Tuesday 3 November 2009

Roti Jala (Malaysian Lacey Coconut and Turmeric Crepes)

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Am really on a bit of a Malaysian cuisine show-and-tell mood at the moment, due in large part to the all-out Southeast Asian buffet a friend asked me to cater for her recently (a post on that coming up soon) :)

Roti Jala translates literally from Malay to mean "net bread", and are essentially soft savoury crepes traditionally served alongside a good chicken curry (although they are just as good for mopping up other kinds of tasty gravy too). Made out of coconut milk and coloured a natural yellow by ground turmeric, the attractive lacey pattern is created using one these funny-looking thingies:

A roti jala mould

Unfortunately whilst these moulds are dead cheap and easily available in Malaysia, they are nowhere to be found even in the largest Asian supermarkets here in London. Lucky for me my good foodie friend Marisa happily lent me hers (thank you makcik!)- if you can't get your hands on one then suggested substitutes I have heard of are using a squeezy bottle with a narrow nozzle (although you will need quick fingers to squirt out the pattern at top speed) or making your own mould by drilling holes into an empty tin can (although some say the lack of funnels means the batter ends up pouring out in big blobs). If you find an alternative that works do let me know!

One other really cute tip I picked up watching a roti jala man at work at his stall was to shove a fork or skewer into half an onion and using it to grease your frying pan- this not only lightly flavours your pancakes with a delicious hint of onion, but ensures you get a very thin even layer rather than pouring in too much oil.

The cool little oily-onion trick

Lastly, whilst it takes a tad more effort Marisa and hubby insist that the roti jala must be rolled into neat long bundles as shown below to ensure the correct bite, texture and "moppability", rather than being folded into triangular quarters (half, then half again). It's entirely up to you but I am inclined to agree, plus it looks prettier to me anyway :) Happy cooking!

Roti Jala (Malaysian Lacey Coconut and Turmeric Crepes)
Makes about 20 crepes

Sift together into a large bowl:
2 cups of plain flour
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Make a well in the middle of the flour, add in and whisk to form a thin batter (I use an electric mixer briefly at the end to get rid of lumps):
2 eggs
2 cups milk/coconut milk
1 cup water

Let rest for 30 mins.

Set a heavy-based frying pan on low-medium heat and grease with an onion dipped in oil. Pour the batter in using a quick circular motion as shown in my nifty little home-video below:

Wait for the batter to set (which only takes about 20-30 seconds).

Fold over two edges towards the middle.

Roll one end all the way up towards the other. Remove and place on a plate.

Repeat all of the above until the rest of the batter is used up. Serve immediately with a good hot curry.


  1. Why aren't you in New Zealand?! I could use some of that right now :)


  2. the way i've seen it done (which admittedly is infinitely messier) is to put ur hand in the batter and sort of make the shape you make for when ur picking up rice eating by hands and let the batter dribble off that way. They are not as pretty tho and you might have to dip ur hands in twice i think... Never done it myself so i don't know how well it works but thats just what I saw :)

  3. I bought this roti jala mold ages ago and it's still somewhere inside my cupboard. I definitely have to take it out soon to make me some roti jala. Great pics and instructions.

  4. Thanks for the onion tip...it's brillant. I have not made roti jala in ages, and that's partly because I am terrible at making the curry chicken to go with it :-)

  5. Thanks Jo!:)

    The onion tip is down to a stall owner but thanks hungryc :) I actually need to go perfect a traditional chicken curry, this was eaten with rendang! Will post a recipe if it turns out :)

  6. Thanks for posting this! I saw it this morning on tastespotting and then made it for dinner tonight! Yum. I used a squeeze bottle and it took a bit to get the hang of it, but eventually it worked great! Served it with a nice red curry with kabocha squash.

    Mine weren't quite as pretty as yours, but still delicious!

  7. Hey The Wind Attack,

    haha great to know it tasted good even if it wasn't as much of a "jala" (net) :) i used to make them as regular crepes when I didn't own a mould!


  8. Hi Sam, thanks for this lovely recipe. I made my roti jala with milk, and my kids love it so much.


  9. I'll be totally honest I had never seen that kind of recipe because look at the pastry's shape, that's perfect it's not only a delicious recipe but also it's like a piece of art.

  10. Wow this looks great! Never tried eating Malaysian Dish before, I just need Turmeric powder to try this one