East African Chapati is a beautiful unleavened flat Bread eaten in East Africa in Countries like Burundi Uganda, Mozambique, Kenya,… It has a delicious but subtle flavor that is why it can be easily paired with almost any dish whether sweet or savory making it an extremely versatile side dish staple.
How to make the East African Chapati
The East African Chapati is very similar to the Indian Paratha (one of the most popular unleavened flatbreads in India). However, culture might have played its role in the slight difference in its mode of preparation compared to the Indian variety.
A little background on Chapati
Here is a little background for those who are not too familiar with this bread: Chapati is an unleavened flatbread which is believed to have its origin from India. Though many other theories are suggesting that its origin is from East Africa, some believe it’s from Persia. However, what we are sure about is that the relationship between early travelers and traders made this flatbread popular and even a staple in other regions like Nepal, Carribean Bangladesh Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.
Plain or Flaky Chapatis
You can either make these chapatis without layers – plain chapati or with layers – Flaky Chapati. Though the later need some practice to master it once you master the skill, it becomes less work. The plain Chapatis are easier to prepare at home than the layered, but the flaky and layered chapatis are still people’s favorite when it comes to choice. Here is how to make the flaky layers: I guess it’s better with pictures than words!
How to make soft flaky chapatis
It’s okay if you are not so keen on ”the layers” just skip to image 8 and 9 above and voila! – your flatbread is ready!!. Your bread will still be soft and of course delicious. However, the flaky layers will not be there.
Can you freeze Chapatis
When I make these flat-breads, I make several of them and freeze them. Though they are best served straight from the pan. However, they keep well and are good for a few days. You can also serve with curries, beans, sauces or used as wraps for meals like Scrambled Eggs, Chicken, potatoes, meat, vegetables, and so much more.
Here is a detailed video on how to make the East African Chapatis
Let’s address some concerns about Chapati bread
- You can add little oil to the dough while kneading. This will make the chapati brown faster during the cooking process, thereby, preventing it from losing excess moisture.
- The dough needs to be soft and supple but not too soft. You can use lukewarm water to achieve this instead of room temperature water.
- Don’t skip the resting time, even if you don’t want the flaky version, it is still very important to leave the Chapati dough to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. In this way you the dough will be easy to roll without breaking apart.
- Knead well! This will allow your dough to develop its elasticity and enable it o be soft and supple.
- You can substitute water with milk or buttermilk for a softer chapati.
- Cook the Chapatis on a medium to high heat, and it shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds (a little more or less) to cook to avoid moisture loss. Cook the first side for 10–15 seconds and cook the other side for about 30–40 seconds. However, be sure to cook both sides well.
- It is very important to use a non-stick pan in order to prevent the chapati from sticking to the pan or burning.
- Store in a casserole immediately. If you are planning on packing them for lunch, wrap them in a few tissues or foil.
- Placing the dough on a cold pan will harden the resulting Chapati so be sure to make sure to pre-heat the pan before placing the dough in it.
- The rolled balls wrapped in a damp towel and kept in the fridge for a few days. You can use them as needed.
- You can use the mixer if you have one. It makes the whole process easier.
- You can reheat these flatbreads but they are best when eaten fresh.
Other fun facts you may want to know about Chapatis
Here are the common spellings: chapatti, chappati, chapathi, or chappathi depending on the region.
In Uganda, Chapati is usually rolled up with a vegetable Omellete, and it is popularly known as Rolex.
When making the Kenyan Chapatis, some people add a bit of grated carrots to add a bit of color to bread. I’m yet to try that but I know it will be good!
The Tanzanian chapati is a staple food of the Swahili speaking people in Tanzania that’s why it’s also called Swahili chapati. It is usually served with beans, vegetables or meat.
Other delicious African Recipes you might like:
East African Chapati Recipe - How to make Chapati
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus a little more flour for kneading
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 3 Tablespoons oil
- 1¼ Cups Water
- In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and oil in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the water a little at a time to form a soft and sticky dough.
- Turn to a floured surface; knead for about 10 to 15 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Place in a bowl. Cover and let it rest in a warm place for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide the dough into 8 equal parts and roll each piece into a circle. You can roll out the dough into a circle cook the Chapatis at this point. However, if you want a flaky and well-layered chapati, move on with the rest of the steps below.
- Lightly brush the rolled out chapati with some Oil and roll it as you would roll up a mat. At this point, it should be like a rope then roll the ”rope-like” to form a coil then pull the tip towards the center of the coil and tuck in using your index finger then cover it up with a damp towel and leave it to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. (Please refer to image above)
- Flour your work surface again and start rolling out each of the coiled dough to about 1/8th thickness (the dough will eventually shrink up to about 1-2/4 inch thickness).
- Preheat a non-stick pan or a heavy bottom skillet. Place the chapati on inside the pan and leave it to cook for a few seconds before disturbing it.
- Brush the surface of the chapati with a very thin layer of oil. Once you begin to see bubbles rise on top of the chapati, flip it over to the other side and brush it also with a thin layer of Oil.
- Continue to flip over about one or two more times until you achieve your desired brownness. Serve hot or warm and enjoy with your favorite dish.
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