Mmm… roti jala. Serve it at any buffet and Malaysians will patiently queue to pile their plates sky high with rolls of these intricate yellow lace pancakes. Most of us have it drowned in chicken curry, but lace pancakes can be eaten sweet, paired with some decadent kuah durian. Not everyone eats durian though, so we wanted to make lace pancakes with a twist, something worthy of a fancy restaurant. And when some packets of powdered green tea by Fulleaf Tea Store landed at our desks, flashbulbs went off in our minds. Green tea lace pancakes.
Green tea desserts are enjoying quite a bit of popularity right now. Maybe it’s the spectacular jewel-green colour it brings to cakes or parfaits or ice cream. And then there’s all that nutrients. Plus, consuming anything green has got to be good for you, right? While we won’t call our green tea lace pancakes a health food, there is no doubt that these lace pancakes pack a pretty decent nutritional punch thanks to green tea powder.
Green tea powder magic
Because of the way green tea powder is processed, drinking a cup of green tea made from powder compared to tea leaves will give you more health benefits, simply because you get a lot more nutrients condensed into a teaspoon of powder compared to a teaspoon of tea leaves. Green tea powder is rich in vitamins, minerals and catechins, a type of natural phenol and a powerful antioxidant.
The many vitamins in green tea powder include Vitamin A (beta-carotene), which helps moisturize your skin while strengthening respiratory and digestive organs; Vitamin C eases fatigue, prevents colds and helps brighten your skin; Vitamin B2 enhances body development; while Vitamin E has wonderful anti-aging effects.
Other magical properties of green tea powder include amino acids, which not only makes the tea delicious, but its L-Theanine content helps the brain to work. The caffeine makes you feel refreshed. And the mineral flavonoids activates your metabolism and prevents bad breath, along with the fluorine which helps prevent tooth decay. You’ll be smiling for days!
We’re definitely convinced we need more green tea powder in our lives, and if we can cook with it, even better!
But not too hot
While green tea powder is a great addition to your baked goods, desserts and fancy drinks, adding them to any recipe that calls for high cooking temperatures and extended cooking times is not the best idea. While the flavour won’t diminish, its nutritional values will. Baking green tea powder is usually fine, or even cooking it on the stove top for a short period over medium to low heat. However, you wouldn’t want to stir-fry green tea powder over a high-pressure flame or boil it continuously over several hours.
Roti jala is typically cooked over a medium to medium low flame, so making this recipe should keep the green tea powder’s nutrients intact. Furthermore, you don’t want the heat too high when making lace pancakes either as it will end up burning one side far too quickly, making them crispy and hard. You want your green tea lace pancakes to be soft and pliable so you can fold or roll them up easily.
Another important thing to keep in mind when making roti jala is the use of a good non-stick pan. A heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet or pan is most ideal, as it distributes heat evenly and maintains the temperature a lot better so you won’t have to keep fiddling with the temperature knob. You also wouldn’t want to keep scraping bits of batter from the pan between each pour. Furthermore, the ‘lace’ is quite delicate and you definitely do not want it sticking to any part of the pan or you’ll end up with torn lace pancakes instead. Your mother in law is not going to be impressed.
Green tea powder vs matcha
Before you start making green tea lace pancakes, there’s one other important thing you need to know: while matcha is a type of green tea powder, not all green tea powders are matcha. Matcha is made from tencha leaves grown in a very specific way. Green tea powder, on the other hand, can be made from any kind of tea leaves or even different parts of the tea plant. Fulleaf Tea Store’s green tea powder is made purely from tea leaves, so you don’t have to worry about consuming a stem or some other part of the tea plant instead. Green tea powder also tends to be darker in colour compared to matcha and a little bit more bitter. It is also significantly more affordable compared to good quality matcha, making it an affordable option if you’d like to add it to your cooking, especially if you’re a newbie.
And a newbie at making roti jala at that.
One of the reasons lace pancakes isn’t that common at home or restaurants – or are sold at a higher than typical price – is because it does require some skill to get that ‘jala’ right. While it’s not rocket science exactly, getting the perfect swirl does require practise. And practise. And then some more practise. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be jala-ing it like a pro and wondering why you were so hesitant to try making them in the first place. And trust us, this is definitely a life-skill worth having.
So, are you ready to try something new? Let’s make some green tea lace pancakes. Oh, and let’s not forget that delicious gula Melaka custard on the side.
Green tea lace pancakes
- 20g (8 tsp) green tea powder
- 300g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 115g (1/3 cup + ¼ cup) coconut cream
- 2 eggs
- 480ml (2 cups) water
- 60g (4 tbsp) sugar
- 5g (1 tsp) salt
- 2-3 leaves pandan leaves, one edge tied together with a rubber band
- 120ml (1/2 cup) cooking oil
- Food processor, regular or handheld blender
- Lace pancake funnel
- 30cm heavy bottomed non-stick pan
- Thin non-stick or metal spatula
- Aluminium foil
Gula melaka custard
- 135g (3/4c) grated coconut sugar (gula Melaka), packed
- 30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 3g (1 tsp) vanilla essence
- 30g (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
- 480ml (2 cups) milk
Making the batter for green tea lace pancakes
- In a large mixing bowl, add flour then water. Give the ingredients a good whisk until it is evenly mixed and most of the lumps have broken down. We recommend using a handheld mixer instead of a regular whisk, unless you’re planning for it to be arm-day in the kitchen.
- Next, add coconut cream, eggs, salt, sugar and green tea powder.
- Whisk until the batter is smooth and the green tea powder is thoroughly mixed in. You don’t want any remaining clumps of green tea powder to remain.
- Once mixed, run the batter through a sieve into another bowl to remove any leftover clumps.
Note: the instructions above are for a handheld mixer or whisk. If you are using a food processor or blender instead, add the ingredients to the relevant vessels and process them accordingly.
Batter consistency is very important when making lace pancakes. It shouldn’t be too watery, nor should it be too thick. The recipe above should yield the right consistency, however, results can sometimes vary depending on various factors.
If you want to be sure, fill your roti jala funnel with batter, then let it drip out of the funnel. If it takes about thirty to fourty seconds to empty completely, your batter is about right. However, the best way to test it is to cook it, as funnel sizes can vary. Follow the “Cooking green tea lace pancakes” instructions below to test your batter. If adjustment is required, add a little more flour if your batter is too watery, or a little more water if it is too thick. Go by 1 tsp increments until you reach the desired consistency.
Heating the oil
- Lay a sheet of aluminium foil on your kitchen surface, close to where you will be cooking the green tea lace pancakes. Also prepare a plate.
- Heat cooking oil in your skillet or pan over high heat.
- Use your tied pandan leaves to ‘stir’ the oil. This releases some of the delicious pandan aroma into the oil. However, do not dip the whole pandan leaf into the oil.
- Your oil is hot enough when it starts to sizzle around the leaf. Transfer the oil back into a small heat-proof bowl. Do not discard the pandan leaves. It will be your ‘brush’. Turn the heat down to medium.
Cooking green tea lace pancakes
- Fill your roti jala funnel with batter. Depending on the size of your funnel, each lace pancake uses almost half a funnel’s worth of batter. However, add more as the pressure will help the batter flow out of the funnel more evenly.
- Working quickly, bring the funnel over to the pan. Start by making a flower pattern then filling in with a continuous circular motion. We found that to create even strokes, the tips of the funnel should be about 3cm from the surface of the pan, and that when creating the patterns, move your hand in circular motions instead of ‘shaking’ the funnel. The trick is to be quick but not too quick. Too fast and you’ll end up with dots instead of strokes, too slow and the ‘lace’ will be too fat. Aim for 2-3mm strokes to make pretty green tea lace pancakes. Unless you’re a pro, you may require several rounds of practise before you get the hang of jala-ing. Don’t worry if your first few attempts don’t look very pretty, they’re still edible! It is also important to keep your strokes tight and make sure they connect.
Note: batter consistency is very important in getting even strokes. If the batter is too watery, your strokes will be fat, no matter how fast you move. Too thick and your batter won’t flow smoothly.
- Once you’ve completed the lace pancake pattern, ‘brush’ some of the cooked oil onto the exposed side of the jala with the pandan leaves. One quick dip of oil is sufficient.
- Your roti jala should cook in roughly 15-20 seconds. If it’s cooking much faster than you can handle, turn the heat down a little.
- Use a thin non-stick or metal spatula to carefully lift one edge of the lace pancake. Slide the spatula under the pancake and gently remove green tea lace pancakes from the pan. The roti jala should come out very easily. If it doesn’t, try using a better non-stick pan, or add a little bit more oil to your pancake. If you’re using a metal spatula, be very careful not to ‘rub’ it against the pan to avoid it scratching your pan. Flip the pancake over before transferring it to the aluminium foil so the brighter green of the pancake will be underneath.
- Repeat the steps above until the batter is finished. Fold each lace pancake while waiting for the other to cook – or get someone to help you. You do not want to pile unfolded lace pancakes on top of each other as they can become entangled and you’ll end up with a mess! Folding instructions are below.
Folding green tea lace pancakes
Some people like rolling their roti jala, some like folding it. While others fold it in quarters. There’s no wrong way to fold a jala, as long as you do. This ensures the individual lace pancakes do not get tangled up or torn as they can be somewhat fragile. Plus, folded or rolled roti jala is a lot easier to serve and for guests to help themselves to.
- Start by folding the lace pancake into a third.
- The fold the opposite side over the first fold to form a long rectangle.
- Take one end of the rectangle and once again, fold it into a third.
- Fold the opposite corner over the first fold, making sure the edges of the roti jala do not stick out.
- Fold it in half.
- Repeat steps above until all green tea lace pancakes are folded.
Gula Melaka custard
While green tea lace pancakes taste good as is, it pairs really well with this decadent gula Melaka custard. This creamy sauce isn’t technically custard since it doesn’t make use of eggs or custard powder, but the texture is quite similar. The gula Melaka gives the custard a light caramelized sweetness that isn’t overpowering, and makes you kind of want to eat it with every single sweet thing. And why not? It’ll go great with regular pancakes, apple pie, bread and butter pudding and more!
- In a small pot or saucepan, combine flour and grated coconut sugar. Do not turn on the heat just yet.
- Whisk until the flour and sugar are evenly mixed. It’s ok if a few clumps remain as gula Melaka tends to be quite moist.
- Turn the stovetop on to medium heat, then whisk in the milk, stirring regularly until it starts to simmer and thicken.
- The sauce is ready when you can swipe a finger across the back of the spoon and it remains clean.
- Turn off the fire and add in butter and vanilla. Stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Serve with green tea lace pancakes in a separate bowl, or pour it over the top.
- You can use fresh coconut cream or those that come in a can or a box for this recipe. If you don’t have coconut cream, get some first-pressed coconut milk or unpasteurized boxed or canned coconut milk. Let it to sit for several hours or overnight in the fridge. Scoop out the layer of cream that forms on the top and use that. As coconut cream thickness can vary, this may affect batter consistency. Read our Better batter tips above for suggestions to getting your batter right.
- The beauty of lace pancakes is that they do not need to be served hot. Feel free to pre-make them earlier in the day. Just keep them in room temperature covered with some cling film or cloth to ward off insects and itchy fingers. However, if it’s cold where you live, a food warmer or slightly warmed oven is ideal. We don’t recommend refrigerating and reheating lace pancakes you’re planning to serve, unless there are leftovers of course.
- Trying to scoop out and cook the last bit of batter can be a pain, especially if there’s not enough for one final lace pancake. Instead, pour the last bits of batter into the pan and make a mini crepe instead. Enjoy that for yourself!
- And yes, you can make crepes with this batter too if you don’t have a roti jala funnel or the patience to learn how to jala.
- The gula Melaka custard will thicken as it cools. Feel free to heat it up a little before serving, but it does not need to be hot. Warm is best.
- Want to give this recipe an even more local twist? Instead of serving green tea lace pancakes with gula Melaka custard, serve it with some kuah durian It’ll be so good!
That green tea factor
Are green tea lace pancakes good, or are they good? That slight hint of bitterness from the green tea in a lightly caramelized lace pancakes. And then there’s that sauce. Oh my. There’s that comfort factor too, that familiarity in the shape and taste of roti jala paired with something completely different, the therapeutic repetitiveness of the whole jala process, and all those extra vitamins and nutrients. Heck, our green tea lace pancakes sound like the perfect treat for a little mind, body and soul healing, or at least, happiness. And every bite is definitely pure happiness, with stamps approval received from the young and roti jala purists alike.
While all the ingredients for green tea lace pancakes are easy to get your hands on, you may be wondering where you can buy some green tea powder. Look for them in the Japanese section of your local supermarket, or order them online from Fulleaf Tea Store. Different green tea powder brands will have different levels of sweetness and bitterness, so feel free to adjust the amount of sugar in your batter if needed. You don’t want the batter too sweet though – just a mild hint of sweetness will suffice. Green tea lace pancakes will sweeten a little bit more from the caramelization process when cooked. Plus, don’t forget you have some gula Melaka custard served on the side too!
While it is tempting to eat all your green tea lace pancakes in one go right this minute, take a few seconds to plate it up because it does look quite pretty. Appreciate your artwork for a second, then snap a picture and share it on Instagram and Facebook. Don’t forget to use the #butterkicap hashtag to let us know what you think!