What is Roti?

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Roti are a type of flat bread, sometimes called a pancake, which can be found in multiple countries in Asia and Southeast Asia. Roti can be filled with sweet or savoury stuffings or can be a side dish with curries. This post covers roti in Malaysia, India, Laus, Sri Lanka, Sigapore, Thailand, and more!

Types of Roti

What is Roti Canai in Malaysia?

Roti Canai varieties
Roti Canai varieties in Malaysia.

Roti Canai is a popular street food or restaurant food in Malaysia. Roti canai tends to be lighter or stringier than rotis found in outher countries and they come with an astonishing variety of fillings or accompaniments.

A warning for vegetarians in Malaysia, roti canai with dal may look vegetarian, but I’ve been served dal containing chicken.

What is Tissue Roti

Tissue Roti Malaysia
Tissue Roti in Malaysia

Tissue roti or roti tissu is the same dough as used for roti canai, but it’s stretched as thinly as possible to make a roti as fine as tissue paper.

This roti tends to come standing up off the plate as in our pictures, it is usually served with sugar.

Roti in Laos

Roti Making
Roti Making in Laos, Southeast Asia

Roti were a street food staple for us in Laos, particularly the family-friendly, cheese and tomato rotis.

In Laos, roti are generally called pancakes, the photo of the roti menu below gives you an insight into the flavours available.

In Laos the roti or pancakes are fried on the hotplate in yellow margarine. It’s probably not healthy! You can see the same in Thailand and in Vietnam.

A finished cheese and tomato roti in Laos, fried, folded and crispy.

While we were travelling we always used to say that Laos had the best roti of any country. But thinking about that margarine now, we’re not so sure!

The noodle soups were some of the best food we tried in Laos.

Roti in Sri Lanka

Kotu Roti
Kotu Roti in Sri Lanka

One of Sri Lanka’s most famous dishes is kotu roti, they take a roti and cut it (kotu) into fine strands while mixing it with veg, spices and meat on a hotplate.

Kotu roti is delicious but very “hot” with loads of pepper. You’ll find traditional kotu roti in some “hotels” or simple Sri Lankan restaurants, not in the tourist hotels!

We’d often grab a veg roti for breakfast in Sri Lanka, when we weren’t enjoying a full Sri Lankan breakfast.

roti shop sri lanka
Our local roti shop in Mirissa Sri Lanka.

This roti shop kept us well fed with spicy veg rotis, or for the kids’ a special treat, chocolate roti.

We have never seen roti canai in Sri Lanka or anywhere other than Malaysia and Singapore.

Roti in Thailand

Again, in Thailand you’ll see roti called pancakes and fried in yellow margarine. They are a common street food in backpacker areas like Khao San Rd, we didn’t see them on our Michelin Star Street Food Tour.

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Chef is James Long, a professional chef, world traveler and endurance athlete. He has spent almost a decade traveling and working internationaly.

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