time.
It's all in the wrist. It uses a simple plain crepe batter only slightly runnier so that it flows smoothly and unhindered through the spouts of the roti jala mould.
I enjoy the twirling of the mould, feeling the flow of the batter push through the spouts, the dancing of my wrist, watching the delicate lace pattern appear on the griddle, folding and rolling the dainty lace-work and then seeing the pretty pile grow higher and higher. I can be so silly. True.
The recipe ~
Flow' and 'Smooth' would have to be the keywords for this recipe because if you don't have a satiny smooth completely lump free batter you will not have the batter flowing freely through the tiny spouts of the mould. And your experience would be far far away from therapeutic. Trust me.
The roti jala mould looks almost like a miniature watering can but with multiple spouts pointing downwards. They come in plastic and brass.
Now if only roti jala brass mould makers had more passion and some desire for perfection they could make this very elementary kitchen tool look quaint, pretty and charming. Like the roti jala itself. And I would have a pretty collection.
Unfortunately the workmanship was as rudimentary as a tool from the bronze age. :(
2 cups flour
2 cups minus 2 T thin coconut milk (the consistency of skimmed milk)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp tumeric powder
Note : you may have to adjust the consistency of the batter to make it thinner by adding water a tablespoon at a time if you find that it is too thick to flow out from the spouts smoothly.
Sift flour into a medium bowl. Add salt and tumeric powder. Break 2 whole eggs into the flour and pour in half the coconut milk. Mix with a whisk adding the remainder of the milk slowly until the batter is smooth and free of visible lumps.
Pour the batter through a fine sieve into another bowl to ensure a completely lump free and smooth batter. This is essential otherwise you may find that the spouts may get clogged by tiny lumps of undissolved flour. Pour into a jug for easy handling later.
Heat up a cast iron griddle or a heavy non stick pan. Swipe some oil on its surface using a kitchen paper folded into a pad. Let the surface heat up again and lower the flame to small-medium.
Place the roti jala mould on a flat and wide bowl so that it stands upright and will not topple over. Pour the batter from the jug into the mould about halfway up the mould.
Bring the mould and its supporting bowl near to the griddle and lifting the batter filled mould, by holding it over its top with all five fingers rather than by its handle, quickly make small circles over the griddle by twirling your wrists clockwise and at the same time moving your hand along so that you will be forming a larger circle made up of those small circles. The final small circle will be in the centre. The first piece will always be sacrificial.
Let the crepe cook and firm up. About 1 -2 minutes.
When done remove the crepe with a spatula and place on a flat plate. These crepes are usually about 8 inches in diameter.
Fold the crepe or roll it up as you like. I usually do this when I have another crepe cooking on the griddle.
Repeat the process until all the batter is finished.
This is traditionally served with a curry or lamb/mutton rendang or a beef rendang.
Roti jala literally translated would be 'net crepes'. Simply because the word lace does not exist in the Bahasa vocabulary. So the closet description of its likeness in Bahasa would be net which I believe it resembles more of anyway.
But lace sounds prettier. And I'm a sucker for prettiness. That's how shallow I can get.
And the fineness of a roti jala depends very much on the size of the spouts and the smooth flow of the batter.
Many roti jala makers in the old days take pride in each piece appearing as lace-like or as net-like as possible. I doubt mine would pass the test.
I don't want to bore you, and I'm no physicist, but in making these roti pressure from the amount of batter in the mould does matter in getting a fine or coarse 'lace'. So adjust the amount accordingly.
The height from which you hold the mould above the griddle matters as well. Not too high or the batter will drop in polka dots and too low it will give you a thick line. Adjust accordingly.
If you have pained and suffered this post I will now reward you with another photo. You're welcome.