Rotis (parathas, rotis, chapatis, phulkas - and many variations)

I hesitate to define usage of the term roti in India. In one way, it is a generic term - there  is a common phrase - Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (roughly translatable as Bread, Cloth and House) referring the the basic essentials of life. There was even a Hindi movie with this phrase as its title. But some use the term roti to refer to chapatis, rather than to the whole set of variations. In Telugu we use the term roti - or rather rotte (plural rottelu) to refer to what the north Indians would probably call light parathas. Here I am using the term roti rather broadly, to include chapatis (cooked without any oil) too. Vanaja never fails to tease me about the word rotte - pretending that it is an anglicised or frenchified pronunciation of roti. Actually it is a basic Telugu word, a plural (lu) added to rotte (pronounced with stress on the tt and an admittedly French accent on the e!).

One thing about rotis versus rice: Broadly speaking the north of India is wheat growing and the south and the east of India are rice growing. So you get more roti eaters in the north and more rice eaters in the south and the east. But this is a crude portrayal: you get both everywhere, perhaps just a difference of degree. I think in every family there are some who prefer the one and others who prefer the other. Just ask any Indian - are you a roti person or a rice person and the likelihood is you will get an answer. 

My first memory of making rotis or phulkas (chapatis) is learning from my mother how to roll them out. It was early 1972, in the 6 month gap between finishing school and starting college and it was pretty much my daily lunch time job. We always had rotis (parathas) for lunch, but phulkas (chapatis) for dinner. Rice was cooked fresh at both meals.

Making the dough (for parathas or chapatis or puris):

Traditionally the dough is made slightly differently (varying amounts of oil in it) depending on whether it is meant for parathas or chapatis or puris (more oil in puris). But I use the same amount for all and it doesn't seem to be a problem. 

Use chapati flour (available in any Asian shop) or a half/half or 1/3 - 2/3  mixture of wholemeal and plain flour. Put two cups of flour in a bowl, dribble in a teaspoonful of oil and sprinkle in a teaspoon of salt. Use your hands to break up the lumps caused by the oil and mix it all in. Pour in a small amount of water and mix with your fingers, then a bit more until you have a nice even dough (add more flour if too wet). Shouldn't take long - a few minutes. The dough should be soft but not sticky. You might want it a tad harder (ie more flour less water) for puris.