Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Roti Quest: Fulfilled!

What Roti Looks Like Posted by Hello
My first taste of roti bread was in New York City in 1991. I was with a group of young adults doing church work, and we were hosted by a kind family from somewhere in the West Indies. It was my first visit to NYC, and I was the proverbial girl from the country: scared and amazed at everything I saw. I remember one of our first sights arriving into the city was a car by the side of the road, stripped of all its parts, promptly followed by a man stealing an air conditioner from a shop.

Despite our initial nervousness, the DrePaul family worked hard to make us feel at home. This wasn't easy, as our group of corn-fed midwesterners was just as perplexed by the omnipresent smell of curry imbued in each room of the house as we were by the strange sights of the city. One night they cooked a traditional meal for us, making a green chicken curry and roti bread, this soft, fragrant, chewy wonderfulness. After one nervous bite, I realized I was eating one of the most amazing meals I'd ever had. I spoke to the women who had made it afterward, and I remember them shaking their heads tiredly at the amount of work it took to make roti at home. This bread is different from the traditional Indian breads you get at Indian restaurants. Since then, I've never seen hide nor hair of roti until I happened to pass by a shop in Roslindale a week or two ago. It was too late and past dinnertime, but I thought, I MUST find roti!!! All these years and I didn't even know it was something you could just buy. The food quest officially began.

With the help of chowhound.com, I was directed to go to last weekend's Carribbean Carnival in Central Square. And there it was, one lone booth selling roti amongst dozens of jerk chicken booths. It was Singh's Roti Shop, which has a store at 692 Columbia Road in Dorchester. I was so happy I had to take a photo. As you can see in the picture of roti, it looks, but does not taste, like a burrito. The bread itself is chewy and flaky -- this one had some sort of chickpea flour and spices in it. The yellow you see is either a chili oil or it is from the curried chicken. I went back and bought more of the roti bread for later, but somehow, it never quite made it home.

I love food quests! Next one: After an initial rocky start to the quest where I, um, forgot to write down the street number, I think this time I will be able to find Chilli Garden in Medford. I'll keep ya posted.

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