A soft and yet crisp flatbread, roti prata (or paratha) is often eaten together with mutton or dhal curry. It is sold mostly by Indian Muslim stallholders at coffeeshops and hawker centres.1 There are two common types of roti prata sold in Singapore – plain prata and prata with egg. However, these days, many eateries offer interesting and innovative versions by adding cheese, mushrooms, bananas, sugar, jam, chocolate, and ice cream to the dish.2 To many, roti prata serves as a staple food for breakfast, lunch and dinner; although, it is most often eaten as a breakfast item.3
Origins Roti prata belongs to a group of breads indigenous to India. Introduced to Singapore by Indian immigrants, 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 its origin, roti prata has become an integral component of Indian cuisine in Singapore.4 Preparation Flour, ghee or margarine and salt are the basic ingredients for making roti prata. Water is added to the flour to form a stiff dough which is then kneaded. This is an important step in yielding a dough that is soft and pliable. By kneading, air is introduced into the dough, making it light. After this, the dough is divided into smaller portions and left to rest for at least five hours or overnight.5
Before the ‘prata man’ begins flipping the dough, he will first grease his work table and hands with edible oil. Then he takes a piece of the dough, flattens it on the table and with sure, swift movements, whirls and twirls the dough from left to right, and from right to left until it is paper thin, and has stretched four to five times its original size. This is the most difficult step in prata-making, and is considered an art in itself. After folding the stretched dough into a rectangle or a circular disc, he tosses it onto the hot and well-greased griddle.6
The prata is said to be cooked when dark brown "blisters" appear on the surface. A well-made prata should be crisp on the outside and soft inside.7 Roti prata is best enjoyed eaten with the fingers; the bread is torn into bite-size pieces, and dipped into curry before being popped into the mouth. In Singapore, however, it is not surprising to see the dish being served with a fork and spoon, or even a fork and knife.8
Variations There are many variations of the ordinary prata. When egg is added, it becomes an egg prata. On the other hand, when minced meat such as mutton or chicken, eggs and onions are added, it is called muruthapa. Indian restaurants offering vegetarian fare sell muruthapa with a vegetable filling.9 These days, prata comes with all kinds of new-fangled fillings such as cheese, mushroom, tomato, garlic, chocolate, banana, condensed milk, jam, corn and even durian and chicken floss. There is also tissue prata, which is the exceptionally thin and crispy version drizzled with evaporated milk and sugar.10
The information in this article is valid as at 11 October 2016 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.