Roti jala: Like a lace doily

Picture by K.E.Ooi
Picture by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, July 6 — Delicate and light, the roti jala is like the Malaysian version of a pancake or crepe except that it is served as a savoury meal to go with rich, spicy curries.

The roti jala, translated to literally mean “net bread”, is a pretty dish that looks like a lace doily due to the way it is made.

This is a very traditional Malaysian dish that is usually homemade and served at kenduris (events) such as weddings and festivals.

The roti jala is also a particularly favoured dish during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which started on June 29 this year.

It is one dish that is found at nearly every Ramadan bazaar in Penang during the fasting month and is often sold with either chicken or mutton curry.

It is usually eaten in sets of three to four pieces with curries, especially chicken curry, as a substitute to rice.

On its own, the bread tastes like a soft crepe with hints of turmeric and coconut milk and quickly absorbs any curry that is lavishly poured over it.

Even the making of roti jala is interesting as it involves pouring the thick batter into a metal mould with several spouts below it and then swirling the batter onto the pan to create pretty lacy patterns.

It takes a mere few minutes to cook before it is turned and then folded into little triangles and served hot.

The batter is a very simple concoction of water, flour, coconut milk, turmeric powder, egg and a little bit of salt that is whisked together before it is cooked.

The accompanying curry is the one that either makes or break the dish, so it has to be thick with spices and just the right amount of coconut milk for a rich curry that is not too cloying or too strong but just good enough to complement the roti jala.

As roti jala is not a common dish eaten on a daily basis, it is not easy to find hawker stalls selling it.

Even the few different hawker stalls selling it tend to make it differently as there are two versions of the roti jala, one is of a thick, pancake-like consistency while another is a light as lace version that is crispy instead of soft and spongy.

Though the origins of this bread is unknown, it is believed that it originated from India and had been improvised by locals to become the roti jala of today.

If you have not tried this traditional dish, do visit any of the Ramadan bazaars and buy a set to try. Ramadan bazaars are usually open from 4pm onwards.

In Penang, there are a few stalls that sell roti jala all year round, so do check them out if the craving for some latticed bread soaked in curry ever strikes you.

Do note that these stalls are run by Muslims so some of these stalls are closed during the day during Ramadan but instead, they take up stalls at Ramadan bazaars nearby.

1.Hawker complex, Jalan Kebun Bunga
GPS: 5.434609,100.294538
Time: 8am-11am

2.Roadside stall, Penang Street
GPS: 5.418857,100.341176
Time: 8am-2pm

3.Taman Tun Sardon hawker center, Hilir Pemancar
GPS: 5.369007,100.305956
Time: 7am-12noon

4.Jalan Tenggiri hawker center, Seberang Jaya
GPS: 5.393054,100.40151
Time: 7am-11am

5.Hup Kee cafe, Jalan Burmah
GPS: 5.432547,100.310583
Time: 8am-2pm

Related Articles