Food & Drink Magazine

Meat Filled Envelopes ~ Murtabak (Malaysia) & Tavaa Roti, Mughlai Paratha (India)

By Weavethousandflavors

Murtabak-01
After a day of raiding the refrigerator, fixing 15 minute meals and eating out of bowls, I am ready to get back on the horse and bring out my exploratory cap for something different and delicious for lunch.

The prerequisite - nothing that involves rice or noodles or pasta. 'Nuf already!

My mind drifted towards samosas, since I had a some ground meat in the ice box but  when we do end up making samosas we're going to make the traditional variety first - punjab style stuffed with spicy potatoes and peas, the meat filled ones will just have to wait.

And then it came to me like Zeus' bolt - 'meat filled envelopes' known by a variety of names such as tavaa roti  in Mumbai or Mughlai paratha in Delhi or Murtabak in Maylasia.

I grew up eating these. We'd go to this neighborhood restaurant row with outdoor seating and we'd order what was called tavaa roti (which essentially means griddle fried bread) and I would watch this guy facing a 5 ft long griddle , stretch and twirl the dough like it was made of nothing but elastic, crack eggs and flip the stuffed rotis,  high in the air with this long metal spatula. The one thing I do distinctly remember is that they were absolutely delicious.

Finally, standing at a roadside food cart outside the railway station at Johor Bahru, Malaysia, while these meat filled envelopes were prepared with similar theatrics was another dear memory. The rotiwala would throw the dough in the air and stretch it as he twirled  it high above his head ( not unlike the pizza makers in Italy). 

A lime sized lump of dough would become a large, smooth sheet in about a minute. It was then cooked and filled directly on the griddle with savory meat, chopped onions and beaten egg.

Only this time they were called  Murtabak . Now I can't promise theatrics but I reckon we can make a pretty decent Murtabak a.k.a tavaa roti or Mughlai paratha right at home.

 The Dough -

Murtabak - make dough

Murtabak - dough balls
 

Measure out the all-purpose flour, salt, clarified butter or ghee & warm water in a parat, mixing bowl or a food processor or bread machine.

Knead the dough by hand or in the food processor/bread machine until it is well mixed into a smooth ball.

Divide the dough ball into 4 equal sized dough balls. Place in a mixing bowl. Pour oil over them. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 1 hours preferably 2 hours.

Cook's Note - The dough will show no significant rise.

Now the other ingredients -

Murtabak - chop ingredients
While the dough is resting, assemble the ingredients for the filling - ground  meat (lamb, mutton or beef),  onion, garlic cloves, ginger root, fresh cilantro and a potatoes.

Cook's Note - Potatoes are not traditionally used but are I think are delicious here.

Onions - Peel and chop the onions - set aside 2 bowls of 1/2 cup each

Garlic & Ginger - Scrape the skin off the ginger and finely chop. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Potatoes - Peel and dice to about 1/4" cubes.

Cilantro - Chop the fresh cilantro and set aside in a bowl of water. Drain water away before using.

 

Heat the ghee in a saute pan till hot. Add the chopped ginger, onions and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes and add the ground lamb or beef. Saute for 5-7 minutes or until the meat is brown.

Murtabak - meat mix
Murtabak - egg wash

 Add the chopped potatoes and salt, turmeric powder, red chilly powder and garam masala powder. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to boil. Place a lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat till the potatoes are soft when pierced with a knife.

Increase the heat and saute till all the water has evaporated from the meat. There will be some oil in the bottom of the pan but there should be no excess juices.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Add drained  fresh cilantro. Stir and set aside to cool completely.

Beat eggs with salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside. 

Murtabak -roll out dough

Murtabak - apply egg wash
 

Roll out a piece of dough  (without using any flour as fine as possible - this is quite easy to do )

I prefer to roll out in the shape of a 10" square. Roll it out as thin as possible making sure that the roti is thinned out at the edges and slightly thicker in the middle  in comparison (since it has to hold the filling).

Spread 1/8 cup beaten egg all over the rolled dough sheet with the back of a spoon.

Murtabak -Add meat

Murtabak -fold over the top and bottom
 

Place 1/2 cup meat and potato filling in the center of the  dough sheet. 

Spread to flatten a bit. Fold over 2 sides and then the other 2 sides like you would fold an envelope. 

Murtabak -fold over the sides
Murtabak - Turn over the murtabak envelope

Turn over. Using oil damp palms, press over the 'envelope' so it expands to form a square about 6-7" in size.

Cook's Note -  Feel free to use a rolling pin  as well as greased palms to stretch the envelope. Some egg may ooze out as you are doing this.

Wipe the work surface clean with a damp kitchen paper towel each time you start rolling out the next one.

Murtabak -Heat oil
 
Murtabak - Cook both sides
 

Heat a non-stick skillet  and add 1/2 tbs ghee. Heat on medium heat. Place the Murtabak/roti on the skillet over the  pool of ghee.

Gently press down on the surface with a spatula and sizzle for 3 minutes or until the surface is a beautiful golden brown. 

Flip over with a spatula and add 1/2 tsp ghee all around the Murtabak/roti. Cook this side the same way.Once both sides are cooked a golden brown, remove to a serving plate. 

Continue pan frying, using the same method till all the Murtabak/rotis are cooked.

Murtabak-02

 

To serve, using a serrated bread knife, cut each Murtabak/roti  into 4-9 squares. depending on the size of the roti.  Sprinkle with chopped onions and cilantro.

Eat warm if possible but delicious even at room temperature.

One bite and I'm sure you'll agree that pastry is flaky and delicious. The lightly spiced meat and potato filling is savory and  complements the pastry perfectly.

We had these with hot cups of chai  for a light lunch and what can I say? - NO leftovers and the kids didn't want any dessert - they wanted to keep eating these. Now that's a complement if any!

Recipe for

MURTABAK a.k.a TAVAA ROTI/MUGHLAI PARATHA

Makes 4

Shopping list

Dough -

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tbs ghee

1/2 tbs salt

3/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup oil for soaking dough balls

Filling -

1 tbs ghee

3/4 lb ground meat - ground lamb, mutton or beef

2 small potatoes

1 small onion

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 " fresh ginger root

3 garlic cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

3/4 tsp red chilly powder

2 tbs Ghee for pan-frying 

2 eggs

1/4 tsp salt for eggs

1/4 tsp black ground pepper for eggs

For garnish -  chopped cilantro & chopped onion

Preparation -

Dough -  Measure out the all-purpose flour, salt, clarified butter or ghee & warm water in a parat, mixing bowl or a food processor or bread machine. Knead the dough by hand or in the food processor/bread machine until it is well mixed into a smooth ball.

Divide the dough ball into 4 equal sized dough balls. Place in a mixing bowl. Pour  1/4 cup of oil over the dough. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and set aside for a minimum of 1 hour to  2-3 hours. 

Filling -

Onion - Peel and finely chop. Discard skin and ends.

Cilantro - Wash and chop leaves. Soak in water till ready to use.  

Ginger root - Scrape the skin off the ginger root with a knife and finely chop to make 1 tbs

Garlic -  Separate cloves from a bulb and finely chop the cloves, discarding the skin.

Potatoes - Peel, wash and chop to about 1/4" pieces.

Eggs -  Crack eggs in a bowl . Add salt and pepper and beat with a fork.

For garnish - Chop the cilantro, slice the red pepper and chop the green onion. Soak in a bowl of water till ready to use.

Cooking method -

Filling -

Heat the ghee in a saute pan till hot. Add the chopped ginger, onions and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes and add the ground lamb or beef. Saute for 5-7 minutes or until the meat is brown.

Add the chopped potatoes and salt, turmeric powder, red chilly powder and garam masala powder. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to boil. Place a lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat till the potatoes are soft when pierced with a knife.

Remove lid. Increase the heat and saute till all the water has evaporated from the meat. There will be some oil in the bottom of the pan but there should be no excess juices.

Taste and adjust seasonings. Add drained  fresh cilantro. Stir and set aside to cool completely.

Parathas -

Beat eggs with salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside. 

Roll out a piece of dough  (without using any flour as fine as possible - this is quite easy to do )

I prefer to roll out in the shape of a 10" square. Roll it out as thin as possible making sure that the roti is thinned out at the edges and slightly thicker in the middle  in comparison (since it has to hold the filling).

Spread 1/8 cup beaten egg all over the rolled dough sheet with the back of a spoon.

Place about 1/2 cup meat and potato filling in the center of the  dough sheet. 

Spread to flatten a bit. Fold over 2 sides and then the other 2 sides like you would fold an envelope. 

Turn over. Using oil damp palms, press over the 'envelope' so it expands to form a square about 6-7" in size.

Cook's Note -  Feel free to use a rolling pin  as well as greased palms to stretch the envelope. Some egg may ooze out as you are doing this.

Wipe the work surface clean with a damp kitchen paper towel each time you start rolling out the next one.

Heat a non-stick skillet  and add 1/2 tbs ghee. Heat on medium heat. Place the Murtabak/roti on the skillet over the  pool of ghee.

Gently press down on the surface with a spatula and sizzle for 3 minutes or until the surface is a beautiful golden brown. 

Flip over with a spatula and add 1/2 tsp ghee all around the Murtabak/roti. Cook this side the same way.  Once both sides are cooked a golden brown, remove to a serving plate. 

Continue pan frying, using the same method till all the Murtabak/rotis are cooked.

Serve warm or at room temperture sprinkled with chopped onions and cilantro.

Enjoy!


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