Twelve Tips for Making Roti-Caribbean Style Food

Twelve Tips for Making Roti-Caribbean Style Food

Do You want to make Roti that turns out right every time?

Caribbean or Guyanese food can be complex, time consuming or strenuous to make if you are a newbie. It can take years of practice and acquired intuition to get a dish perfect on a consistent basis, and even then, one person’s way of doing things may be completely different than another person’s.  But there are some tips that you can use to get consistent delicious results without years of practice. Roti or Paratha Roti is Buss Up Shut in Trinidad. Sada Rotis, Dosti/Bake and Dahl Puri are also very much a Caribbean bread stable, particularly in Trinidad and Guyana and are the perfect accompaniment to most dishes and dhal.

As the recipes on Ajee’s House are guidelines and instructions often using shortcuts in a modern kitchen, I’d like to offer some cooking tips as an American born child learning the hard way to cook from her mother (no recipes) that can help put you on the straight and narrow when it comes to Caribbean Style Roti/Guyanese Roti.

Don’t let your roti turn out like this!

Flat and Misshapen Roti on Griddle/Tawa


Twelve Quick Steps That Will Elevate Your Roti-making Caribbean Style

  1. Use WARM to HOT water when making the dough. I don’t understand the physics of it, but it makes the dough turn out better than using cold water.
  2. ALWAYS keep dough covered while you are working with individual pieces to keep it from drying out or when letting it rest. I like using a damp paper towel. Nothing is worse than working with dried out dough.
  3. WOODEN rolling pins are better than marble. Something about the grainy texture provides the right amount of traction but no stick. (Beer bottles or wine bottles can be used in a pinch if you find that someone has stolen your rolling pin for unknown purposes, or if your significant other/children/Ayi put it in the wrong cupboard and you just didn’t find it in time. (I lived in China at one time as a College student and used what I had:-)
  4. TIE UP YOUR HAIR (if you’re a person with long hair). Stray hairs in the dough just isn’t appetizing.
  5. Use ONE hand to mix the dough, that way you’ll have a clean hand to turn on faucet to refill your water cup without getting flour all over the sink. (Kids helping to cook in their own bowl as I did as a child are excepted)
  6. Instead of rolling and oiling and refolding individual rotis, save time by rolling just-made dough into a LARGE RECTANGLE, about twice as long as it is wide. Spread oil and sprinkle flour across the surface like you would in the recipe instructions for individual rotis, and then starting from the long-end, roll the dough up like you would a yoga mat. Then pinch off into balls, twisting the ends closed and pressing them in. This really cuts the time to make breakfast or dinner and you might be inspired to make it on weekdays.
  7. Individual roti balls should be about the size of a TANGERINE for Guyanese or Jamaican style roti. If you’re Trinidadian then make them the size of grapefruit for Buss-Up Shut.
  8. DON’T roll roti too thin, or else it won’t rise and separate. Optimal thickness is 1/10 of an inch, the thickness of an American 5 cent coin.
  9. Make sure the Griddle/Pan/Tawa is HOT HOT HOT before you cook. Water should sizzle and evaporate immediately when sprinkled on the surface.
  10. Only flip 3 times! Any more and the roti will become tough.
  11. Use a covered pitcher to “clap or beat” the roti. Repeatedly shaking in a pitcher has the same effect. The last step when cooking Paratha/Roti is to take it off the griddle/Pan/Tawa when cooked on both sides, wrap the roti in a clean kitchen cloth or paper towel and beat on both ends with your hands (like Guyanese), or a rolling pin (Belna) or Dabla as in Trinidad to separate layers and make it flaky. Guyanese call this “clapping” the roti. This can be very hot and shaking it in a pitcher saves your hands.
  12. Get the kids involved in learning by having them participate in the cooking. An easy way for kids to help with cooking roti is for them to do the “clapping” using Tip 11 (a light unbreakable pitcher with cover). In addition, give them one roti to “roll” while you cook the rest.  (aka sacrificial roti).
    5 Year Old Granddaughter Making Roti

    I hope these tips help! Do you have other shortcuts or tips for Cooking Paratha roti or Buss Up Shut that you use? You can find an easy roti recipe here. If you have other shortcuts to cooking Caribbean Food, let us know. Ajee’s House will continue sharing recipes of the Caribbean dishes made at home, provide shortcuts and tips from Caribbean expats cooking abroad and passing traditions on to future generations like me. I’ve shared my favorite roti cooking shortcuts. Now, what are your favorites?

Note: Post written by Ajee’s oldest daughter.

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