How to Make Chapatis
Updated: Feb 6, 2019
Since I just learned how to make them, I figured I'd share this experience with you in the form of a recipe.
Rotis, chapatis, or phulkas are a staple in Indian homes. I haven't found anything that differentiates them from one another, so I find the terms to be interchangeable, depending on what state in India you're from.
Flatbreads are an essential part of most meals in most cultures. A soft, fluffy chapati makes for a full meal. My husband always says, "when the chapatis are hot, you can always eat one more".
I spent two and a half years saying that I don't know how to make chapatis. His aunties laughed, but I guess I just wasn't ready for criticism. Whose chapatis are perfect the first time? No one's.
After I quit my full time job, I realized how much time there is in the day. I quit in May, so I had a chance to do pretty much all the resting I'll need for the next year. I bought whole wheat flour at the Indian grocer down the road and got to work. It looked like a four year old making salt dough at daycare.
A few tips for your first time:
1. Take your rings off. It's tedious to spend more than 20 minutes trying to gently scrub and rinse your diamonds.
2. Use a tool at first to get the dough going. Otherwise, the wet dough will stick to your hands and you'll look like the chapati monster.
3. For the most part, shape is irrelevant.
4. Don't save the dough. If you make too much dough, just roll out and cook as many chapatis as possible. They save when they're cooked, but the dough doesn't last.
Alright, let's do this.
You'll need the following:
-tawa or frying pan
-whole wheat flour
-filtered water (we're not animals)
-medium sized bowl
-polpat or smooth, flat surface
-ghee or butter
Step 1: Put the tawa, or frying pan on stovetop at medium high heat. Take off your jewelry. Put on your apron. Pull your hair out of your face. Mentally prepare to be fantastic. "I am a dinner goddess" has been a helpful mantra, in my experience.
Step 2: In a bowl, pour some flour. If measurements are necessary for you, I may not be the most helpful person to be reading recipes from. In a medium bowl, half the bowl should be flour.
Step 3: Add a little bit of water. Use the spoon to mix it up. Add a little more. Mix that, too. Keep doing it until you have a dough that isn't sticky. If it's too wet, add some more flour. It's an art and you'll have to learn from playing with the ratios.
Step 4: You'll have to get your hands in it, now. It should only need a little more work by this point. It should have the consistency of play-doh. It really shouldn't stick to your hands.
Step 5: Flour your work surface. If you're using a polpat, I like to put a cloth underneath so it doesn't shift around.
Step 6: Pull off a little ball of dough- golf ball sized. Gently flatten it in your hands and dust it with flour. Put it in the middle of the work surface and roll it out into a nice round shape. It sounds easy, but mine usually look like the African continent. No one's mad about that.
It will probably need a little more flour during rolling. As the surface area grows, just re-dust it with flour.
Step 6: When it's all good and thin, move it to the pan. I find that my chapatis puff up by themselves, but some turn them frequently with a balled-up paper towel or tool.
When I was in middle school, my Spanish teacher told us that if women in Mexico don't use their hands to cook and lift the tortilla on the stove, they aren't respected as women. I have no idea if that's true, but now I have a complex.
Step 7: When it starts to brown (lightly) and the wet look goes away, flip it over. If it turns black, you've gone too far.
Step 8: When that tasty thing is done, you pop it on a plate and rub a little ghee on it. That will keep it fatty and moist and spectacular.
I cook them all before dinner and have them hang out in a tortilla warmer I found at Winco. They don't stay hot forever, but they're nice for dinner. This should be the last thing you do before the meal.
I also make plenty of them. Everyone can eat to their heart's desire and I still have a couple left to pack in Ravi's lunch.
To my American friends, I know you steam rice at home when you make any Indian-inspired dishes, but I urge you to try this out. It goes great with vegetarian dishes, lamb curry, chicken tikka masala, or whatever you're having for dinner. Super simple and super delicious.