Making Indian Flat Bread-Chapati


One of the glorious things of living in New Delhi, India was having domestic staff. We had a lovely woman who cleaned, did child care and would cook when we craved Indian food. A few months before departing it dawned on me that I better learn some of these dishes if I wanted to be able to eat it once home! So I asked her to teach me chapati making–aka Indian flatbread aka Indian wheat tortillas. With only atta (wheat flour), water and a hint of oil and salt, it seemed easy enough. Well…she was laughing so much she texted my driver to come in and watch. He kept laughing too and showed me up by making expert chapati himself. Even my 2 year old daughter rolled them out better than me.  See, it turns out I am horrible at rolling out circles of dough.

Fast forward to last week. Big family reunion at the beach and each family unit makes a meal. We decide on Indian food for ours and prepare a massive menu. My job was to make chapati. For 19 people. While they taste best fresh off the stove, I knew given my making speed I’d have to make them early and people just eat them cold. We’d bought atta ahead of time and brought it. Atta is Indian what flour. It’s not directly the same as Western wheat flour as I gather the milling process is different. The store of course only had a massive bag. I’ll be using atta for the next ten thousand years.

My chapati weren’t the prettiest (still not any better at rolling circles) and they didn’t puff right on the flame, but they were yummy! Not bad for the first time making them completely independently.

Chapati steps:

  1. Mix dough–flour, bit of oil, bit of salt, just enough water to make a dough. Kneed and kneed.
  2. Roll dough into little balls. Then flatten each ball and roll into a very flat circle. Make it really thin.
  3. Heat up stove. This works best on a gas stove with open flame, though you can do it without the final step if you don’t have gas.
  4. Stick circle on pan and let cook on each side until you start to see little golden spots and it starts to puff a bit. Flip.
  5. Move pan off flame and stick the chapati directly onto the burner. If you did it right, it puffs up! Ideally, it puffs into one big ball, but we never managed this. It would puff in parts.  Watch out for fire! You don’t keep it on very long-just long enough to get a few crispy parts. Flip it.
  6. Repeat. While the chapati was cooking on the pan, I’d roll out the next one.

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