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Sri Lankan Pol Roti (Coconut Roti)

Yields:
8 roti
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Chef notes

Pol roti is one of my favorite flatbreads from Sri Lanka. I love how unassuming this rustic roti is and often include it in my cooking classes and demos because students are blown away at just how delicious something so simple can be. What’s more, these rotis are dead simple to make and very forgiving. The addition of fresh coconut keeps them juicy, while the onions add a beautiful sweetness when charred. All this is lifted by a punch from the chiles and curry leaves. We use plain (all-purpose) flour as opposed to bread flour in this recipe, which gives a softer, tender crumb.

When freshly made, all these rotis need is a slathering of good salted butter and a generous serving of pol sambol. That said, they are dangerously addictive as dipping agents for a curry, too.

I often cook these on a barbecue in the summer. I start them off on a griddle set over medium fire, then finish on the grill directly over fire to char slightly.

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green chile, finely chopped (seeds removed if you prefer it less spicy)
  • 8-10 curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ounces fresh or frozen grated coconut
  • warm water, as needed

Preparation

1.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and add a little water at a time as required to bring together into a cohesive dough that is soft but does not stick to your hands. The dough should have the consistency of soft modeling clay and be fairly firm but shouldn't feel dry or have any pockets of dry flour in it. Knead for about 5 minutes by hand; there's no need to use a stand mixer for this.

2.

Leave to rest at room temperature, covered with cling film (plastic wrap), for about 30 minutes.

3.

Divide the dough into 8 to 9 balls and roll out into 6-inch discs, about 1/4-inch thick. I prefer a slightly rough, natural look rather than perfect circles.

4.

Heat a dry nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast-iron pan over a high heat and then reduce the heat to medium and cook the rotis for 3 to 4 minutes, flipping halfway through. The key is not to use oil or fat when cooking the rotis and to cook them on a hot dry pan, so they roast as opposed to fry.

5.

Top with a drizzle of coconut oil or dollop of butter and a spoonful of freshly grated coconut before serving. If making these ahead, store them in a box wrapped in a clean paper towel. If you need to reheat them, flip them in a hot pan for 30 seconds to 1 minute.