Masala Akki Roti
This wonderful Kannadiga flatbread is a breeze to make, once you get the hang of it, and it makes a lovely alternative to wheat-based chapattis.
You can make plain akki roti—the name literally just means “rice bread”—which are a great staple to have in your repertoire, but I absolutely love the addition of grated vegetables, herbs, and coconut, which add fantastic texture and flavor. And I particularly love all the little bits of vegetable that peek out of the pressed-out roti and get crisp and singed while they’re being cooked.
Unlike chapattis and a lot of wheat flatbreads, these rotis are not rolled out, but, instead, are made using a chapatti press. You can find these in most large Indian supermarkets along with all the other small household appliances. Another fine alternative is a tortilla press, which you can find at most large Mexican or Latino supermarkets or home goods stores.
And if you really can’t find either a chapatti or a tortilla press, have no fear: these can be made without the aid of either, in a pinch. Masala akki rotis are traditionally made by pressing out the dough between two banana leaves coated with a touch of oil. If you happen to have banana leaves handy, do feel free to use them instead. But if you have none of the above, just use two sheets of plastic, as in the recipe below, and use a wide-bottomed saucepan to flatten out your rotis.
MASALA AKKI ROTI
1 ½ cup white rice flour
¼ cup grated carrot
¼ cup grated red radish
Half a small onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 tbsp finely chopped dill
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
¼ cup grated fresh coconut
1 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped, or to taste
Salt to taste
Ghee for cooking
In a medium bowl, mix together the rice flour with all the ingredients except the water.
Using your hand, stir well to make sure that all the chopped vegetables are liberally coated with the rice flour.
In a thin stream, add the water a little at a time, mixing with your hand as you do, until the mixture has come together in a shaggy, soft dough. This should take between 1/2 and 2/3 cups of water depending on the rice flour you’re using and the humidity.
Gather all the scraps of dough together and turn out onto a clean work surface.
Knead the dough until it is smooth, uniform, and pliable. It should be quite soft but not sticky.
Divide the dough into smooth golf-ball sized balls and set aside under plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.
Prepare your chapatti or tortilla press by cutting a plastic freezer bag into two sheets just large enough to cover the two sides of your press.
Rub one side of each sheet of plastic lightly with vegetable oil.
Place one sheet on the bottom plate of your press so that the oiled surface is facing up.
Place a ball of dough in the middle of the oiled plastic sheet. Cover with the other sheet of plastic, oiled side down.
Close the chapatti press, applying firm and even pressure to flatten out the akki roti.
To cook the roti, heat a cast-iron tava or griddle over medium-high heat.
Once the pan is hot, carefully peel off one sheet of plastic and drape the roti onto your dominant hand.
Ever so gently, remove the other sheet of plastic, taking care not to tear the roti. If you find, at this point, that the dough is just too soft to work with, it’s not to late to fix. Just recombine all the balls of dough and knead in a little more rice flour until the dough becomes manageable, then proceed with the recipe.
When you’ve removed both sheets of plastic, place the roti on the hot tava. If you find this process a little tricky, don’t worry—it does take a little practice. And don’t get discouraged either: you’ll get the hang of it after you’ve done it a couple of times.
Press down occasionally with a thin metal spatula to make sure that the roti is cooking evenly. Cook for 20 seconds or so on the first side before flipping it over
Spread a scant amount of ghee on the cooked side of the roti.
Allow to cook for another 20 or so seconds, then flip over and coat the other side of the roti with ghee.
Cook until the roti is brown and crisp in spots but take care not to let it overcook or it will become tough and rubbery. It should still be pliable and soft when you’re done.
Place the cooked roti in a chapatti dabba or insulated food dish to keep warm.
Repeat with all the balls of dough, occasionally reapplying oil to the plastic sheets to make sure that they aren’t sticking.
Serve warm with coconut chutney or with your favorite saaru or curry.