Sometimes I wonder if I would have been so enthusiastic about cooking if I hadn’t come to the UK when I was 17. It was definitely a whole new experience, and I still remember how I was a mixed bag of feelings – excited yet slightly apprehensive. I must say I was lucky, as I went to an A level college which pretty much looked after us in every way possible – all our meals were catered for, we had our laundry done for us once a week, and even our rooms cleaned every so often! It also helped that at least three quarters of the year was from South East Asia, and it felt like a home away from home.
And then there was university, where after a year in halls, I had to start looking for a place to stay. Slowly, the true reality of life started to sink in – rent, household chores, living with people you barely knew, and of course dealing with bills.
Anyway, I digress. I was saying how I probably wouldn’t be such a cooking nut if I had stayed on in Malaysia – primarily because I would have lots of food available to me, pretty much 24/7. I mean, anyone who’s been to Malaysia will know that eating is truly a national hobby, and that we will go to great lengths to eat the “best char koay teow” (or insert appropriate dish here).
The fact that I often crave for various Malaysian dishes that are hard to come by in London is therefore a good thing, as it forces me to learn how to cook them. Now I’m not saying I do it well, but beggars can’t be choosers. When you’re desperate, anything is better than nothing.
Roti jala (directly translated as “net bread”) is a popular Malaysian dish that is often served at parties (or “kenduri” as we call it back home). They are essentially savoury crepes which have a net like design, and are eaten with curries – my favourite way to eat them is with chicken and potato curry. And if you asked me what my favourite carb accompaniment to curry was - this would be it. I would not dare to speak of how many of these I can eat in one sitting…
These are made with a special mould, which has five mini “funnels” in it. I didn’t take a photo of it, but type “roti jala mould” into google images and you’ll find lots of photos. If you don’t own such a mould, you can poke 5 holes in a can/bottle and use that as a makeshift mould (I have never done this myself so cannot vouch for how well this will work).
Although time consuming (as you have to make one at a time), these are actually quite easy to whip up. I was actually surprised at how fuss free they were, and how good they tasted! If you haven’t had these before, do try them, and I promise you won’t be dissapointed!
- 300g plain flour
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp corn oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground tumeric
- 300ml water
- 300ml semi-skimmed milk (you can also use coconut milk)
1. Combine all the ingredients, and whisk until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Strain the batter.
2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium high heat.
3. Fill the mould with some batter, and make a few mini-swirls in the pan until it forms a large “net” pancake. (It’s hard to explain this process with words, and in retrospect, I should have taken photos of the cooking process to make it easier to understand. This video from youtube shows this process.) *
4. When the batter is set (takes about 1 minute), flip it over and cook the other side for approximately 30 seconds.
5. Remove pancake/crepe from the pan, and fold them into triangles/roll them up as I did.
6. Repeat the above until you have used up all the batter. I keep the cooked roti jala in a low heat oven to keep them warm.
7. Serve warm with a curry of your choice.
*When making the mini-swirls, keep the mould as close to the pan as possible as it helps to create a prettier net like design. On my first few attempts, I had the mould too far away from the pan (i.e. too high), which meant that by the time the batter got close to the pan, the flow of the batter was nearing a “drip drip” flow (as opposed to a continuous flow of batter which is what you want). Errr, does that make sense?