In the quiet suburbs of PJ (Petaling Jaya), our search for roti canai comes to an end when we see the only traffic congestion in the neighbourhood. This reminds me of an ad I heard on the radio about ‘creative parking’ which seem popular in KL. I’m not sure how the system works but people just double, sometimes triple, park. I guess when you’re ready to leave, honk your horn and hope the other car owner comes along and move their car.
It is already humid day although still early at 10am on a Sunday morning. We sit outside under the shady cover of the trees where many tables are occupied. I find a table with good view of roti-making show. It’s great fun watching the guys who knead, flatten and stretch the dough paper-thin. They make it look easy. Generously oiled with ghee (clarified butter), the stretching and repeated folding create multiple layers in the roti. It is cooked on a flat iron skillet until crispy on both sides. Just before serving, the roti is crushed with both hands to loose the layers, making it fluffy, whilst releasing the moisture to keep the crispiness.
We order a pile of roti canai and a side order of deep-fried fish. Roti canai comes multi-layered – soft and fluffy inside and crispy on the outside – served with a runny lentil dal and a choice of chicken or fish curry sauce. The thin layers of roti is for me what makes a good roti from a bad one. It reminds me of the hundred-layer paratha we ate for breakfast in Rangoon with a sprinkle of sugar or to scoop up mashed chickpeas and crispy onions.
There is something wonderful about eating out in the open air, food served on banana leaves and eating with your hands. This is not a dish for knife and folk!
Off Jalan Gasing