City Food – Julia Child Makes Rumali Roti in Nizamuddin Basti
The great chef’s life in Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Meet the Julia Child of Nizamuddin Basti, a congested village in central Delhi. A cheery 28-year-old, Child hails from the state of Uttar Pradesh and has been in Delhi for more than a decade. He has a one-room apartment in the village but during the holy month of Ramzan, he prefers to sleep in the courtyard of the area’s principal sufi shrine. Child is passionate about everything that runs on four wheels. Aiming to be a driver, he has applied for a driving license. And yes, Child cooks. He works as a roti maker in Ghalib Kebab Corner, an eatery just down the lane from Urdu poet Ghalib’s tomb. Here is the recipe of Child’s ‘rumali roti’, the bread so thin that it’s as skinny as your handkerchief (hence the name; rumal means handkerchief in Hindi).
I learnt making rumali rotis from my master, Ustad Raees, who has a catering service in Turkman Gate in Old Delhi. On any given day, I make at least 5 kg, or 115, rumalis. It’s no big deal. There is no complicated recipe involved in the making of a rumali. Just prepare the dough and roll it out. The rest depends on haath ki safai (the sleight of hands).
For 10 rotis:
125 gm refined flour
125 gm ‘super fine’ flour
Mix the ingredients. Add water. If it’s a special occasion, add in milk, ghee and a little sugar. Knead till the dough’s consistency becomes pudding-like. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Now divide the dough into ten balls and cover them under a cotton cloth. After 15 minutes, take out one ball at a time. Slap it into a flat circular shape, spread it out extra-thin by a rolling pin and cook the resulting ‘rumal’ on an inverted tawa. Serve with kebabs or shorbas.
The balls are ready
Flatten the ball
Like your handkerchief
The sleight of his hands