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My dad’s family is originally from Guyana, a country on the northern mainland of South America. Guyanese potato roti (technically an Indian flatbread also known as aloo paratha) is, naturally, a family favorite! Here is how I make it.
When I was a little girl, it was always exciting when Grandma would come to visit. She had two primary love languages, and one of them was gift giving. She always came with surprises in her suitcase, and sometimes you would even get a “freck” (spending money) just because.
Her other love language was cooking. Curry and dahl…cook up…salt fish and bakes…chow mein and fried rice…bora stew…she made the black cake at my parents wedding, my cousins’ weddings, and my own. My grandpa–and then eventually my dad–was the one who cooked the Pepperpot and garlic pork on Christmas. But my grandma, she was the only one who made roti.
Everyone tried to make roti, but it was difficult to recreate Grandma’s roti (which was technically potato roti, but we always just called it roti). So for years, Grandma made all the roti for everyone. And she would make it every time she came to visit us.
My grandma tried to show my dad how to make roti, but when he tried on his own, the dough would be too stiff or he couldn’t get the dough to pinch closed around the filling or the potato would break through and they wouldn’t puff up when they cooked. I never minded (less-than-perfect roti is better than no roti), but I had a feeling I could do better.
The hard part about recreating Grandma’s roti is that she didn’t have a recipe. She just grabbed handfuls of flour and pinches of baking powder and salt and threw them together! So one of the last times she was able to come and visit, I had her throw each ingredient into separate bowls so I could measure it out with a cup or spoon. The filling was less tricky to recreate: Grandma always had me taste test it for her, so I knew what went in it and how it should taste when it was done.
- 4.5 c. flour
- Additional flour for dusting
- 1.5 c. warm water
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 russet potatoes (about 660g) boiled until fork tender
- Green onions, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/4 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 3/4 tsp salt (I used kosher)
- 3/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 Tbsp yellow curry powder
- Equal parts softened/melted butter and a light oil (canola or vegetable ideally, but I’ve used EVOO just fine too) for basting your potato roti and the pan you’ll be frying them on.
Now to be honest, I don’t normally use a recipe for the filling–I just throw in garlic powder, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and green onions (chopped super finely!) until it looks at tastes right. But when I made this batch, I tried to measure it out to give you an idea of what the ratios look like. I like my filling a little salty, so adjust the salt (and spiciness) to taste.
Since potatoes come in different sizes, it can be challenging to perfectly match up how much filling you should have for how much dough you make. If you have leftover filling, it can be thrown into a curry. If you have leftover dough, you can use it to make plain roti.
Step 1. Cut your potatoes into cubes, place them in a pot of water, and bring that pot of water to a boil.
Step 2. While your water is boiling, mix your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). Create a well, and pour in your warm water.
Step 3. Mix the water and flour mixture together with a clean hand until you’ve worked all the flour into it and a dough is formed. Then stop! This dough works best if it is NOT kneaded like you would traditionally knead dough. Once all the flour is worked in and your dough looks like the photo below, you don’t need to knead or mix further.
Note how the dough still sticks to my fingers quite a bit in the photo above. That’s fine. If you find your dough is VERY sticky, work a tiny bit of flour into it if needed. Then form your dough into a ball and cover it in saran wrap. You can dust the outside of the dough ball with a bit of flour to minimize it sticking to the saran wrap if needed. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes.
Step 4. When your potatoes are fork tender, crush them until smooth. My grandma always did this with a fork, but someone I found on TikTok–Althea from metemgee.com (who has a whole blog dedicated to traditional Guyanese cooking! You should check it out!)–recommended using a fine mesh colander (like this one) to make your potatoes as soft as possible.
This may seem excessive, but having very smooth potato filling is REALLY important. Doing it this way ensures that you won’t have large chunks of potato that burst through your dough when you go to roll out your roti.
Step 5. Finely chop your green onions. Again, emphasis on FINELY. Green onions are the other ingredient that likes to poke holes in your roti. I had some green onions that were frozen, so that’s why these look a little soggy. Frozen green onions worked just fine though!
Step 5. Add your green onions, garlic powder, salt and curry powder do your potatoes and mix thoroughly.
Step 6. Break your dough into balls. I weighed a few of mine on a food scale to give you an idea of how big these little dough balls are, and they all weighed around 70-80g. I cover my dough balls in the leftover saran wrap to keep them from drying out (the frying process can take a while).
Step 7. Use a spoon or an ice-cream scoop to put your potato filling in the center of your flattened dough ball…
…and pull your dough around it, covering it completely and ensuring no filling escapes. This is when you’ll be glad that you didn’t over-knead your dough and that it is soft and a little sticky!
Flip the pinched side over and your stuffed dough ball should look like this:
My grandma would stuff all (or most) of her potato roti at one time and cover them with a kitchen towel, grabbing one at a time to roll out and fry. When I’ve tried it that way, the dough has dried out. So I leave my dough balls covered in the saran wrap and stuff them as I go.
Step 8. Flour your surface (or lay down a silicone baking mat) and roll out your roti as thin as you can without the dough breaking and potato spilling out (about 1/8″ thick). Again, you’ll be glad right about now that your dough is soft and pliable and your potato filling is smooth!
Step 9. Combine roughly equal parts soft/melted butter and oil in a small bowl and mix (I have never measured this out to say how much you need for sure, but about 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup oil is probably sufficient, although you may have some left over). Using a basting brush, lightly brush the bottom of a large skillet with your butter/oil mixture before placing your roti in the skillet.
(Traditionally these are cooked on a flat iron griddle called a tawa, but I’ve never owned one, and my grandma always used an electric skillet).
Step 10: Gently baste the top of the potato roti with a little of your butter mixture (you don’t need a lot) and watch your roti puff up!
Step 11: When it has puffed up all the way and the roti exposed to the pan is cooked, flip your roti. The photo below is what mine looked like after I flipped it. I wound up cooking the first side of this roti juuuuuust a bit longer
Step 12. Put your roti on a paper plate and/or paper towel to absorb excess oil. My grandma used to use ripped up brown paper grocery bags for this purpose, but we didn’t have any.
She also used to fold all her roti in half when they were done, and stack them side by side. Why? No idea. But that’s what she did, so that’s what we still do too!
Congratulations! You just made your first potato roti! Now you just have to repeat steps 7-12 like 12-15 more times! I like to make large batches of potato roti and freeze most of them to enjoy later. From start to finish, this batch of about 11 potato roti took about 3 hours to make, but if you make your potatoes in advance–or, better yet–if you have two rotis cooking at the same time on a wide skillet or griddle, you can reduce that cook time quite a bit. I recommend listening to an audiobook, personally.
And there you have it! Guyanese potato roti–like my grandma used to make it. I can still hear her gold bangles jingle as she mixed up the dough and rolled it out. I should get myself a set.
I miss you, Grandma. I hope these roti would make you proud.
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