Monday, October 16, 2006

Chavalachi Roti

The wood fired stove is called chool.

Chavlachi Roti (Koli) or Tandlachi bhakri (Marathi) is the humble Rice flour bread. Its a staple in Koli families in the villages. Mornings begin with this roti made fresh and the previous night's fish curry for breakfast. Yes it may sound strange to begin the day with Non-veg for some but that is tradition in Koli families in the villages and not half baked Koli like me who were brought up on maska pao and Khari-butterrrrr. This lingo will sound fimiliar to South Mumbaities :).

Back to the roti, in Koli families the menu for the day goes like this on most.

Breakfast: Chavlachi roti- ratcha kanji (last nights curry)
Lunch: Fresh kanji- Dhan (cooked rice)-taleli tukdi (fried fish)
Dinner: Roti ni Kanji ( Roti and curry)

No fancy BF or snacks in between just good old staple food.

Kolis are a very hard working lot and take their business seriouly so no fuss food. Koli women are a fiery lot and have been working along with the men in the businesses. They have divided duties. Fishing on the boat is a guys job while selling and drying fish is a woman's job. The women are tough negotiators in business and do retail as well as bulk business themselves with
agents who are always men. The concept of a working woman is as old and stone age in my community. Koli women especially the Nakhwin ( Lady Business head) does not cook herself she would generally have domestic help to make rotis for the entire family and staff. The Kanji would be made by the eldest lady in the family like mother or Maa-inlaw. Festival food would be ordered at the Goldsmiths or Brahmin's home who's wife was considered a Sugran (super cook). Yet whenever she cooked herself it was to die for and simply different.


1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup water

Boil the water in a pan and as its boiling slowly add the rice flour into it and stir with a rolling pin. Remove from heat now knead the flour properly. The more you knead the roti will be easier to make. If too hard dip your hand in water and knead to make it like regular chapati dough.

Now this is a tough one and a test for a Koli bride-to-be. Rotya yetan? the bride-to-be is asked which means do you now how to make roti? So lets begin, first sprinkle some water on a plate and wet it evenly by moving your palm over the plate this action is like your wiping the plate. Then take a small ball from the dough you kneaded. Then flatten the ball into a roti. Keep the plate surface wet and keep moving the roti in circular dirrection just like you would beat a roti on dry flour. If the roti is sticking to the plate keep wetting the plate with water intermottently. When the roti is big like a chapati hold part of the roti on the left palm and part in the plate and with the right palm beat the edge and keep moving the roti in circular fashion. Keep wetting the plate with little water. The roti should be thin. Traditionally the roti is shaped in flat iron tava which you might have seen at pav-bahji stalls. This tava is the cold tava. After shapping it is roasted on a terracotta tava heated with wood fired stoves. These two things give the special taste that is so wonderful. However don't sulk its good enough to roast the roti on any kind of tava. Remember when you are roasting the roti. The smooth surface stays on the top and rough surface should face the hot tava. Again sprinkle water on the roti and spread it around in a circular movement. This is done so that the roti should puff up when the other side is roasted. After the steam has subsided lift the roti and turn it over to roast the second side. Make sure the edges are roasted well too. Then turn it over to the first side again and put a flat spoon under it so that it does not stick to the tava. It should puff up nicely. A good roti is roasted on high heat and it should have one thick side and one paper thin side. Rice roti is a cultured palate stuff so some might not like it. This roti goes with any spicy curry.


  1. What an elobrate procedure... woo, tough job indeed for the bride-to-be.The taste should be worth the efforts. Thnx for the write-up on this traditional food.

  2. Very different kind of recipes and lovely write ups! Do try to include some photographs too, Anjali. It helps to see what the end product looks like.
    Will be dropping in again soon! :-)

  3. pleasure

    Vani....Right now I'm posting during lunch breaks at work really tight on time but will post pictures someday I hope.

  4. Wow! Such tutorials are what makes blog-surfing worth the time - to find out about the everyday variety in food. And the effort, my God - I'll probably want to attempt it only if I had some experienced help look over my shoulders.
    Great for some koli curries...

  5. Hi,

    I used to live with a konkani family at b'lore and they made similar kind of roti, i crave these and have always tried to duplicte with no success. the lady used to make the dough similarly but roll it out like a regular chapati and the cooked end result was soft melt in your mouth roti' ist the same stuff you wrote about? if so once the dough is done can i roll it out.. or am i talking about something totally different here. the lady i lived with is no more hance i can't call her up on a whim and ask her about this and yours is probably the first site that i found this info on.

  6. Anon
    I guess you are talking of akki roti that is common in blr homes.
    the one here is with avare but if you make it plain then its just called akki roti.

    Yet if you are talking of a konkani family and the melt soft melt in the mouth rotis. Then it is the type the Agri community makes in maharashtra. Once the dough is done you can roll it out for the version you are talking about.

    This Koli one is slightly crisp when hot and chewy when cold. The difference is it is patted with water as lubricant and not flour.

    Thanks for the last comment I appreciate it.

  7. Nice blog , see my blog too ..

  8. Must say, the procedure for making Chavlachi Roti is well elaborated.
    This is one thing I never tried on my own.

  9. Oh Varnita! necessity is the mother of creation. You are lucky to still get it ready made for you. I had to try out for else Dad gets homesick.
    BTW congrats on becoming the big Nanand! Has Avdhoot gone back to Canada yet?

  10. Hi, can I get the Classic Koli Fish Curry recipe please? The way the Kolis make it!!!


  11. Sure Prakash. This time I visit Thal, my native place I'll take pictures and post a recipe too. You will have to wait till then as I am vegetarian and don't cook fish but in my native place it is eaten for all 3 meals so I do promise.

  12. Prakash, here is one type of fish curry

    This is with a coconut base curry. Generally Koli's make crabs, lobsters and dry bombil, dry prawns in this fashion.

    The kanji without coconut masala I will post another time.

  13. Loved this post; they draw a sharp picture.

  14. Hello Anjali,
    I am from Chola Gaon in Thakurli. I loved your blogs and would you be kind enough to post ur promised fish curry recipe? I am following you and ur posts r just wonderful. they took me down the memory lane of living in an agripada/koli neighbourhood. Usha, Dhakli's eldest daughter used to make bhakris and I had the previlige of watching her bake them for many years. entering their kitchen and snatching bhakri just announcing, kaki, mana (aka mala) bhook lagli hain, mi bhakri ghetey...

  15. Sunshine I will be in Thal soon and will post the recipe of at least 1 kanji for you :)

  16. Sunshine here is a lobster curry you can try


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