Roti is life in Trinidad and Tobago…
Well that and hot doubles, bake and shark, and pelau. Clearly, we like to eat.
Dhalpuri is a roti stuffed with ground yellow split peas (dhal) seasoned with garlic, turmeric, cumin, and seasonings.
In case you’re new to Trini food, roti is a round, unleavened flatbread made with flour, baking powder, salt and water.
There are many types of roti in T&T:
- sada roti – a simple roti enjoyed for breakfast alongside chokas.
- dosti roti – another simple roti made with two or more layers and enjoyed for breakfast.
- paratha roti – a flaky, buttery roti enjoyed on special occasions. It is also called buss-up-shut since it resembles an old shirt that has lots of holes.
- aloo roti – a roti stuffed with seasoned potatoes and made much in the same way as dhalpuri. It is sometimes called aloo puri.
- peas roti – a roti stuffed with cooked, ground green pigeon peas; similar to aloo roti and dhalpuri.
- pepper roti – a flaky, buttery roti that has cheese, pepper, carrots and potatoes sandwiched within. It is most often enjoyed as a street food.
This post details how my mom makes her dhalpuri. Use her tips and ideas to experiment and have fun making your own roti.
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What is dhalpuri made of?
For the stuffing, you’ll need:
- yellow split peas
- turmeric powder
- cumin powder
- culantro, cilantro, and other fresh green seasonings
- vegetable oil
For the roti, you’ll need:
- all purpose flour
- corn flour (optional)
- baking powder
- oil (or butter or ghee)
The actual brand of flour you use can influence the ingredients for roti. For instance, some brands add baking powder to the flour so it may not be necessary to add extras. More on that later.
What do you need to make dhalpuri?
A couple special tools are necessary for making dhalpuri but you can make do with what you have in your own kitchen:
- grain mill or mortar and pestle or food processor – this is needed to grind the cooked yellow split peas and green seasoning.
- belna or bailna (‘belan’ in Hindi) or rolling pin – you’ll need this to roll out the roti.
- chowki (‘chakla’ in Hindi) is a clean board on which to roll out the roti. You can use your countertop too.
- tawa is a flat, circular pan usually made of cast iron. You can find many options on Amazon or use a large shallow pan.
How to Make Dhalpuri
Making dhalpuri from start to finish in one day is time consuming and tiring.
It is best to make a large batch of the dhal (you can separate the finished dhal into smaller batches and freeze it) and then make the dhalpuri on another day.
How to Prepare the Split Peas for Dhalpuri
Wash the yellow split peas thoroughly, removing any tiny stones and bad peas.
Cook the Split Peas
Add water to a large pot on medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the split peas, partially cover and cook for ten minutes.
You should see froth developing on the surface, skim it off (it forms due to the starches in the peas).
At this point, you can add salt and turmeric powder. My mom adds garlic at this stage too but you can do this later.
Continue boiling the split peas until the grains are soft enough to be completely squeezed by the fingers without feeling any hard, grainy bits.
Strain the dhal at this point and allow it to cool a bit.
Grind the Split Peas
There are lots of tools you can use to grind the split peas.
My grandmothers used a sil and lorha (in Hindi, it’s called ‘sil-batta’) to grind their peas. A sil is a large, flat stone slab and a lorha is a smaller stone, naturally rounded from the river or sea. The lorha is rocked back and forth on the slab to grind dhal, seasonings, and more.
These simple tools were replaced by a metal grain mill. My mom uses one.
It is made of metal (usually aluminum) and has one stationary and one rotating grinding disk, a feed auger, and a crank handle.
To grind the dhal, the peas are fed into the top hopper and the crank handle is rotated – this turns the feed auger and pushes the peas between the two grinding disks. Perfectly ground dhal emerges from the mill.
Garlic, pepper and fresh herbs like culantro are also intermittently fed into the mill while grinding the dhal. These ingredients season the dhal.
I have so many memories of turning the crank handle as a kid. It is laborious work but the reward of tasty dhalpuri made it worth it.
Today, grain mills have been replaced by food processors but, the texture of the dhal from the food processor is grainier and not as powdery as what emerges from the dhal mill.
So, what should you use to grind the dhal? Whatever you have on hand.
Note, if your split peas are too moist, they will form a paste when grinding – it’ll be a mess. So be sure that your peas are sufficiently dry before grinding (mine was a little too moist here).
Patch the Ground Split Peas
You can add garlic, culantro, seasonings, and salt while grinding the dhal. My mom skips this by adding Caribbean green seasoning after she grinds everything.
Exactly when and how you add the flavorings is entirely up to you.
Once that’s done, you can patch the ground peas.
Add a little oil to a heavy pot on low heat. Mix in cumin powder and any other powdered spices you want..
Once the oil is nicely flavored, add the ground split peas and patch for a couple minutes.
This step does two things – it dries the dhal out properly so it’ll spread out evenly in the stuffed roti; and it sterilizes the split peas so you can store it or freeze it for later.
Leave the patched dhal to cool completely.
How to Prepare the Roti
For the roti skin, mix the dry ingredients together: all purpose flour, corn flour, baking powder, and salt. If the brand of flour you use already contains baking powder you can reduce the amount you add (my mom doesn’t add any extra).
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour half of the water in. Knead to incorporate. Then add small amounts of water and continue the kneading process.
You’ll want to form a fairly stiff dough. Use the base of your palm to knead the dough for a minute or two. It’ll become smoother.
Cover and allow to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. If the humidity is too low, your dough can dry out on the top, so use plastic wrap to make sure it doesn’t dry out.
Stuff the Roti with Ground Split Peas
With the dough rested, it’s time to divide it into smaller dough balls (we call them loyahs). The size will depend on two things: how thick you want your roti to be; and how large your tawa or cooking surface is.
My tawa is 13 inches so I make 3-inch loyahs (by weight, they work up to be about 60 grams). You don’t have to be exact by any means.
Shape the balls so they are smooth.
Next, flatten one of the loyahs and use your forefingers below and thumbs above to form an upside-down ‘cup’.
Place the dough ‘cup’ in the palm of your left hand (if you’re right-handed). Lightly coat with flour so the ground dhal spreads throughout the roti when rolling.
Next, spoon the ground dhal (about ¼ cup) into the dough pressing down to compact the stuffing.
Using both thumbs, continue pressing the stuffing to remove as much air as possible. At the same time, use your fingers to pull the dough sides together to seal the loyah.
If you have excess air in there, it can pop while rolling out forming holes. You don’t want that because holes will allow the stuffing to fall out and the roti will not swell.
With the loyah sealed, sprinkle with flour, set aside and cover with a thin cloth.
Repeat this entire process for all the other dough balls.
Roll out the Roti
Sprinkle flour liberally on your chowki or countertop. Place one loyah in the center and sprinkle again with flour. This prevents the dough from sticking while you roll it out.
Using your belna or rolling pin, roll the dough a couple times in one direction.
Flip, rotate and roll the dough again in the other direction to form a large circle.
If the dough begins to stick, add a little flour and smoothen.
If air pockets develop, gently press down without popping the dough.
Also, if holes develop, no worries. Add a little flour and attempt to reseal the roti. If that doesn’t work, it’s fine; though the roti may not swell.
How to Cook the Dhalpuri
Place your tawa on medium to high heat. Allow it to heat up for at least five minutes or so. You want the cast iron to get very hot.
Place your dhalpuri on the hot tawa. As the color of the roti starts to change, flip it over. A thin, long, flat wooden paddle called a dabla is often used to flip the roti but you can use a long knife, spatula or your hands.
Once flipped, apply oil or ghee to the dhalpuri.
The traditional method of doing this involved using a stick with white cloth strips attached on one end. The cloth is dipped in oil and then passed over the roti. Another method uses the bottom of an enamel cup. That’s what my dad used here.
With one side of the roti coated, flip again and apply the oil.
Continue cooking and flipping. The water used to make the roti dough turns to steam at this point. This causes the roti to ‘swell’ provided there are no holes. The baking powder also plays a role in the swelling.
If there are holes, squeeze them shut with the dabla or spatula. The rest of the dhalpuri will puff up nicely.
When the roti has cooked all the way through (it can take about 2 minutes) and develops a few nice brown spots. Fold the dhalpuri in half and then in quarters.
Place on a large plate and cover with several towels or place them in an airtight container. Doing this traps the heat and steam causing the dhalpuri to become soft. If you don’t, they will become stiff over time.
There it is… how to make dhalpuri.
Serve with your favorite sides. Or place curried meats or channa (chickpeas) at the center of the roti and fold to form a square.
Authentic Dhalpuri Roti Recipe
- grain mill or food processor or mortar and pestle
- Rolling Pin
- tawa or cast iron skillet
- 3 cups yellow split peas
- 8 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
- 2 tbsp Caribbean green seasoning (garlic, culantro, cilantro, Spanish thyme, pepper)
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 8 cups all purpose flour (with baking powder)*
- 1½ cups corn flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3½ cups water
- ¾ cup butter or oil or ghee
- extra flour for dusting
- Place large pot on medium heat. Add water and bring to a boil.
- Wash yellow split peas thoroughly, removing bad peas.
- Add peas to pot.
- Partially cover pot for 10 minutes.
- Remove cover and skim froth off the top.
- Add turmeric, garlic cloves and salt.
- Partially cover and cook until peas are soft enough to be squeezed without feeling grainy bits (takes about 45 minutes).
- Strain and allow to cool.
- Grind peas in a grain mill or food processor or mortar and pestle.
- Add green seasoning, salt, and cumin powder.
- Place a pot on medium heat. Add oil.
- Add ground split peas and patch until the peas are powdery (about 5 to 10 minutes).
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Mix dry ingredients together (flour, corn flour, baking powder, and salt).
- Add half the water and incorporate.
- Add smaller amounts of water and continue kneading to form firm dough.
- Cover and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
- Divide dough into smaller dough balls (makes about 12).
- Flatten one dough ball.
- Hold as a cup and sprinkle flour in the center.
- Add ¼ cup of ground split peas in the center.
- Sprinkle flour on the split peas.
- Pinch the sides of dough together to seal the edges to form the stuffed roti.
- Sprinkle flour on the stuffed roti and set aside.
- Repeat for all dough balls.
- Place cast iron tawa or flat cooking surface on high heat.
- Sprinkle flour on countertop or chowki.
- Roll out the dough ball in one direction, flip over, rotate and continue rolling to form a large circle.
- Place dhalpuri on the hot tawa.
- Flip over when the color changes.
- Brush oil or butter or ghee on dhalpuri.
- Flip over and brush the other side.
- Rotate and flip over as the roti swells and develops brown spots.
- Once cooked, fold the roti in half, then in quarters.
- Place in airtight container or cover with many tea towels to trap the steam and heat.
- Serve hot.
Sada roti is a simple, leavened flatbread that will remind you of pita bread and chapati. It is a popular Trini breakfast food served with chokas, side dishes and more.
Dosti roti is another popular breakfast roti. It is double layered and made by dough that’s stuck together with butter or oil and dry flour. While the roti is cooked, the layers separate.
Baigan or eggplant choka is made with roasted eggplant and garlic, all mashed together and mixed with onions, seasonings, and hot oil. It is especially tasted with hot sada roti.
Tomato choka is best served with sada roti. It is made with roasted tomatoes and garlic, onion, pepper and seasonings.