Chewy and springy with its partner in crime chicken potato curry, roti jala is loved by many. The bright yellow colour draws people in, but its delightful taste is what keeps people coming back for more and continuously have one after another.
The net-like appearance is what gives roti jala its name. Putting things into perspective for those who have never seen nor tried roti jala before, the dish is like a savoury crepe that sometimes comes in a triangular shape or rolled shape.
What is Roti Jala?
Yellow and full of net-like holes, that is roti jala. The term “roti jala” is Malay for “net bread.” It is made from flour, turmeric (which gives that yellow colour), salt, coconut milk, and water. The net-like pattern is formed by a special apparatus; a cup with five nozzles at the bottom, where the batter will be poured into and drizzled in a criss-cross motion onto a hot greased pan. Roti jala is usually served with chicken curry. Roti jala should never be brown or crispy but delicate and tender.
History of Roti Jala
This traditional dish is not only enjoyed by Malaysians but also by others residing in the Southeast Asian Peninsula. Not much is known about the history of roti jala, but it is believed that it first came from India. The recipe was tweaked by locals after arriving in Malaysia. This is why we see similarities between roti jala and ‘putu mayam’ or string hoppers.
There is also another origin story where Malay fishermen got the inspiration to this delightful dish from the nets they used to catch fish. That is where the name originated because jala is net in English. Due to it being flour-based, roti jala is sometimes a substitute for rice in meals.
Besides being called roti jala, other name includes ‘roti renjis’ or sprinkled bread. It was because the batter would be ‘renjis’ or sprayed by hand onto the pan, which is the original way in making the net bread. Roti jala is served in a set of 4 to 6 pieces with a bowl of chicken curry.
Variety of Roti Jala and Its Popularity
There isn’t much variety to roti jala except for the colours. The standard colour is yellow, but green coloured roti jala is making its wave, and there’s even purple coloured roti jala. Roti jala is quite similar all around but they can be served with a variety of side.
For instance, chicken and potato curry, beef rendang and spicy beef floss are some of the many alternatives. The sides mentioned are more known across Malaysia except to those who reside in East Malaysia as they prefer to have it with condensed milk or sugar.
Roti jala is known and loved by Malaysians regardless of race or religion and due to its popularity, it can now be found served in restaurants across Malaysia. There is even a restaurant that only serves roti jala and nothing else. Now you don’t have to wait for the festivities to come and enjoy delicious bright roti jala at any time.
Where to find Roti Jala in Malaysia
Roti jala is commonly found at the Ramadhan bazaar during Hari Raya (Eid) and at Malay feasts or ‘kenduri’ as it is homemade and made to order. So, locating roti jala on average days can be quite the task, unless you know where to look.
Do look out for Malay stalls that sell ‘kuih-muih’ or some Malay restaurants. Try some roti jala from Hussain Nasi Kandar ( Sungai Petani) or from Warong Yati Pandan ( Johor Bahru) that serves roti jala with various side dishes.
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