A visit to the South Indian states is incomplete without a meal of Malabar parotta and beef curry in Kerala, or veechu parotta and salna (spicy gravy) in Tamil Nadu. This unleavened, flaky, flat-bread uses the most basic ingredients to create something quite spectacular. However, it takes much practice to make the perfect parotta, and it is therefore no surprise that the cooks who make these parottas are called parotta ‘masters’ in Tamil Nadu. Watching a master at work, flipping the dough, slapping it on a greased tabletop, and spinning it is much like watching an artist at work. Any doubts about the artistry will fall away the minute you take your first bite of parotta.
Here’s listing some of the most famous parottas in the south -
The most popular of all the South Indian varieties, Malabar parottas are a flakier, more layered cousin of the North Indian laccha. Made with maida, eggs, water and generous amounts of ghee or oil; the key to getting the perfect Malabar parotta lies in letting the dough rest, and also in stretching the dough as thin as possible so that more layers can be incorporated. Once the Malabar parotta has been fried, the sides are gathered and given a quick crush that opens up the layers and makes it flakier.
Coin parotta is made following the same technique as the Malabar parotta. What differs here is the size - while the typical Malabar parotta is about the size of a side plate, the coin parotta is, no, not the size of a coin, but that of a saucer. Perhaps invented for the slightly more health conscious, the coin parotta is a popular feature at any typical Malayali wedding. The small size makes the dough easier to roll out, and most home-cooks prefer to make them in their kitchen over Malabar parotta.
If the coin parotta is for the health conscious, the Virudhunagar Ennai Parotta is for those who want to up the parotta ante even further. Instead of pan frying, the dough gets deep-fried, and the result is a parotta that is crunchy and flaky on the outside and soft on the inside. Madurai is the home of this parotta type where it served with a spicy gravy called salna on the side.
Although veechu parotta uses the same ingredients as coin and Malabar parotta, what differs is the technique used to flatten the dough. The name may come from the Tamil word ‘veesu’ which means to spin/wave in the air. The rolled-out discs of dough gets flipped in the air and spun until it turns paper thin. The corners are then gathered and folded to form an envelope, and the parottas are tawa-fried with a little drizzle of oil.
Although originating in Sri Lanka, Ceylon parotta has been adapted into the parotta canon in South India and is common throughout Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It is made of two layers and like veechu parotta, folded into an envelope. What sets the Ceylon parotta apart is that it is often stuffed with vegetables or minced meat, or even seafood, in some cases.
Like the previous dish, kothu parotta is also a Sri Lankan import where it is known as kothu roti. It is a popular street food in Tamil Nadu and certain parts of Kerala and involves chopping up flaky parottas into bite-sized pieces and stir-frying them with meat and a spicy gravy. In some cases, an egg is scrambled into the mixture as well.
A variation of kothu parotta, chilli parotta contains capsicum and onions in the place of meat. In certain variations, the pieces of parotta are coated in flour and spices and deep-fried until crispy. The pieces are then tossed in a coconut gravy along with capsicum and onion. In both, chilli and kothu parottas, curry leaves that are added towards the end, elevate the dish to new levels of deliciousness.
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