Recipes from Christmas Island: Roti Canai (Flatbread)

Recipes from Christmas Island

Roti Canai

Country: Christmas Island
Course: Bread
Makes: 8 servings


  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup ghee, room temperature (divided)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Mix the flour with the salt, sugar and about 1/4 of the ghee. Rub it together with your fingertips until it starts to get clumpy.
  2. Add the egg, milk and water. Mix until well-combined, and then knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until you get a smooth, stretchy dough.
  3. Divide the dough up into eight equal-sized parts and shape them into balls. Coat each ball of dough with about a teaspoon of ghee, then cover them with a paper towel and let them rest for at least six hours.
  4. If your kitchen isn't warm, microwave each dough ball for a few seconds until it is warm enough to work with. This will make it easier to stretch.
  5. Cover a work surface of at least 2 feet by 2 feet with a thin layer of ghee. In the center of the workspace, put about 1 teaspoon of ghee. You will also need to cover your hands with ghee.
  6. Pick up the first ball and place it on the center of your workspace. Flatten it with your hand until it is about six inches in diameter. Pull the dough from the center outwards, working in 3 or 4 inch sections, until you've stretched it out into a large, uniformly paper-thin circle about 2 feet in diameter. You will need to go back and redo areas as needed, concentrating on the parts that are thicker. It's very stretchy but be careful, you can still end up with holes.
  7. Take the sheet and roll it up loosely like a rope, trying to keep some air in between the layers (this is what replaces the yeast and makes the texture of the final bread light instead of dense). Now drizzle the rope with another teaspoon of ghee.
  8. Coil the first rope into a loose pinwheel shape, keeping plenty of small air pockets in between the coils. Tuck the end into the center, then repeat with the rest of the ropes. Flip them over and let rest for five minutes.
  9. Flatten the first pinwheel until it is about 7 or 8 inches in diameter. Melt some ghee over low heat in a large griddle and cook the first dough until it is a deep golden brown on both sides. Repeat with the remaining breads.
  10. When they have cooled a little, put each one between your hands and "clap" a few times, which will help separate the layers.