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Chapati Recipe - East African Flat Bread

Chapati is an unlevened (no yeast or baking powder) flat bread and a staple food among the Swahili speaking people of East Africa. Chapati is normally served with other foods like sukuma wiki (a vegetable dish) and other vegetables. Tear off pieces of a chapati and use it to pick up other foods. Chapati is a bread and a utensil.

Chapati travels well once it is cooled. I brought some chapatis I made when I was travelling in Kenya. Another Peace Corps volunteer saw my chapatis and thought I bought them from a street vendor! I made chapatis all the time and they had become very authentic in the process.

Chapati Flatbread

2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix dry ingredients well. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the flour mixture and mix in with your hands until flour feels a little bit like sand. Add enough water to form an elastic dough.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll out 1 ball into a circle and spread 1/2 teaspoon oil over it. Roll the circle up, like a jelly roll, then roll it up again. It should resemble a snail shell.

Do the same for the other three balls.

Let the dough sit 20 minutes to 8 hours, depending on when you make them.

Roll out into circles 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

Melt a bit of shortening in a frying pan (I prefer a cast iron pan) and wait until it is hot to cook the chapati.

Cook rapidly and watch them bubble up.

Makes 4 chapatis.


* Spread some butter or margarine on the warm chapati and sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on it for breakfast.

Healthy Substitutions and Variations:

* Use 1/2 white flour and 1/2 wheat flour or all wheat flour to make a healthier chapati.
* Substitute 1/4 cup teff flour for 1/4 cup wheat flour to add more fiber to the chapatis.
* Skip the oil used when rolling up the chapatis.
* Cook the chapatis on a dry skillet or frying pan.

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