Life in the kitchen would be incomplete without the ‘chakla’ and ‘bailan’. The bailan (rolling pin) is used to roll out rotis (our version of flatbread) whereas the chakla is the round base on which it is rolled. Can you imagine your kitchen without roti and salan? A complete kitchen is one in which roti is made — that’s how I feel anyway. I, like many young girls today, never found making rotis a burden. My mother always rolled her roti in near perfect circles and left me with the utmost desire to achieve the same level of perfection.

Kneading the dough with wheat flour and water does not take a lot of time. And after a good kneading and punching for a minute or two, the dough comes together beautifully. Always let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes before rolling out payras (the dough balls). This will give the bread a chance to rest and relax. Loosening up the dough just a little bit will make the roti soft.

So how do we define the perfect roti? For me, it should be soft and round and rise completely like a balloon on the tawah. What a sight it is to see your roti inflate — a truly joyous moment. I have to admit, it’s very therapeutic for me when I make rotis and salan every day. I am very particular about my gadgets; I take great care not to immerse my rolling pin in water to avoid deterioration. Instead, I just wipe it clean with a damp cloth and dry it completely before putting it back in the cupboard.

We recently shifted to Jeddah and so I got an electric stove. It was a change from the gas stoves that I was used to in Pakistan. It was a task in itself to understand the heating pattern of the electric stove, but now that I have I love it. So much so that I think I will definitely find it hard to work over a gas stove again. It took us a while to settle into our new routine and we were craving homemade rotis, so I decided to make some. I brought my tawa from Pakistan. I kneaded the dough, as usual, and after allowing it to rest I rolled out rotis. However, even when the tawah was extremely hot the roti was not being cooked properly, nor did it inflate perfectly. This was very odd! I thought it was due to the stove and a different heating system. I used a napkin to press the sides hard so they cook properly but we still ended up with half cooked rotis.

Luckily, our friend Nighat Baji once mentioned how she cooks rotis in the US and I thought I’d give her technique a try. After initially cooking the roti on a tawah, I put it into a pre-heated heated oven set to maximum heat. Pre-heating the oven is the most important trick here. Cook the rotis on the oven grill with only the top grill on. We were making magically inflated rotis in minutes! It is like making roti in a tandoor and they taste great!

Here I leave you with my dearest Nighat Baji’s method for making perfect balloon-like rotis in oven:

  1. On the tawah, the first side must be half cooked, then turn, then half cook.

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2. Now place them on the oven’s grill.

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3. They rise up like balloons, when completely cooked.

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4. Your perfect roti in the oven is ready to serve!

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Are you living abroad and faced with the same problem? Want to see if this trick works for you here at home? Let us know if our solution works for you in the comments below!

Rotis go great with veggies. Check out our 4 favourite vegetable recipes that taste best with rotis!

Fatima Ali

I am trained to be an IT professional. I served National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) for six years after graduating from the same university. As long as I can remember, cooking good food has been my passion and it makes me happy. My cooking lessons were a bit unusual though. Back in the day when digital did not mean much, my father would record cooking shows (knorr ka kitchen, kaukab khuwaja and Zee Khana Khazana – Chef Sanjeev Kapoor) for me to watch endless times later on, before trying the recipes out. I would make brownies and cold cake almost every day while my mother was asleep. This was my way of surprising her every evening. My mother cooks amazing food too and I have tried many of the recipes written in her recipe book. I draw inspiration from a number of chefs from televised cooking shows such as Late Chef Farah, Chef Rahat, Chef Mehboob, BBC Food, Masala TV, Chef Shai, Chef Sharmeen, Master Chef Australia and my ultimate favorite Chef Shireen Anwer. I would not be as good a cook I am now without passive guidance from each one of these.