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Khao Stories: Rotli

The oral tradition of passing down recipes and methods for creating staple dishes has continued from generation to generation. During a recent conversation with a friend, we ventured down memory lane to recall the first thing we were taught to cook, and it seems for many young Gujarati girls, this was rotli, a wholewheat flatbread eaten with a curry or daal.

We love hearing stories from our friends and so asked a few others to share a story from the first time they were taught to make rotli, or a fond memory. Here are some of those stories:

P, London: "As soon as dad saw a rotli on his plate, he knew who had made them. I couldn't get a hold of how to roll them out in neat circles yet like mum or my sister, so he would often comment on how it seems I've created another country map. It was nice to see he saw the humour in it!"

R, London:"One of my fondest memories is from a trip to India. I was in a small village for a family wedding and saw that a small group of women were making rotli the night before the festivities. With over 100 guests expected for lunch, they had a lot of rotlis to make and had lit four open wood-fires on the go out in the back yard.

I hadn't made anything on an open fire like that before, expect for maybe a barbecue but was keen to help out. At first they insisted I won't be comfortable with the open fire, and I'll admit at first it was quite unsettling, with the high heat and no way to adjust it! But I ended up staying until the end, presevering on getting a hang of it eventually. It was past midnight when we were done and whilst I've never had to do it again, it was a fond moment of helping out whilst learning a new skill."

R, San Francisco:"As a young girl, I always loved to be in the kitchen and was curious and keen to learn. Roti was and still is a daily staple in our home so making the atta was the first step in my journey to making the perfect roti. The next step was how to cook them to perfection and make them fill up with hot air. And lastly the most difficult and daunting part, making them round! I always made a roti with the last bit of atta which was a mini roti I gave to one of parents."

M, London: "We used to have several large gatherings growing up and I guess we were always keen ot help out in some way. I rememer asking one of the ladies in the kitchen if I can help make the rotlis during these large gatherings but would always get turned away to go and do something else. Usually they would give the excuse that I'd be too slow or that my rotli wouldn't be as round, which seemed to be important when guests would be visiting!"

S, Ahmedabad: "I don't actually remember when and how I learn it, but making rotli is my most favourite part of cooking. I feel like making rotli gives you a new opportunity to perfect your craft each time you roll a new one and when it puffs up like a ball, it feels like the job is done."

B, London: "I made rotli for the first time when I was 15 years old, and my mum was on holiday in India. I had to call her, and there it was like 1:30am and she told me how much flour and water to use as best she could over the phone, half awake! I ended up making a big slush of floury soup so mum said just add more flour, which only made it sticky! After about an hour of struggling whilst on the phone, she just told me to cook some rice and hung up on me! I didn't give up and instead I called my aunt here in London. She declared my rotli dough was RIP. So we started again and eventually had something I could use. Hours after I started, I finally rolled a flat rotli and put it on the hot pan, somehow cooking them as best I could. At the dinner table, joined by my dad and bother, we each took a rotli and sort of snapped a piece off like it was a crispy papadom. As they took their first bites, they gave an awkward smile and said "mm, it's nice" I was quite impressed at this point until I took a bite for myself and realised the rotli was inedible so I spat it out and had a good laugh at myself. We ended up getting take away! It took a good few weeks, lots of mishaps and a lot of phone calls to two amazing cooks (my aunts) until I finally learnt to make rotli properly!"

N, London: "I remember the first time I made rotli: one day, my mum just decided she wanted me to make the rotli for dinner. She told me to make the dough from scratch and that I have to make them myself and left the kitchen! I was feeling nervous as these rotli needed to feed my mum, dad and brother. Needless to say, I hadn't made them myself ever and I knew they were not going to be round, at least! That day, my rotlis were of different thickness, various shapes and sizes and not to forgot how burnt most of them were! As they say, practice makes perfect - I gradually started to find my own way in making the dough properly and the best heat setting for the pan. I'll never forget my experience on how I learnt to make rotli as I was literally thrown in the deep end but it's also one of the greatest skills I've ever learnt."


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