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Street Eats: Roll out the roti

Most visitors to Phuket quickly fall in love with what are often referred to as ‘banana pancakes’ – made from a paper thin dough that is rolled out, filled with sliced ripe banana, fried until crisp, and then topped with sweetened condensed milk and sugar.


By Mark Knowles

Saturday 6 May 2017, 12:00PM


What many people might not realise it that these ‘pancakes’ are known here as roti and trace their origins back to India.

Sweet roti, filled with banana, pineapple or mango and topped with everything from Milo or Nutella to peanut butter and strawberry jam may be a hit with tourists – but many Phuket locals prefer their roti as a savoury accompaniment to a rich and spicy yellow chicken curry – a dish known as roti gaeng gai.

Roti was originally brought to Malaysia and Southern Thailand by Muslim migrant workers from India – since then it has evolved into the Malay/Thai style we commonly see in Phuket.

If you want to taste this delicious Phuket breakfast staple, the best place to head is Phuket Town, which is dotted with many little roti shops churning out their delicious crispy bread.

Many roti shops only open for the breakfast trade and are closed by noon.

They are usually pretty easy to spot, the roti maker often faces the street from their shop entrance, overlooking a flat metal preparation area for rolling the dough, and a shallow curved hotplate for cooking.

Another telltale sign is a big stack of eggs and bananas and a bucket containing dozens of pre-rolled balls of dough soaking in oil.

Watching the roti maker roll the dough is half the fun and it takes quite some skill and practice to master. The dough ball is flattened out, stretched, then flipped over and over again until it is paper thin.

Then, depending on the type of roti ordered, the thin dough is typically filled with either a beaten egg or banana and folded into a square and placed on the hotplate.

If you are ordering plain roti to accompany your chicken curry, the dough is instead twisted and rolled into a pin-wheel shape and flattened a little before frying.

The Sunday Brunch Club

Once fried, the roti is clapped between the hands to fluff it up and release the crispy layers – then served with a small bowl of thin curry sauce, which is usually somewhat spicy but also quite sweet.

I always ask for my roti gaeng gai to be served with a kai dao – a fried egg with a runny yolk.

Most shops serve refreshing unsweetened pandan tea for free with any food ordered, but I often order a cha yen (iced sweet milk tea) or kafae yen (iced sweet milk coffee). A delicious serving of roti with chicken curry and a fried egg usually costs less than B50.

All of my favourite places to eat roti gaeng gai are in or near Phuket Town, but any area of Phuket that has a significant Muslim population will likely have a roti shop tucked away somewhere.

 

Here is a list of my four favourite roti shops in the Phuket Town area:

1 – Sor Tor Go: On Suthat Rd about 100 metres north of the entrance to Supalai@Downtown Condo, on the same side of the road, next to an ice cream shop. Open from 6am-midday.

2 – Evening Bangdeen Roti Saphan Hin: On Phuket Rd about 150m north of the Phuket Immigration Office on the opposite side of the road. Opens at 4pm for dinner.

3 – Roti Canai: 9/54 Chaofa Rd, Tambon Talat Nuea. On the east side of the Phuket Provincial Commemoration Public Park. Open evenings.

4 – Abdul’s Roti Shop: On Thalang Rd in the heart of Phuket Old Town. About 40m west of the Thang Rd/Phuket Rd intersection where the Old Town Market is held. Open for breakfast and lunch.

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