Sel roti is a classic Nepali bread. Compared to the form of round donut, SelRoti is also rounded, but the whole in the middle is wider, so it is thin and slightly taller in dimension. It is mainly made of rice flour, water, sugar, cooking oil, and ghee. Nepalese ethnic population has been rice eaters since centuries now because of the vast terai area along the Indo-Nepal border; and the word ‘Sel’ in Sel Roti come from a variety of rice called ‘Sel’. Since in the olden times, the majority of the population was into farming and needed tonnes of energy to get through their everyday work, they made sure to include a lot of carbohydrates and fat in their diet. So the combination of rice, sugar and oil came out to be the perfect choice for people who had sweet tooth and needed a massive amount of energy. Some old tales even suggest that Sel Roti was inspired by Babri, a pancake of sorts, both are easy to travel with hence drawing inspiration to one another. The first iteration of this fermented bread, which gets its name from the Sel rice variety, which grows in the foothills of Nepal, was fascinating, a far cry from the fragrant, sweet/savory versions which one can try. Often, it is also mispronounced as cell roti, sail roti and even sell roti. Over the course of time, this bread has travelled around the world and stayed in the hearts and bellies of all Nepalis making it an essential part of the Nepalese culinary scene. Different people have different accounts in terms of the origin of Sel Roti, but who cares? We know just one thing for sure, we all love Sel Roti.
This type of cooking used for Sel Roti symbolises the quintessential base of Nepali cuisine to the tee as it follows the ideology of bold flavours without over sweetening or over the top use of spices. This dish is often served at the festival of Tihar or any occasion such as birthdays, weddings, get together, picnics, etc. During weddings it’s customary for the groom’s family to gift the bride’s family Sel Roti in a bamboo basket as a token of marrying their daughter, hence it can be argued that no special occasion is complete without the presence of this delight.
CAN EVERYONE COOK SEL ROTI?
Sel Roti is usually eaten withPuri as confectionery bread and can be served with a hot beverage such as tea or even with side of aaludum, aaluachaar, lapsiachaar or even meat; it totally depends on the person and how they prefer it. Nepali people’s love for this food is directly proportional to how crunchy and hot it is served hence this food is also a famous street vending operation in Nepal. The preparation of this unique food item is not difficult but sure is messy, until and unless it is prepared with the help of a modern and innovative kitchen tool called ‘SelRoti maker’ or the one that has been traditionally used ‘Soli’. How to make perfect sel roti is a question that can only be answered by Nepali grandmothers and mothers, who make it look so easy. Perhaps a perfect Sel Roti recipe can be cracked over a course of time with practice. One needs to really get into the preparation of the batter, literally getting one’s hands dipped in the mix, this will not only lead to a silken batter but will also lead to a homogenous mix. The scary part can be the simmering hot oil and also, getting the round shape can be tricky in nature but after trial and error, one can achieve that shape without any hesitation, it just depends on practice. Novices may find it slightly tricky to cook, but innovative tools like Sel Roti maker can make things much convenient and easier. The Sel Roti is not just a gastronomical phenomenon found at the streets of Nepal but also represents diversity in its food narrative.
INTEGRATION IN FESTIVALS
It can be roughly estimated that over 800 years, this treat has gained its popularity. Despite Tihar being traditionally celebrated mainly by Brahmins and Chettris, the mixing and integrating of cultures lead to Sel Roti being been picked up by all as a delicious treat and uniting all fronts of lives. As it was sweet, it was frequently served as Prasad. The fact that it lasted for days was one of the other reasons for its historical success. During Laxmi Puja, they did it so it can also be used for Bhai Tika. As the only time of year when brothers were able to eat at the homes of their sisters, a cause for celebration, a cause for sweets.Over those hundreds of years, though, things have changed for bread as well.
CRUX OF THE MATTER
Be it Dashain, Tihar or any other festival of Nepal, the grand feasts are the highlight of each one and Sel roti is the ultimate star in those feasts when it comes to sweetness. The platter served during this festival is full of delight and happy calories. We have grown up eating Sel Roti and now it is unimaginable to even think of our lives without it as it has taken the topmost position on the list of eatables during any given occasion in Nepali community.