Every year, I take a trip to Thailand to visit my family and friends. Some relatives and friends look the same year after year and some have gone through transformations...like food in Thailand.
When I was growing up there was only one style of sweet roti and the vendors were South Asian immigrants. This style has the stretched dough spiraling into a round, flower-like shape, then flattened into a round disk. This roti is fried in oil with a small piece of margarine. When the roti is golden brown, the vendor places it on paper, drizzles some sweetened condensed milk and sprinkles some sugar on top and rolls it up. This roti is soft with a few crunchy spots and is very sweet. Off you go, eating warm, sweet roti, walking the streets of Bangkok.
About 10 years ago, I noticed that I could get a super crispy roti at a mall. Street food gone high end? Then I started to see them everywhere. The vendors are no longer just immigrants but everybody and anybody who can make roti. I like the super crispy roti as much as my childhood roti. The super crispy roti has the same dough but stretched dough goes directly into hot oil. The increased surface area is exposed to hot oil, resulting in even more crunchy crispiness.
The evolution of roti didn't stop there. I can now get fillings in my roti. Just like Thai cooks took over the original rotis from the Indians, the fillings show the their assimilation of other foreign foods. The fillings now range from bananas to strawberry jam, to the Italian Nuttela. Even simple cheese was not even enough, so now you can find pizza toppings.
When you're in Thailand, stop at a roti stand and enjoy a warm roti with a long history. In the meantime, let's make it at home.