No one Singaporean dish transitions as gracefully from breakfast food to late-night suppers as roti prata. Living at Upper Thomson Road, impromptu prata gatherings were a huge part of my school years. It would be an hour or two after dinner when one of us would message the others in our group chat asking if anyone else was up for prata. We would gather and have pratas, Milo dinosaurs and Indian mee goreng late into the night.
When we moved to Melbourne, I was surprised at the humble prata’s popularity here, the cheapest going for $8-9 per disk! It started making appearances at restaurants, with one luxe iteration even being layered with brown butter and topped with black truffles. What is known here as ‘roti’ is actually a bigger version of coin prata, my favourite type of prata.
Though Prata House is the roti prata haunt of choice for many Upper Thomson folks, mine is the smaller, more nondescript stall located in a Sin Ming housing estate. The coin pratas here are their specialty and a trip back to Singapore is never complete without a visit here. There is a woeful lack of coin prata recipes/ tutorials on the web, which is a shame because it is way more flaky and addictive than the more ubiquitous egg or plain pratas.
Whichever prata you choose to make with this dough recipe, please make your own ghee. Ghee lends pratas the most nutty, rich flavour – it’s just not the same without it. A good vegan option is coconut oil – I’ve had good success with it, though you have to love its flavour as it really comes through.
Loosely adapted from Buttermilk Pantry
Makes 4 plain or egg pratas, or 16-20 coin pratas
50g boiling water
1.5 tbs homemade ghee, shallot oil or coconut oil
50g milk or evaporated milk
50g warm water
Eggs if desired, for egg pratas
Homemade ghee, shallot oil or coconut oil, for frying and layering
Prepare homemade ghee according to the tutorial on this website. Ghee is so crucial to the flavor of roti prata – don’t skip it. If you are vegan, coconut oil is a great substitute – I’ve used it before, with great success.
Start by mixing the flour, boiling water and ghee together to form clumps of dough. Stir together the milk, water, salt and sugar in a small bowl. If you are using milk from the fridge, use hot water, so the mixture is warm. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and stir until a wet, shaggy dough forms. Rub your palms with ghee and divide the dough into four portions. Shape each portion into a round and rub liberally with ghee. Allow to sit at room temperature in a bowl that is generously coated in ghee for 2 hours, covered. After the 2 hours, the dough can be stored at room temperature for another 12 hours or in the fridge for up to 48 hours – remember sure that the dough balls are liberally coated in ghee and well-wrapped with plastic to prevent drying out. If you’re storing them in the fridge, bring them back to room temperature before flipping.
Whichever prata you’re making, rub your hands and table surface liberally with ghee before proceeding.
To make plain roti prata, flatten each disk of dough with the heel of your hand until it forms a 5” circle. If you’re right-handed, place your left hand on the dough. Scoot your right hand under the dough on the right of where your left hand is. Lift your right hand so that your hand and the section of the dough it is holding on to is off the table’s surface. As if tracing a small invisible circle in the sky, flip the dough to the left and bring it back down to the table in one circular motion. You should see your dough widen in size, and get stretched thinner. Repeat multiple times – the circular motion should get larger as the dough gets thinner. The goal is to not tear holes in the stretched sheet of dough, so be gentle. When the dough looks like it is going to break, set it down on the counter and stretch it out by gently pulling on the perimeter of the circle. The dough should be thin enough to read the papers.
If you’re making a plain prata, make four folds – from the top, bottom, left and right. Then flatten, flip and stretch again. The dough would be more resistant to stretching now, and the stretched dough will be slightly thicker and smaller – so just make two folds – from the top to the bottom and from the right to the left. Slightly flatten with the heel of your palm and you’re ready to fry.
If you’re making an egg prata, make sure that your stretched out prata has no holes or tears (save the ones with holes for coin or plain prata). Egg prata requires perfectly stretched prata. Crack an egg over the top and break it up with your fingers. Spread it out on the prata. It is important that you use small eggs (Singaporean eggs are great for this). If you use large or jumbo eggs, there might be too much egg and it will leak before your prata makes it to the pan. If large or jumbo eggs are all you have, crack the egg into a bowl and roughly mix with a fork – use just half and egg for each prata. Make four folds – from the top, bottom, left and right.
If you’re making coin pratas, spread the dough with a liberal amount of ghee. Cut each piece of dough to 4-5 pieces depending on what size you prefer. With your dominant hand holding the strip of dough from a height, and your other hand at the base of the dough, coil the dough up in a circular fashion.
For the frying, heat a pan (preferably cast-iron) on your stove over medium heat for plain or egg prata and low heat for coin pratas. You want to douse the pan with ghee and let that heat up when the pan is hot. For coin pratas, use a very generous amount of ghee – the ghee should pool around the coin pratas. Add the plain, egg or coin pratas and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remember to cook coin pratas longer than you would for plain or egg as they are thicker. For the plain prata, fluff it up by ‘smashing’ it between two hands on the table to loosen up the layers before serving. Serve the roti pratas immediately, preferably with a curry of your choice.