Kottu roti is a street food that has its origins in Batticaloa, in the east of Sri Lanka. It quickly became a very popular street food across the country. While there are many popular Sri Lankan dishes that have its origins in South India, this meal is one of the rare Sri Lankan meals that has become popular and localized in South India. If you walk around Colombo in the evenings, you are bound to hear a kottu vendor at some point or other. The noisy clang of the double cleavers that the kottu maker wields on a large roti pan and the smell and sight of the roti/ paratha and vegetables being chopped and cooked right in front of you is a treat. Check out this video clip of Mark Wiens for a visual of what I described above – the making of a kottu roti on the street.
When my mother has leftover roti or other dishes from the previous day, she sometimes attempts to recreate this popular Sri Lankan street food at home. While she does not chop the roti up with a cleaver nor is the mixing and cooking all simultaneously done on the pan, I do like the results. My mother wished to share her kottu series on this blog this month so I will be celebrating this blog’s first anniversary by bringing her vegetable kottu roti to my favourite weekly party over at The Novice Gardener‘s space.
I have enjoyed sharing music clips together with the recipes on this blog. As I started featuring Indian movie songs with the music of one of south India’s influential music composers, Ilayaraja, I wanted to wrap up the playback singers and composers theme by featuring the other most influential composer of South India and beyond. This August, I will share the music of A.R.Rahman that I have enjoyed over the years. To kick-off the A.R.Rahman month, I would like to share today three songs that moved me and made me a fan from his early years as a music composer. The beautiful lyrics of all three were written by Vairamuthu.
The first song is from Mani Ratnam’s movie Thiruda Thiruda (translation: Thief Thief, 1993). The playback singers are K.S.Chitra and Mano. I remember enjoying watching this fun movie and this is one of the few songs for which I remember most of the lyrics.
The second song is from Bharathiraja’s movie Karuthamma (1994). The playback singer, Swarnalatha, won a national award for this sad song at the age of 21. There is an old youtube clip of an interview with the late singer where she talks of having been very much moved by the song that she was crying by the time she had finished the recording. Swarnalatha was particularly good at conveying emotions in folk tunes and won several state awards in her short career and life.
The last clip is from Suhasini Mani Ratnam’s movie Indira (1995). The playback singers are Anuradha Sriram, Sujatha Mohan, Shweta Mohan, G.V. Prakash Kumar, Esther and Sha. I get goose bumps each time I listen towards the end of the song, approximately the last 75 seconds of this meaningful song.
Hope you enjoy these special songs as you try out your own version of kottu roti!
Vegetable Kottu Roti
- All-purpose flour – ½ cup
- Warm water and salt, to taste
- Onion – ½, chopped
- Garlic – 1 tsp, chopped
- Ginger – chopped
- Tomato – ¼ cup, chopped
- Crushed chillies – 1 tsp
- Kesari or turmeric
- Potato – 2 tbsp, chopped
- Carrot – 2 tbsp
- Beans – 2 tbsp
- Leeks – 1 tbsp
- Oil – 1 tbsp (for dough) + 1 tsp + 1 tbsp
- You can either use leftover roti or prepare fresh ones.
- For fresh roti, prepare the dough by mixing the flour, warm water and salt. Let it rest for an hour.
- Roll out the dough into one or two roti. Cook the roti until browned on both sides.
- Chop the roti up into thin strips.
- Heat 1 tsp oil in pan and fry the ginger, garlic and onion.
- Add chopped tomato, crushed chillies, turmeric and salt to the pan and continue to lightly fry for 2 – 3 mins.
- Transfer the pan contents to a blender, add a little water and puree it so that it makes ¼ cup.
- In a pan, fry 1 tbsp oil and add the chopped potato, carrot, beans and leeks. Mix in the puree.
- Add the chopped roti.
- Stir fry for a couple of minutes and transfer to serving dish.
Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.