Thursday, July 2, 2009

WHITHW: Mohammad's chapatis

One of the interesting social dynamics in Malawi is the Indian subculture. Indian by genetics, tradition, and history and Muslim by faith, they dominate the trade world (ie, own most of the stores and shops) and almost all the forex offices. For the most part they have western expectations of standards of living, and unlike many of the white Malawians who go to South Africa for school, the "asian" Malawians tend to go to the UK. They don't seem to have much to do with the very transient expat community. But inevitably, some of their food culture is disseminated, and even though Mohammad says he doesn't like "Moigneh"food because it's too spicy (and he has a (perhaps earned?) grudge against Moigneh's in general, even he knows how to make one of the cuisine's non-negotiables: chapatis. You might know them as roti. We sometimes call them tortillas, but they're not, but they're the closest we come here, but I'm pretty happy with tortillas that are really chapatis that we call tortillas.

Today I share with you his recipe and technique. Mohammad promises, "It is simple," and makes it look that way. You should give it a try. Rob, I mean you. I will teach you personally when I get home if you can wait that long, but you shouldn't. It's the boiling water--that's what makes it so different from any other thin, rolled-dough thing I've made. It actually cooks the flour a little before it ever hits the pan.

Mohammad's Pot Lid Chapatis
makes about 25-27 pieces

2 heaping mugs flour (about 3 cups?)
1 tsp salt (use a small spoon, heap half of it with salt)
2 tbs oil, roughly
boiling water
a bit more oil, in a cup
extra flour, maybe a cup or two

1. Mix together flour and salt. Pour in oil.
2. Pour in some boiling water; mix it all together to make a stiff, but soft, dough. More water=softer chapatis. It will feel more like playdough than bread dough.
3. Knead this on a well-floured counter till smooth, not sticky, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
4. Roll it into a log and cut into pieces, roughly the same length as the width of the log.
5. Make the pieces into balls; with your thumbs, hollow them into little nests. Dip your fingers into the oil, then coat the inside of each nest with oil. Mohammad does this really fast.
6. Then put a heaping half teaspoon of flour inside each nest, pinch it closed (but not sealed), and let it rest on a floured counter.
7. To roll the little guys out: open the ball, flattening the floured part out onto the counter, and roll to the thickness of a dishtowel. Thinner is better, IMHO. Mohammad flips his from side to side, moving it around and keeping the counter scraped and well floured. He cuts them into perfect matching circles with a sharp pot lid.
8. Heat a pan with a little oil to very very hot. Flip one chapati in. Once it has cooked (little black spots, gets more opaque, etc.), flip it and do the same to the other side. You only need to grease the pan once; as you cook your circles, the pan will probably get a little floury. Just give it a quick wipe off with a damp washcloth.
9. Stack them on a dishtowel so they don't get soggy while hot, but then store them in something airtight so they don't dry out.


Rob said...

So, will you describe the flour? What kind of oil? Chipatis sound good. Does he ever make popadams?

Geo said...

Please, Rob, make some.