Before we get to that, there have been a proliferation of prata variations, because well, we’re human beings and we like innovations and we like innovating.
If something taste good, can we make it taste even better?
So I grew up with prata kosong and prata telur (plain prata and egg prata). But even then, there was prata kosong bawang, and prata telur bawang, (prata onion only and prata egg and onion).
There may have been other variations specific to stalls or prata chefs. But these were what I remembered from my childhood.
(I’m leaving out the murtabak family which is like prata on steroids.)
Note: Roti Prata in Singapore and Roti Canai in Malaysia are a distinct variant (if that) of the original Paratha from India. I’ve had Paratha in an authentic Indian Restaurant (in Vancouver of all places), and it is not the same as the humble but intensely satisfying (to me), soul food that is “prata”.
What I always tell anybody who would listen, is that plain prata used to be square. After flipping the prata dough into a thin membrane, the prata man would fold in the sides and the top and bottom to make a square, and fry that.
If you want a prata telur (with egg), the prata man would crack an egg into the centre of the prata “membrane”, mix it, then seal the membrane by folding in the dough on four sides, with overlaps to make a pocket to hold the egg in. For prata with onions, or egg and onions, just add those ingredients before folding.
Then fry it.
BUT… plain prata now are smaller. They use less dough and the prata is smaller and it’s harder to make it square. Or the new prata men just aren’t as good at flipping the dough. So after they flip it, there isn’t much left to fold, or folding the small dough just makes it look sad, so they “swirl” the dough into a circle and flatten it.
I find round prata kosong… less satisfying.
[Note: “Prata men” may sound sexist, but… I haven’t seen any women flipping pratas.]
My ideal prata kosong is the perfect blend of crispy and chewy. But more crispy. But it cannot be so crispy that it is papadum.
Unfortunately, the only thing (to me) that is worse than a round prata kosong, is a cooled down prata kosong, and for efficiency, prata stalls often pre-fry prata kosong and prata telur (with egg).
So when I order prata, I usually order prata kosong bawang (plain with onion, to differentiate from egg and onion – prata telur bawang).
This is considered a “special” order because few people order plain onions. So they have to flip the prata from scratch and put onions in the prata. And because it needs to hold a filling, it has to be a square prata.
And without egg, it is more likely to be crisp (eggs reduces crispness).
And so I get my ideal square prata. With onions.