Tasty Tuesday – Roti Chaozhou
The latter part of this past week was an adventure for Brook and I in more ways than one. We experienced new foods, Thai river life, a coconut grove in the jungle, a camp completely run in Thai with no translators for 3 whole days… it was stretching, exciting, tiring, and wonderful all at the same time!
While off on this adventure with our fellow church members, we visited a couple of old floating markets – Bang Noy and the famous Amphawa. Our friends took great delight in taking us through the skinny, crowded, boardwalk markets, showing us things that they thought would be of interest to us in learning even more about their culture and who they are. Now, I know I’ve said this before, Thai people like to eat. Seriously, I don’t understand how the majority of people are so skinny, considering it seems they are eating something every single time I turn around. Snacks and treats are a huge part of life and society around here, so I probably don’t even need to tell you, then, that part most of our time in the markets was spent tasting different foods and treats as we walked. Needless to say, I didn’t eat supper that day.
Of all the little meatballs, sweets, fruits, snacks, and other savory items we sampled, there was really only one that I had time to snap a few photos of before moving on to the next shop.
The sign says “Roti Chaozhou” (or Teochew, as it is commonly spelled on maps) – another example of Thai-Chinese fusion food at its finest.
The Roti Chaozhou may look sort of like a spring roll, but I assure you it is not. The outside is chewy, stretchy and flavorless, while the inside is crunchy, salty, and sweet. I honestly don’t even know what to compare it to, for those of you that have never had it (which, I assume is everyone), or how to explain what it feels like in your mouth. If you are one of those people to whom texture means a lot when deciding whether or not you choose to consume certain foods, I’m not sure what to tell you! You’ll just have to give it a try for yourself one day.
Okay, so what is it?
The outside begins with a small roti the size of your palm. (Roti is the term used for all flat pancake/tortilla/crepe-like foods over here.) This particular type of roti is made using sticky (glutinous) rice flour, which is what gives it its chewy, stretchy texture and translucent appearance. A small ball of dough is placed on a hot skillet and swirled around with a spatula until it flattens out – no need for flipping. The whole cooking process, when done by someone familiar with the dough, takes mere seconds. Once slightly cooled, another person fills the circle with freshly roasted, crushed peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, and a spoonful of either brown or palm sugar. Once filled, the roti is rolled up burrito-style (tucking in the ends), reinforced with a banana leaf, and is ready to hand over for eating.
I absolutely love the combination of sweet and salty inside the roti. Add in the flavor of toasted sesame seeds, and you’ve totally won me over. However, the jury is still out on whether or not I really enjoy the combination of crunch on the inside with the super chewy outside. As strange as it sounds, it almost felt like my mouth was bouncing open and closed for the first few chews after biting off a piece of my roti. Because of that, the flavors really didn’t begin to combine or really taste like anything until I’d been munching on it for a few moments. Once they did, I thought it was quite reminiscent of a Butterfinger candy bar (score!) – though, without the chocolate and with a different texture.
Agh, it’s such a hard thing to describe! This is just another one of those foods that, if you ever make it to our side of the world, I will have to let you try for yourself.