To slam dunk this week’s challenge, I took on two Malaysian standards that are often served together and used kitchen wizardry to morph the duo into a pizza. Roti canai, a ghee-heavy flatbread designed to trap pockets of air between thin layers of dough, is an ideal base for a pizza. Its usual partner, chicken curry, makes for a topping worth exploration. To begin, I slathered myself with ghee and dove into making roti canai from this very detailed recipe.
The formation of the dough is rather straightforward, requiring much kneading to acquire an incredibly smooth texture and a minimum 6 hours of resting time before the shaping begins.
Each batch produces many sets of roti canai, which are divided evenly before the dough is allowed to settle.
Each of these puppies has the ability to stretch out mega thin. Malaysian vendors keep some pretty dope moves to slap the dough into shape. Incapable of such performance, I managed to coax out a set of comparably paper-thin dough sheets with some delicate moves.
Once stretched out, the paper dough is folded over itself to create air pockets and then swirled into a disc. This little creation sees a brief resting period while a pan gets hot on the stovetop.
These wound-up formations offer some resistance to stretching despite their original malleability. Stretching the dough by hand offers a small amount of give but the final shaping is best accomplished immediately after the dough is placed in the pan. With a ghee-greased spatula, the roti canai is untraditionally smashed and flattened into the sturdy, circular shape that is required of a pizza crust.
After building the roti canai, I turned to a BBC curry recipe for the majority of my cooking guidance.
The process begins with making a curry paste made up of a good majority of the stronger aromatics that will be experienced such as turmeric, ginger, lemongrass and red peppers.
For those enamored with tradition, a mortar and pestle can do the work of a food processor with the addition of a few extra minutes and intensive upper body labor. I opted for the wine-sipping version of this pummeling session.
The bulk of the curry consists of chicken thigh, onion & potatoes.
These additions will be the main pizza toppings and act as a curry delivery system as they will be slathered in it.
The onions are allowed to soften and become fleshy before adding in the chicken, potatoes and the remaining pieces of the curry, which include coconut milk, chicken stock, soy sauce and final spicing agents. Cinnamon sticks and star anise offer surprisingly subtle but necessary aromatics. To make up for a lack of kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves and lime zest were used after finding this helpful substitution guide in a sea of unhelpful websites insistent that there is no worthwhile alternative to the real thing.
To keep the curry sauce tight, I reduced this batch down a good amount so that the pizza would not be dripping over the sides when applied.
The pizza formation was pretty straightforward once the cooking was completed. With every element made fresh, no time in the oven was needed and the dish was served hot.
The experience of eating this pizza was more satisfying than anticipated, especially in terms of texture and integration of flavors. The dough was so thrillingly soft and chewy while the chicken and potatoes were tender but able to add character. The heat didn’t jump out but rather mingled with the rest of the components, and the sauce was boldly savory without any one aromatic dominating. I devoured two sets of pizza in one sitting, but not without wine.
To pair with the curry pizzas, Vols – “Vols II,” Riesling, Spätlese, Wiltinger Braunfels, Mosel 2014 had just the right touch of sweetness to combat the heat while its searing acidity cut through the richness of the coconut curry. The nose is flooded with petrol and lime zest while tart pineapple and brilliant slate minerality make up the palate. This is a beautiful wine all on its own but can really complete an experience, as it did here.
It’s successes like this that make me bananas for a group like r/52weeksofcooking.