A Taste of Kerala: The Malabar Parotta

A Taste of Kerala: The Malabar Parotta
This ubiquitous flatbread from Kerala has worked its way up the gourmet street Photo Credit:

Known as Malabar parotta or Kerala parotta or barota, this unleavened bread can be eaten with a large number of side dishes

OT Staff
July 06 , 2020
06 Min Read

Did you know that the Malabar parotta, the unleavened bread from Kerala, was recently a trending topic on a popular digital platform? And surprisingly, for a reason that was purely financial than food related.

According to media reports, a Bengaluru-based firm had appealed to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) authority to classify one of their products, the Malabar parotta (which is taxed at 18 per cent) under the ‘khakhra, plain chapati or roti’ category, which attracts only 5 per cent tax. But their appeal was not granted owing to various clauses in the regulation. And the Twitterati raised a storm, #HandsOffKerala trended. Some people even called it 'parantha tax terrorism'.

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A post shared by Rehana Thaha (@rehanaskitchencorner) on Apr 19, 2020 at 9:40am PDT


Served at food joints as diverse as tea stalls to toddy shops, according to Sayyid Pavuthodika of Kerala Kuisine (located in the eastern hub of Kolkata), the Malabar parotta is often compared with the north Indian lachha paratha because both are flaky in nature. But the similarity begins and ends there, he said. The Malabar parotta is relatively more flaky, fluffy and soft, and layered.

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A post shared by Harsha Devan (@harshadevan) on May 24, 2020 at 12:41am PDT

 Although it is not quite known how the parotta became a signature dish in a state where rice is the staple, according to Piyush Nair of seafood specialty restaurant Coastal Macha, it probably originated during the time of Kerala’s sea trade with the Arabian nations. It was likely that the Arabian traders arriving at the coastal Malabar region introduced the parotta.

Read: WIll Gordon Ramsay Prepare Malabari Cuisine? 

Malabar parotta, also known as Kerala parotta or barota, is made of maida or refined flour, whereas the lachha is made of wheat. Traditionally, milk, eggs and a hint of sugar are added to the flour dough. However, keeping the diners’ food preferences in mind, in many places, the use of eggs is avoided, say chefs.

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A post shared by Divya Poduval (@thegoodfoodchef) on Jul 1, 2020 at 5:20pm PDT

Although the making of the parotta has several steps, it is the coiling of the rolled out dough that gives the layers to the bread. The trick lies in the rolling out and ‘cutting’ the dough during the preparation, said Nair.

Read: Delectable Dishes From Malabar Cuisine

The Malabar parotta, which can be enjoyed with any kind of gravy dish (vegetarian or non-vegetarian), pairs best with beef fry, say veteran foodies, and is a popular combo in Kerala. According to Pavuthodika, the parotta may also be accompanied by an ‘empty gravy’ or ‘salna’, which is essentially a plain tomato-based masala gravy. However, the parotta has travelled way beyond the borders of Kerala and may be enjoyed with a variety of dishes.

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A post shared by Dolaar Bogori (@thelittlelostlady) on Jun 19, 2020 at 8:21am PDT

Although a popular street food in Kerala and other southern towns in India, the Malabar parotta has climbed the gastronomic ladder and is a representative dish of Kerala. If you do not find time to make them at home or there is no restaurant nearby offering it on the menu, do check out your nearby supermarkets for the frozen variety (of course it will not be as tasty as the homemade one).


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