|Region or state||Southeast Asia|
|Associated national cuisine||Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand|
|Created by||South Indian diaspora in Southeast Asia|
|Variations||Roti tissue, murtabak|
Roti canai (pronunciation: /tʃanaɪ/) or roti prata, also known as roti chenai and roti cane (/tʃane/), is an Indian flatbread dish found in several countries in Southeast Asia, especially in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. It is usually served with dal or other types of curry, but can also be cooked in a range of sweet or savoury variations made with a variety of ingredients such as meat, eggs, or cheese.
Introduced around the 19th century, roti canai has become a popular breakfast and snack dish especially in the Southeast Asian countries of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, and is one of the most famous examples of South Indian cuisine in the region. It is said that the dish was brought by Indians during the era of British Malaya, the Dutch East Indies and the Straits Settlements. They are also colloquially known as "mamak", and are served in street mamak stalls located in both rural and urban Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand as well as within hawker centres in Singapore.
It has also been theorized that the dish had also been introduced much earlier in the 17th century in Aceh and North Sumatra by Indian traders under the name roti cane. In Indonesia, the dish is particularly found in Sumatra, where the Indian Indonesian community is more prominent compared to the rest of the country.
Roti means bread in Sanskrit, and most other Indian languages. There are different suggestions for the origin of canai: it has been claimed that canai refers to Chennai (the bread can be written as roti chennai), the South Indian city formerly known as Madras; or from channa, a Northern Indian dish made with boiled chickpeas in a spicy gravy, with which this type of bread was traditionally served. The Oxford English Dictionary, however, states that it came from the Malay word canai, meaning "to roll (dough) thinly".
In Singapore, the dish is known as roti prata, similar to the Indian paratha or parotta. The Hindi word paratha means "flat".
Roti canai is made from dough which is usually composed of fat (usually ghee), flour and water; some recipes also include sweetened condensed milk. The dough is repeatedly kneaded, flattened, oiled, and folded before proofing, creating layers. The dough ball is then flattened, spread out until paper thin (usually by "tossing" it on a flat surface), and gathered into a long rope-like mass. This "rope" is then wound into a knot or spiral and flattened, so that it consists of thin flakes of dough when cooked.
Up until the 1970s, it was common for cooks to form a spiral with the "rope" (much like the modern "roti bomb"), but this is no longer the case, probably because the amount of dough used per roti is about half of what it used to be.[improper synthesis?] When making varieties with fillings, however, the fillings (eggs, chopped onions, etc.) are spread or sprinkled on the thin sheet of dough, which is then folded with the fillings inside.
Plain roti is often referred to as roti kosong ("empty bread" in Malay language).
Traditionally, roti canai is served with dal (lentil) curry. It may also be served with the following curries:
Roti cane came into Indonesia via the influx of Muslim Indian migration to Aceh Sultanate in northern parts of Sumatra around the 17th century, and later to the rest of Dutch East Indies in the early 19th century. Roti canai is more prevalent in Sumatra, especially in Aceh, North and West Sumatra. Roti cane has been adopted by the Malay cuisine of Sumatra, Acehnese cuisine and Minangkabau cuisine. Consequently, there are Malay, Aceh, and Minangkabau restaurants that serve roti canai with mutton curry in Indonesia that are operated by ethnic groups other than Indians.
In Ampel, an Arab quarter in Surabaya, it is known as roti maryam, while common Javanese called it roti konde after its similar shape to a hairbun (Javanese: konde). Despite having different names, each variant is derivative of the Indian paratha and are similar in preparation. Indian-influence roti is typically served with kari kambing (mutton curry).
Different varieties of roti canai served in Brunei and Malaysia are listed below:
Roti prata in Singapore is a fried flatbread that is cooked over a flat grilling pan. It is usually served with sugar or a vegetable- or meat-based curry and is also commonly cooked with cheese, onions, bananas, red beans, chocolate, mushrooms or eggs.
Roti prata is prepared by flipping the dough into a large thin layer before folding the outside edges inwards. The dough is cooked on a flat round iron pan measuring about three feet in diameter. The cooking process lasts two to five minutes.
In Thailand, roti (with variations on spelling such as ro tee) is commonly sold from street carts, usually halal sold by Thai Muslims. Roti thitchu (Thai for "tissue") is Thai roti canai that is fluffed up by clapping it between two hands inside a dry cloth after frying, served with a Thai-Muslim style beef curry.
Unlike in Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia, variations in Thailand tend towards the sweet rather than the spicy or savoury. Popular variations include mango, banana, sugar, condensed milk, jam, peanut butter and Nutella roti, although egg roti (often with sweetened condensed milk spread over the top) is also available.