The flaky and oozing-with-fat barotta is a common sight at every busy street corner in Chennai. Apoorva Sripathi visits one such stall in Triplicane and brings the experience back to you

It is 6.30 p.m. when my friend and I troop into Sri Sai Ram Fast Food stall in Triplicane to meet the owner S. Dhinakaran. Our sole purpose is to watch the making of the 'barotta' — a street food ‘tiffin item’ as ubiquitous to Chennai as the filter coffee or malli poo. We get introduced to Chandru, the ‘barotta master’ (or chef, if you may) the chap behind these flaky wonders.

The walls, an interesting yellow, are spattered with oil and other ingredients. We train our eyes on Chandru who deftly kneads maida (all-purpose flour), water, salt, baking powder and eggs into a giant ball of dough. He allows it to rest for a bit but not before slathering a startling amount of oil on the surface.

View the ‘how to’ slideshow at http://thne.ws/barotta-pix

He divides the dough into equal portions of tennis-sized balls, and coats them with, yes, more oil! With practised ease, he swiftly shapes them into small discs with a greasy rolling pin and stacks them one on top of the other. We watch open-jawed as his hands expertly flatten the discs into a translucent and thin pizza-like base. These are quickly coiled into concentric circles to resemble delicate rosettes.

Meanwhile, a square-shaped tawa sizzling with oil calls out with a hiss. The rosettes are flattened with the rolling pin and placed on the tawa brushed with more oil. Tossed around till both sides are browned, Chandru places a few barottas together and fluffs them like pillows before serving these with piping hot saalna.

By 7.30 p.m., customers start walking in – from the men living in ‘mansions’ to fathers grabbing some take-away for the kids to eat at home. At Rs. 7 per barotta, the stall does brisk business, in much the same way it has for the past decade. Chandru’s smile is infectious as he gets ready to churn out more barottas, but then we are too busy wolfing down the delicious preparation.

What: Barotta

Where: Triplicane’s Sri Sai Ram Fast Food

How much: Rs. 7 per piece