James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Everything We Hope for: Savory, Spicy, Crispy, and Chewy All At Once

Everything We Hope for: Savory, Spicy, Crispy, and Chewy All At Once

Akki Roti in Bangalore

After an intensive yoga session in South Bangalore one morning, my friend and I first sought solace in a nearby temple. As soon as we offered our prayers, we acknowledged that we were hungry.

We weren’t far from Anju’s Cafe, in Bangalore’s theater hotspot, Rangashankara, so we went in for some akki roti—rice flour bread, a speciality in the state of Karnataka. (“Akki” means rice.) When we arrived, we didn’t need to scan the handwritten menu on the blackboard. We sat on the stone benches, where the cool breeze caressed our faces, and ordered our akki rotis.

Akki roti is less common on cafe menus than many other breakfast staples, because it’s laborious to make. Rice-based breakfasts are the norm in Karnataka, where rice is a staple consumed for all meals throughout the day. While avalakki, dosas, idlis, and shavige are fairly easy to prepare because they are either one-pot meals or batter-based dishes that can be churned out on-the-go, making akki roti requires much attention and patience.

We waited patiently for ours. Rice flour is merely the blank canvas for akki roti, which hosts many additions: minced onions, coriander, dill leaves and green chilis, salt, cumin seeds, a dash of asafetidaand a dollop of ghee.

The dough is brought quickly to a pillowy finish with just a few strokes of the hand, with a little bit of water at a time. A small ball of the dough is patted down into a circle on the inside of a greased skillet with a hole through the center. It’s cooked on medium heat with a drizzle of peanut oil, until the underside turns a toasty brown. It tends to retain the shape of the skillet when removed. Then, the bottom of the hot skillet is cooled under running tap water and primed for the next roti.

Finally, as our hunger peaked, our plates of bowl-shaped bread arrived. Here, the roti comes smeared with a dry chutney, commonly known as ‘gun powder’ here in the south of India, and two varieties of wet chutney—red and green. Brittle to the touch, with puffs of steam and the divine aroma of toasty bread escaping as we poked our fingers through it, the roti was everything we had hoped for: savory, spicy, crispy, and chewy all at once.

After another round of the delicious roti we washed it down with cups of frothy filter coffee, raising a toast to the labor of love that is akki roti.

Anju’s
36/2 8th Cross II Phase J P Nagar
Bangalore, India 560078

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