Street Food Chronicles: Roti Sai Mai in Ayutthaya
Outside the temple ruins of Ayutthaya historical park, which is otherwise known for its one remaining Buddha head captured with terrific symbolism in the roots of a Bodhi tree, are these women who move at the speed of light making a locally distinctive roti called Roti Sai Mai.
“Sai Mai” refers to the “silky threads” of colored candy floss around which each roti is wrapped, creating a soft-crunch of a little on-the-go snack.
Although the “roti” of roti sai mai is usually clubbed with other rotis of Muslim-Indian origin, this one is colored green with pandan, and made quite differently — by spreading a gooey dough directly by hand onto a well-seasoned, heated surface with apparently no grease at all.
Three or more rotis spread at a time, what is astonishing is the speed with which some of the Muslim women who make these pancakes work. One hand works the dough, while the other wields a spatula to release the pancake from the griddle and toss it onto a growing pile.
Sounds simple? Here’s the woman who mesmerized us with the effortless speed of all her expert movements. With one hand mixing a bowl of dough set by her side, she slaps a handful down on the hot griddle, and works it into a circle:
She then uses her dough-free hand to smoothen the rotis with a small spatula:
Before you can really tell what is going on, she uses the spatula to ease off an already-cooking roti–and it flies from her hands onto a pile at her side.
Blink, and she’s prepping the next roti.
And there goes the next…
All without missing a conversational thread or a single beat.
And another roti flies off the griddle, and onto the waiting pile.
The resulting roti is not crispy like the Thai Roti Banana, but a softer, lighter, pandan-scented pancake.
The ladies packaged our rotis with small packs of pulled cotton candy in three colors: green, pink, and beige.
We took our rotis and sai mai back to our garden hotel, and rolled them for ourselves there.
Then my older one put on a slow-mo-show before devouring the lot: