Kothu Parotta

I tasted my first Kothu Parotta this week. Before I go on about whether I liked it or not, let me give you a little background. Growing up in Canada, I never really had much of a chance to taste Indian street food. Though Toronto is one of the most multicultural places in the world today, the social climate 30 years ago was drastically different. It was in the small suburban, town of Oakville that my parents tried to Indian-ize their two young daughters. My father would grill us with questions like, "If someone asked you where you are from, what will you say?". The happy response from us would be "Canada, of course. We are Canadians!". My Father tried so hard to change that answer to India. It should be noted that in over 30 years of living in Canada, and hating many of the changes to his beloved Madras, my Father now proudly identifies himself as a Canadian.

My parents worked diligently to establish an Indian identity for their children in that foreign land filled with snow. I marvel at how they toiled to maintain the Tamil Brahmin traditions so far away from their home. My parents both worked, they did not have anyone living with them to help out, there were no Indian grocery stores near by, and no temples except of course the Pittsburgh Sri Venkateswara Temple. My mother tells us of the one Indian grocery store that used to open for a few hours on Saturday morning, and if you missed the window there would be no daal for the week. She recounts fond memories of going to Indian movies which were screened a few times a year and eating samosas they served there which you couldn't get anywhere else. You can see how much things have changed when I tell you that some convenience stores in Toronto now stock samosas, next door to the latest crop of 'plaza temples'! While we were growing up Savithri and I mainly enjoyed eating homemade bujji's, pakodas, and samosas. Eating channa bhatura and punjabi samosas at the Indian Bazaar on Gerrard St. during Deepavali or other festivals was a big treat for us. Experiencing street food in India was out of the question as our trips to visit grandparents were mostly spent with upset stomachs. My mothers remedy for that included eating only home cooked food, and drinking boiled water.

Now that I am married and thinking about how my future family will be two generations away from India, I deeply value the glimpses my parents gave us into that wonderful world of their homeland and wonder if I will be able to live up to their ideals. My parents have now lived in Canada longer than they lived in India, and yet they are still pillars of the Tamil Brahmin community to whom other immigrant Indian families look to for direction on how to survive amidst the snow.

Alright, back to the Kothu Parotta a famous Indian dish best eaten at a street-side stall. They are made with shredded flaky, buttery roti's called parotta's that are cooked with a medley of chillies, onions, tomatoes, and flavored with rich masala powders. It makes me happy that I am Married to a Desi who is now my direct connection to the motherland. Instead of just listening to my Dad expounding on the importance of the Lalitha Sahasranamam or learning Carnatic Music and Bharatha Natyam, my world is now filled with learning about authentic (and street) food, Tamil film music (mostly A.R Rahman), language (especially Tamil slang), and visiting my second set of parents in Madras. India is once again a whole new world for me, and would you believe it if I told you that I can sum it up in a Kothu Parotta? That's how good it tasted.

Kothu Parotta serves 2
2 store bought parottas ripped up into pieces, 1 large tomato chopped, 1 onion minced, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp pav bhaji masala, 1 large green chili minced, 1" piece ginger minced, handful chopped cilantro

1. Saute the green chilies, ginger, and then onions in oil.
2. Add the turmeric, and chili powder.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook them until they release water. Salt them to hasten this.
4. Add the pav bhaji masala, and then the parotta and mix.
5. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with a squeeze of lime, and onion raitha.

You can also add curry leaves to this, and also an egg to make it a '"Muttai Parotta". Parottas are available now in all Indian Grocery Stores. Today, in Ann Arbor alone there are about 5 Indian grocery stores within 15 miles of my home. And yes, they are open for more than 2 hours week.

More Parotta's

Youtube: Watch how to make a Parotta

Spicyana: Chilly Crepes
The Singing Chef: Kothu Roti
En Samayal Pakkam: Kothu Parotta
Beyond the Usual: Step by Step Pictures on how to make Parotta's


Bharathy said...

I am a lover of kothu parattas..:)
Love your version and homely looking dish!!:)..
Not so glamorous but yummmmmy.:)

amna said...

ahh. i share my love for kothu paratta with my sis :) i know u r a vegetarian, but adding scrambled eggs to this will bring in a really nice flavour. so for all the non-veggies or eggetarians who are reading this comment, go for the recipe and add a couple of eggs ;)

i am gng to make it this weekend :) thanks for reminding me of this dish Kanch! HUGS!

Srivalli said...

Kanchana...thats my favorite, though I haven't had eaten it that many times. And I have never prepared it. Now I will surely try it. And very sweet of you to give us a glimpse of your family, I can imagine how it must've been for your parents. Very inspiring!


Anonymous said...

Dear Kanchana,

Ever since I saw your photographs, read your posts on festivals, your wedding, I admired your parents a lot for keeping up the traditions and values in far-away land. Oh well no land is far-away in these times but I could understand that when they moved it must have been very much.

Now after reading your post (followed by that delicious recipe) I not only admire their efforts but respect them tremendously. I too think a lot about the things my son would miss living in Germany (though we know we'll go back home one day)... but true Chennai has definitely changed a lot... sometimes coming from 'abroad' i look so medieval there:)

Unknown said...

Hey darling,
this is one of the best things you've written, very touching and emotional...as I said that day - hats off to your parents for bringing you both up with the Indianness intact in your hearts- hope to catch up near our 'second parents' house sometime soon!
Love n hugs

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed that you have managed to keep your "Indian" while still being Canadian :) Not everybody can carry off something like that with grace!

Raaga said...

I love these and made them some time back


My parents spent time in the US and Germany... they met and decided to get married in the US... they met at Penn but eventually had to stay in smaller towns... in the 50s and 60s. The US of the 80s that I saw was very different from the one my parents first landed in... I can so relate to what you put down.

Nupur said...

Very well-written, Kanchana. And the kottu parotta looks so tempting!

indosungod said...

Kanchana, thanks for sharing your experiences as a Canadian/Indian with us. The Indian-ness sprinkles on you no matter what. I am hoping that it happens with my 2 younglings too.

Love Toronto visit it every chance I get , has Gerrad street seen better days? When we visited a couple of months ago can't say I was particularly pleased but my mom sure identified with the shops and sorry to say the trash that littered the place too :)

Kothu Parotta is TN street food at its best.

Rajitha said...

kanchana... came in for the parotta but commenting for the write-up.
when i came to US 6 yrs back, i would look with amazement at so many parents sending (and sometimes forcibly) their kids to bal-bhavan and music and dance lessons, and i felt why!! we were never forced towards all this at home. As i grow older..oops mature ;) i get it, it is important for kids to know their roots and from the looks of it, your parents have done a fantastic job. you are as indian as any of us and that is so cool.. lovely write-up :)

Unknown said...

oh nice i make such dish with chapatis......'ll try with paratta

Pdk said...

Kanchana.. Kotthu parotta looks inviting.. U being married to ur desi, you kids are still close to india and will find much more indian stuff around when they grow up..
Nice to read about the efforts ur parents took to make all of you feel at home in that snow filled lovely cananda..

Latha Narasimhan said...

Nice recipe Kanchana! You come up with such nice recipes served in street stalls, yet so tasty!

Priya said...

That was a very lovely post Kanchana. And I am amazed by your parents...more so cos I see my lil niece who absolutely hates Indian food, can barely mutter a few words of Hindi and Telugu ... and will only don a Indian dress if it is a Indian gathering !! She is just 6yrs old. She is a non-veggie now, and is actually converting my cousin into one too cos of her aversion to Indian food :)) Kudos to your parents and definitely to their sweet lil daughters too :)
...and I ate kothu porotta for the first time from Archana's (Spicyana) recipe, inspite of living in India for 20yrs :)) :))

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe there is actually a Indian street food that I am not aware of ! HA, kidding. there might actually be lot more I don't know than the ones I actually know. It always good to know of another one. This sounds very interesting and I am going to take nags advice and add some scrambled eggs in there.

Manasi said...

Wonderful write up! Recipe bookmarked!!!!

Mishmash ! said...

Kanchana very worded and touching notes ! When I go through your posts I always wondered how well you try to weave tradition into your life and now I appreciate you and your parents more for what you have done!!


Anonymous said...

There are really two ways of doing this in Madras.

1. The traditional South Indian way: Onions, tomatoes, green chilies, ginger, turmeric, asafoetida, curry leaves and so on and so forth

2. The South Indian version of North Indian food: Skip the asafoetida and curry leaves and add some form of highly flavorful masala (usually pau bhaji masala or some kind of tandoori grilling masala).

In both cases, the reason for adding all the flavoring agents is to disguise the fact that the parottas are left-overs from the previous day!


Roopa (KitchenAromas) said...

Hi Kanchana,
Wonderfully written! And what a great recipe. I'll be making this over the weekend! :)
- Roopa

Finla said...

Wonderfully written.
Reading about your parents how they were trying to indinse you made me think that i do the same to my 15 year old daughter.
The recipe looks great.

Tee said...

This is a really well written post! Loved your Kothu Parotta recipe...we have something similar which we make with rotis. I will try out your recipe soon! looks really tempting :)

TBC said...

Dear Kanchana,
I liked your kothu parotta but I liked your little tribute to your parents even more.
Your parents have done really well to follow the Tamil Brahmin culture, traditions & customs despite being in a foreign land( not foreign to you now). I can imagine how the initial years must have been for them. They have done such a fabulous job in bringing both of you up the way they have. I think you are "more Indian" than some of the Indians living in India.It is so very important in life to never forget where you come from.

Your hubby has given u some extra tips for making the dish, I see :-). I first ate these in a small restaurant very close to where we lived in R.A. Puram( Chennai) a couple of years back.

Beautiful post, Kanchana!

Suganya said...

Very well written post Kanchana. The mere glimpse of you in madisaar was more than enough to say how yr parents valued tradition.

Pooja V said...

Fabulously written post ( claps for u). The recipe is nice too...i m surprised i hadnt hrd of this stree food.

Mandira said...

Kanchana, very evocative and well-written piece. i loved visiting gerrard street every opportunity i got. The kothu portha looks delicious. I sent you an e-mail few days back!

archana said...

Very touching write up Kanchana :)The Kothu Parotha looks gr8. We make same thing with left over rotis in Maharashtra 'phodnichi chi poli' 'phodni' means tadka and 'poli' is roti :)Tastes fabulous.

Prema Sundar said...

A very nice post Kanchana.. I am basically from Madras and so I was really moved reading ur post.
Love kothu parottas and now 'chilli parottas ' are famous in many restaurants..
nice recipe and Iam really proud of u.. many girls who were born in Chennai doesn't really value tamil culture.. but u were born and brought up in canada and have great respect for tamil culture and food and thats really great.

Latha said...

Hey Kanch,
That was a lovely and touching post! I visited Toronto just a year back and I cannot imagine at all the scene you describe (with the Saturday only Indian store), what now with Toronto being such a culturally diverse place and Gerrard St. to the rescue! But i can totally relate - Omaha where we live is somewhat like your old Toronto. We started out with one Indian store that was so far away! Now we have 5 more! A big improvement but we're not yet there!
I absolutely have immense respect for u're parents. Have always wondered how Indian u and Savithri are inspite of being ABCD's or in your case CBCD's ;-) And I've always wondered how I am going to fare with my own two girls. I think we Indian parents are torn between trying to keep the Indianness and also allowing our kids to mix and gel into American soceity!
Hats off to u're wonderful parents!
And Kotthu parotta looks yumm! It was new to me even, have nto seen that in Bangalore. But some wonderful Chennai and MAdurai friends have introduced that to us here!
Keep the wonderful posts going!

Sandeepa(Bong Mom's CookBook/DesiMomzClub) said...

Thanks for your comment Kanchana.

Reading this post I really truly feel that it would be great if we could have your Mom at our Desi Momz Club for atleast one post.
You know many of us at the club are in a foreign land raising kids and are often confused, your Mom's advise would be like gems for us.

Let me know if it is doable

Rajesh &Shankari said...

Kanchana, A wonderful write up. Kothu prota ( as it is called by the road side vendors) is comfort street food on a rainy day with a cup of capi or tea.

Vcuisine said...

Nice post Kanchana. It is so nice of your parents. I too love this street food. Nice presentation. Viji

J said...

Well written post Kanchana. I admire your parents for instilling the Indian-ness in you. It is also admirable that you voluntarily wish to continue being Indian despite living outside India all your life. And kothu parathas look good!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kanchana for saying that as parents we worked deligently to establish an Indian identity for our children. The fact is, we know of no other identity and what we did was what came out to us naturally. Nothing more. And to all your friends who have shared your appreciation and enthusiasm for us I have to say the following:

It is true that we had concern for our children because the environment that we have put our children engendered a culture and attitude alien to ours and it has caused perplexity in them and put them in a position to make a choice that never happened to us who grew up in India. Kanchana as the older one was the first to encounter this situation as she showed anxiety and yet like all children she wanted to defend the home turf and fend off insinuation from the aliens. She had good questions to ask of us on caste, on number of gods, gothra, vegetarianism, holy cow etc. etc. It made me to sit up and learn deeply on everying that I have taken for granted. The visits to Acharyas and inviting of Swamijis to our home and so forth were all done with a view to making sure that we give answers that would completely and satisfactorily answer our children's question.

In this respect our children were our Gurus but for whom we would not have ventured to know all those greatest wisdom and wealth that our forefathers have left for us. This very thought humbles us. And we realized that in all our efforts there was nothing else for us than being a trustee and a conduit to pass them on to the posterity. That humbles us again.

If Kanchana and Savithri could stand tall and proud and happy in a sea of alien views, a stand that created no hurt feeling or a sense of competition or even alienness but only awe and sweet admiration, it is only because they took from us what was passed on to us and in doing so I would say they perfected them too. Be it music or dance or culture or philosophy there I see perfection over what I knew. It is this act of the children (who made us conscious of our role) that makes us proud beings as we would face our forefathers and join them.

To this Kanchana and Savithri we are thankful. And to all young parents we say that Kanchana and Savithri are no exceptions. Children always inherit something. Your children get what you give them. If you don't give, someone else will which may not be to your liking.


Suma Gandlur said...

After reading what you wrote about growing outside of India, I some what can relate to your parents. Once they are away from their homeland, Indians try to teach about their culture, traditions and values to kids more. They hope kids retain 'that' connection. That's what we are trying to do with our kids.
Love your kothu parotta. I didn't know about this but I usually make a slight different version using left over rotis.

timepass said...

Lovely recipe and lovely post. Nice to read abt ur parents' story.. I met one couple in the UK who have been there since abt 40 yrs.. Aunty once told me that when they first came to UK in the 60s, she had to make rotis from maida as no atta was available at that time.. Now ofcourse, we get even curry leaves and drumstick in the UK..

timepass said...

BTW, forgot to add that Kothu parota is one of my husband's all time favourites. so when he desires to eat it next, I have ur blog to depend on...right

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful. And what your Dad wrote, even more so! How true that our children get what we give - and if we don't "someone else will!" It is heartening to see you proud of your Indian values (and food!) while being Canadian (and now American?) at the same time.

Looking forward to have you share with us as you 'rediscover' India.

Anonymous said...

Quintessential madras road-side food :) I make this too, but instead of paratha I do it using Godumai (wheat) dosai following this recipe: http://dailygirlblog.blogspot.com/2006/09/chilli-paratha-baked-and-broiled.html

Using store-bought paratha is a good option - will try it out.


Rachna said...

awww kanchana...this is a really heart warming post... i love what u wrote and what yur dad wrote... so true and so touching... i was born in india and now have lived 25 years out of india... but i feel i am so indian becoz my parents made me that way... and i look up to them to make my children as indian as possible even though my son may hardly ever stay in india... i love what yur dad said about giving to your kids... becasue if u dont, they'll take things from elsewhere (and probably loose their identity)... thanks so much for such a thought provoking post...yu r as beautiful inside as u r oustide...god bless

FH said...

I can't read much of what you wrote, little hard to focus but Kottu Paratha dish I must try one day!:))

zlamushka said...

Hi there,

This is a wonderful entry. Reminds me of a Chinese leftover dish. They fry cut leftover flat bread slices over onion and shredded cabbage, all mixed with a simple chili sauce made of chilies, garlic, salt and vinegar...

I love pav bhaji masala, so will make these, soon :)

Savithri said...

Love the post. I am reminded of the times we were sent Indian food to school for lunch and people thought it was smelly. Now Indian food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world! How things change:) Can't wait to try kothu parotta!

Sona - quick picks/pick quicks said...

hi Kanchana,
felt good reading your post...the one thing which came to my mind reading it was of my office manager, who is born in kenya, but lived all his life in the UK...but, basically, is an Asian...we guess he is an Indian, some say he is from Pakistan..and trust me, he never ever reveals it out. His wife too says, we are from Kenya..just to get embarresed to hear someone asking them back, "how come you are a Kenyan, but white coloured?..honestly,there are quite a few who just forget their mother country, and force them to alienize themselves to the western worls..but, really appreciate the way your parents had tried to keep the values and morals of Indians still within you both..

Sig said...

Nice post Kanchana.... Your parents sure have done a wonderful job... :) I love kothu parotta... I've only had the non-veg version, never had the recipe though... I can easily adapt this recipe... It looks lovely!

Priyanka said...

Kanchana....we make a similar version to Kothu Parotta called Kuskara in marathi....only sans the pav bhaji masala...but this must taste super....A very well written touching post...Hats off to ur parents:)

amna said...

hey lazy bones! where are u now? busy with work eh? :)

Jayashree said...

Just discovered your blog. I love your write-up and the pics that you've posted.
I add some veg kurma to the kothu parotta that I make and that gives it a unique taste.
Yours looks delish.

Sharmi said...

that was such a lovely write up. truly enjoyed reading. wonder how you managed kothu parotta:))

A, mama of twins said...

I just made this today after reading your recipe. OMG!!! Its so tasty and fast to make. We ended up added scrambled eggs on top of the Kothu Parotta and it was perfect!!! My husband loved it too. Adding to my favs.. now.

Thanks for coming to my blog too!

D. Ram said...

This is the first time I'm reading your blog... I guess I didn't really pay attention to the recipe. The first part really caught my attention. Your candid editorial about your upbringing and your parents and your expectations and your reconnection to the motherland really jerks a slow tear. I'm a proud thamizhan from Sri Lanka but my lineage roots are from Madurai. I've lived almost 5 years in the west and I know how you feel. We have an amazing culture and I want to continue it which is why I actually had moved from the US to London a couple of months ago. I'm glad you appreciate all that is to it and that your parents gave you the option to do so. Good luck and hope you'll be able to treasure and appreciate Chennai's past present and future as India progresses into its deserved place in the world.

Smita said...

Great recipe and I have used something similar before. One tip is to add a small amount of rasam podi in addition to the spices. Trust me it gives a totally amazing flavor:)

Shubha Ravikoti said...

hey kanchana... lovely blog the new template looks so good... how do u work on it... do u make ur own template? can u guide me how to make ur own template for ur blog?.... keep blogging...:)

Rajiv said...

Sathya Naas.. U degraded the name for kothu parotta with your ingredients.

Even veg kothu not made in this way. Learn from Sri Lankans how they make with carrot, cabbage and leeks and tofu.

Unknown said...

Great to know your interest in Indian coking given the fact that you were born and raised in Canada. I love your write ups. But this caught my interest about your parents being the pillar of the TAMIL BARAHMIN SOCIETY in Canada. how about other communities that come from India or Tamil Nadu for that matter? My question is why carry and emphasis caste over even thousands of miles way from where it originated? Just curious..
But love your write ups and all your recipes.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kothu Parrota came awesome and it tasted heavenly.

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Good Gynecologist in Chennai said...

Yummmy!! I am going into kitchen NOW to prepare this.
Catch u with my photo later

Rajani said...


I made this kothu paratha and it turned out to be wonderful. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Anonymous said...

More than Kothu parotta, I have taken something else from your post.

"If you don't give, someone else will, which may not be to your liking."