Sambar Roti – Chapati 101

What’s special about these rotis? Instead of water, I used leftover sambhar. You could use any leftover dal. Some people cook the dal down until it thickens, then mash it and use it to knead the roti dough. That’s too much work for me. I just pour a couple of cups of sambhar with vegetables and all into a blender and give it a quick whiz. I replace water with this mixture and knead the chappati dough.
As a child we never had rotis with meals, so I only started making rotis a year ago. At one point, I gave up on making round rotis, but I’ve finally gotten there and my rotis are just as round as Mangy’s.
So if you’re struggling, be patient. Keep the dough soft and try making smaller rotis first. If your pan gets too hot between rolling out the rotis, no drama! Just take the pan off the heat. In fact, before switching on the stove, roll out 3 or 4 rotis and have them ready. That way you’re already ahead and won’t panic.
If you’re just starting out, make rotis alone, at your own time and pace. Everyone will want to teach you the ‘right way’, and the more right ways you’ve got, the more likely you’ll stuff up. Do it in your own time, work out what works best for you. Atta is cheap, if you mess it up, throw it out. No one will know.
My tips:
  • I like a really soft dough, as I find it easier to roll out quickly, also the higher water content means the rotis don’t dry out as much on the hot pan. As you get better at making rotis, you might like to reduce the water content, firmer dough yields rounder rotis
  • To get REALLY soft chapati, I add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream or yogurt as well.
  • Just make sure you drench it in a lot of atta while rolling out. The extra atta will help firm up the rotis and prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin or board. I use a silicone baking mat and a silicone rolling pin as they’re non-stick.

You will need: (for about 15 rotis)
2 cups of Atta (I use ARTA Flour from Coles – it’s very expensive at $4 a kilo, but its 100% Australian wheat and smells and tastes beautiful)
1 tablespoon of soy flour (extra protein + makes the roti softer – mother-in-law’s tip and is optional)

1 to 1 ½ cups of water or any dal mixture
1 tablespoon Oil


Knead flours and water together until the dough comes together, pour a little oil into your palm and knead well. This will smoothen out the ball of dough. Cover in cling film; allow to rest for at least 30 minutes (the longer the better). Sometimes I leave atta dough in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and just pinch off what I need for each meal.

If you leave the dough in the fridge for about an hour, it will firm up. This will make getting round rotis easier, but it will be initially harder to roll as the dough is firmer. To start with, I wouldn’t worry about the shape.

Divide the dough equally into golf-sized balls. Press each ball firmly between your palms and start rolling into a smooth ball. The pressing bit is important to make sure the ball is free from air bubbles.Drenching the ball of dough into Atta flour, press the ball down to form a flat-ish circle. Using your rolling pin, roll out into a thin flat circle (don’t worry if they’re not perfect rounds). Cook on a hot tawa or flat pan on the first side for about 10 seconds. Flip and cook until you see bubbles appear. To finish off, you place the roti directly on the gas flame and it should start to puff up. Turn over and repeat on other side.

If I’m not serving the rotis immediately, I usually rub a stick of butter or ghee on both sides of the rotis and I store them in a hot box or covered container. The butter/ghee helps to keep the rotis soft. Keep the rotis in a covered container, line the bottom and top with kitchen paper to absorb any condensation.Rotis are fun to make once you get the hang of it. Don’t give up! One day it’ll all suddenly make sense – Enjoy!  

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