Saturday, November 17, 2012

Roti Jala

I gather from my nieces that in recent years Malaysia has tried to claim credit from Java for the development of batik.  While I'll definitely side with Indonesia on this issue, I believe Malaysia gets the nod for roti jala.

A crepe-like bread to accompany curries, roti jala is not something I have actually come across in Malaysia or Indonesia.  I first became aware of it several years ago when I bought a copy of Authentic Recipes from Malaysia, which calls them lacy Indian pancakes.  Named for its fishnet resemblance, roti jala is traditionally made with a special funnel with four or five spouts to form the net-like pattern.  I was at a Sundanese restaurant last summer that had several varieties of the funnels as decoration on its walls, suggesting that, at least in the past,  roti jala was enjoyed in Java.  The funnel I use is an inexpensive plastic one that I picked up in Singapore.  One could get much the same effect with more effort using a plastic squeeze bottle.

The recipe here is adapted from Resep Klasik Jajanan Pasar (Classic Market Snack Recipes), which contains 270 recipes for snacks that are often sold in Indonesian markets.  As supermarkets supplant the traditional markets, some of these snacks will undoubtedly disappear. One of the interesting things about the book is that one of the co-authors is a Japanese woman, Tomomi Kimura, who was studying at UGM in Yogya.  She collaborated with a catering company in compiling the recipes.


Roti Jala

1/4 cup thick coconut milk
1 3/4 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
pinch of turmeric (optional)
vegetable oil to grease the pan

In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, water, salt, turmeric (if using), and egg.  Gradually whisk in the flour until you have a smooth batter, about the consistency of whipping cream.  Strain the batter through a fine sieve to remove any possible lumps.  This is important if using a roti jala funnel because even the smallest lumps can clog the spouts.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Pour in a splash of vegetable oil and rub it into the surface with a paper towel.  Ladle some batter into the funnel (if using), holding the funnel about a half-inch to an inch over the skillet.  Move the funnel in circular pattern to form a lacy, fishnet-like crepe.  Cook until the crepe is set and the edges begin to lift and curl from the pan.  Slide onto a clean plate.  Roll or fold into eighths.  Continue until all the batter is finished. 

This makes about 16-20 crepes.  Serve it with curries or other saucy dishes.  I served it here with an excellent Burmese shrimp curry from Naomi Duguid's Burma: Rivers of Flavor.  I'll be posting my take on this dish soon.

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