Kenyan-Style Chapati Bread
In Kenya, the national staple dish (with celebrity-like popularity, and the immediate response whenever anyone is asked about their favorite thing to eat) is Ugali. Ugali is made from cornmeal, or maize, the staple grain of Kenya, and has a thick, stiff, malleable porridge-like quality to it. It’s tailor-made for shaping into a small scoop in one hand, then using that scoop to mop up meat or veggie goodness. A very close second staple dish, and a rock star recipe that graces the dinner table on special occasions, is Chapati.
Chapati is an unleavened flatbread made of flour, water, oil, and salt, and is without a doubt my favorite new flour-based treat. The layered oil throughout the dough, thanks to a jelly-roll style rolling process, creates the most incredible crunch factor. And these little heroes pair perfectly with just about any dish you can imagine.
This is my recipe for a basic chapati bread, just like we made all across Kenya. It’s quick and easy to prepare, and perfect to serve with stews, curries, or to use like a pita wrap. A little taste of Kenyan deliciousness in your kitchen.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
- Combine flour and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Add water and mix thoroughly until a sticky dough forms.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface and get those arm muscles ready to rock. Using the palms of your hands, knead dough until a soft elastic dough forms, about 10 minutes. Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes. (if you’re planning ahead, dough can be chilled in the fridge overnight)
- Divide dough into 4 equal parts, and shape each into small dough balls. One at a time, roll dough balls into 8-inch round flatbreads (think tortillas) on a floured surface, about 1/8-inch thick. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil onto flatbread coating it entirely. Tightly roll dough into itself like a fruit rollup, until you have a long snake-like tube. Coil rolled dough into a tight snail-shaped disc. Flatten dough with the palm of your hand, then roll out one final time on a floured surface into an 8-inch round flatbread. Repeat with remaining chapatis.
- Heat a large cast-iron (or heavy bottomed) pan over medium heat, pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is hot, add 1 flatbread and fry about 1 minute per side, or until golden brown and crispy. Repeat with remaining chapatis.
- Serve them while still warm, or keep them in an airtight container 1-2 days.