One of my themes in food is simplicity. Not only because I’m lazy, but also because I like to have each ingredient be meaningful, and not be drowned in a cacophony of flavors.
Few recipes are purer and more basic than the roti recipe. Whole wheat flour mixed with water, kneaded, rolled out, and roasted. Just two ingredients, and yet there is an infinity of variations on that theme.
Add a few ingredients, and a whole new set of possibilities open up. I first tried theplas when I was nine, and a classmates mom made a whole stack to share at school. What I remember is the strong flavor of asafetida (the ‘fetid resin’, or, the ‘devil’s feces’), along with some heat. Just a few additions, and yet, this is an entirely different meal than the basic roti.
Step 1: The flour mixture for one serving.
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur’s premium whole wheat), half to one teaspoon asafetida, half a teaspoon turmeric, half a teaspoon or more red chili powder, a fistful of dry methi if you can’t acquire the fresh one, one quarter cup plain yogurt (I prefer Nancy’s plain whole milk yogurt, if not homemade), salt to taste. Knead into a taut dough.
Step 2: Roll out.
Using sprinklings of all purpose flour as a non-stick device, roll them into five-inch rounds on the counter or wooden board. A ball of dough about two inches in diameter will produce a round that large. Try to get it as thin as you can.
Step 3: Roasting.
Get your griddle nice and hot on a medium-high flame. The roasting follows the standard pattern: first side, about 30 seconds, until the dough turns a shade darker and small air bubbles start to appear; flip it. Second side, another 30 seconds, until the air bubbles combine and form a few large ones; spread a few drops of oil on the thepla and flip it once again; 30 seconds more, spread another few drops of oil, and flip it once more for the last time. So we have had four flips, and each side has been cooked twice, once with and once without oil.
This series of pictures shows the progression.
Next (and yes, I got it a little extra burnt):
Stack up the prepared theplas on a platter. A good accompaniment is a sweet mango pickle; yogurt is a standard too.
Here is my Sunday morning meal: theplas, yogurt, and some sour mango pickle.