A Sel roti (pronounced “sell row-tee”) is a small, sweet rice doughnut of sorts that is often served with milk tea. These delightful ethnic appetizers are thinner than the average donut, and are served without any added flavors.
Sel rotis are fairly simple and basic in taste. They are sweet, soft, chewy, and a tad bit oily. The interplay of sugar, butter, and rice may at first seem strange, but soon becomes irresistible. Truth be told, I have never been able to have only one.
When paired and served with a warm beverage—be it coffee, tea, or even hot chocolate—Sel rotis are at their best. I personally prefer sel-rotis with a glass of warm milk: simple, yet ineffably satiating.
In the past, you could only find these prepared during traditional large festivals and social events, but they’ve recently become more commonplace as Nepalese people of all ages enjoy spending their average evenings indoors with a hot cup of tea and a dozen Sel rotis.
As with all traditional Nepali dishes, the secret of making sel-rotis has been passed down orally. This past weekend, I made a point to call my mother and ask her how she made her Sel rotis. She gave me a few pointers, which I’ve incorporated into my recipe.
(Makes 8 pastries)
1. Place rice in a medium bowl and add water to cover. Soak for at least two hours, or up to overnight. The longer the rice soaks, the softer your sel-rotis will be.
2. Drain the excess water from the rice.
3. Blend rice, butter, sugar, cloves, and green cardamom together. Gradually add water, blending occasionally, until it resembles a thick and smooth paste. If the paste seems too watery, add more butter and sugar. Avoid using too much water; a viscous paste is far easier to fix than a watery one.
4. Pour the mixture into a new bowl and stir. Fill a small, approximately 6 oz. cup with the mixture.
5. Pour at least an inch of oil into a heavy, deep skillet and bring to a simmer over high heat on the stove.
6. Pour the small cup of batter into a large, hollow circle in the pan.
7. Use a pair of spoons or chopsticks to shape the mixture into a circular donut shape as it cooks in the oil. Flip every 10-15 seconds, and remove from oil after it acquires a light brown tint.
8. Repeat steps 5-7 with remainder of batter.
9. Serve with your preferred beverage and a smug face. You’ve earned it.