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Roti prata (Pratha) is a round pancake, often eaten with mutton or fish curry. It is sold mostly by Indian Muslims at coffeeshops and hawker centres and often costs anything between 60 to 80 cents. To many, it serves as a staple food for breakfast, lunch and dinner although it is most often eaten at breakfast.
The Roti Prata belongs to a group of breads which are indigenous to India. Brought to Singapore by Indian immigrants, the Roti Prata is said to be either of Punjabi origin as wheat dishes feature prominently in the Punjabi diet, or introduced by the Muslim conquerors, who also specialised in making various types of breads. Whatever the origin, it has become an integral component in the Singapore Indian cuisine.
Flour, sugar and salt are the basic ingredients for Roti Prata. Water is added to the flour to form a stiff dough. The dough is kneaded next. This is an important procedure as it makes the dough soft and pliable. By kneading, the dough is also aired and this makes it light. After this, the dough is divided into smaller portions and left to rest overnight.
In the morning, the ball of dough is placed on the work table and the prata-maker gets to work. With sure, quick movements, he whirls and twirls the dough from left to right, from right to left until it is paper thin and four or five times larger than the original piece. This is the most difficult step in prata making and is considered an art in itself. After folding this thin piece into a rectangle, he tosses the prata on the griddle greased with peanut oil. The prata is said to be cooked when dark brown "blisters" burst on the surface. A well-made prata should be crisp outside and soft inside. Pratas can be eaten with sugar, curries or just plain. The most enjoyable way of eating the pratas is with the fingers; the bread is torn into bite size pieces and dipped into the curry before being popped into the mouth.
There are many variations of the ordinary prata. When egg is added, it is an egg prata. This usually costs double the price of a plain prata. When minced meat such as mutton or chicken, eggs and onions are added, it is called muruthapa. Vegetarian Indian restaurants also sell muruthapas with a vegetable filling.
Prata makers have also gained a reputation for their skill in twirling the dough, in particular, a prata maker who kneads and twirls to the beat of Michael Jackson, with moonwalk thrown in.
Have a paratha (1983). Goodwood Journal. 3rd Qtr., 11-13.
(Call no.: RCLOS 052 GHCHJ)
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.