Food Culture: The Roti


Roti, a term derived from a Sanskrit word means bread. It is a staple Indian food and no meal today is considered complete without this quintessential dish. Mostly based on whole wheat flour known as Atta, its glowing characteristic in contrast to other flat-breads is that it is unleavened. The origin of roti can date back to almost 4000 years to the time of the Aryans arrival to Indus Valley (Bronze Age civilization). While wheat had been well-known for years (it’s used in bread making purposes arrived late), barley was the major grain consumed by them.

Despite the many flavors roti comes in, plain roti is preferred most for daily consumption due to its health benefits. The (Atta) wheat based plain roti is loaded with Vitamin E, Selenium and fibre which is known to lower the risk of heart disease, control sugar levels and prevent cancer. A drawing fact to roti is that it may be prepared in minutes and because of its simple recipe it can also be easily prepped by a child.

There are several names of breads that include the term roti based on the method of cooking. An example of this is Sri Lanka’s own Pol roti. This form is customised with coconut, onions and green chillies and is said to be the thickest and hardest form of roti. Besides the Indian sub-continent, roti is relished among many in South Africa, Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean. It is believed Indian servants who moved to the Caribbean to work introduced it to its people in the 1840s.  Dosti roti, dosti means friends in Hindi, is when two layers are rolled out together and cooked on a tawa while rubbing oil onto it. This recipe is also served in Guyana with halva to inaugurate the birth of a child.

Over the centuries, the production of roti has greatly evolved. It initially started with the baking of the bread between plates with glowing embers both below and above. Another example is savudu –roti, which is baked under the cover of a cup. And uduru –roti is when a cup cover is placed above with burning coals below. Today, roti can be made automatically by a machine at home. Rotimac, the automatic roti maker mixes a combination of flour, salt, oil and water. Soon after, the machine rolls it to golf-sized balls and flattens the dough to that hard to achieve perfect circle.