Jewish

The Buttery, Flaky Flatbread We're Addicted To

July 24, 2018

When's the last time you had a flatbread that resembles a pancake and pulls apart like a croissant? That irresistible, buttery, flaky flatbread is Malawach. Yemenite Jews brought this traditional bread with them to Israel in the ‘50’s, and it was commonly eaten for breakfast where it was served with a drizzle of honey or with hard boiled eggs, grated tomato, and zhug (a Yemeni spicy herb sauce). Malawach has since crossed over into mainstream Israeli culture, you’d easily find someone enjoying this flatbread as an afternoon snack or scarfing them down after a late night of drinking. These days, Israeli restaurants from L.A. to New York offer malawach on their menus, so its increasing popularity isn't surprising.

A malawach breakfast feast Photo by Julia Gartland

Several cultures have a flatbread similar to malawach like Chinese scallion pancakes, South Indian paratha, or Moroccan m'smen, but each has its own methodology: scallion pancakes use oil instead of butter, paratha adds egg to the dough, and m'smen uses oil and semolina flour. Malawach is prepared without oil or eggs, just lots of butter, spread liberally, creating a laminated dough as it's folded and rolled. The addition of pastry flour in this recipe yields an unmistakable light, buttery, flaky texture to boot.

The malawach dough is stretched as thin as possible to maximize the butter-receiving surface Photo by Julia Gartland
Fillings are optional, add them in before rolling up the dough Photo by Julia Gartland
Roll up the malawach, slathering more butter along the way Photo by Julia Gartland
Shape the dough into a pinwheel and refrigerate before rolling them flat Photo by Julia Gartland

Malawach is easy to make but requires a little patience and time, as most bread baking does. The beauty of this recipe though is that once you’ve made the effort of making and rolling the dough, you can store the flatbread dough in the freezer for up to 1 month; take ‘em straight from the freezer to a grill pan and within 3 minutes you’ll have fresh bread to devour as-is, dipped in sauce, or used as a vessel for your filling of choice. (If you're like me, hot dogs!)

When I made them, I wanted the best of all worlds and experimented by adding some of my favorite mixtures into the dough for variety: sliced scallions, sauteed garlic, wilted greens, and everything spice; they were all delicious. For a Sunday morning brunch gathering, I grilled the malawach and served them with grated tomato and zhug, topped with poached eggs. The tomato and zhug balanced the buttery bread with a pop of freshness and the perfect amount of acidity and heat. We delighted in tearing apart flaky pieces of the warm malawach and kept going back for more dollops of sauce to enjoy with each bite.


TO GO WITH YOUR Malawach

This article was originally published in July 2017. We're rerunning it because it's tomato sandwich season—and malawach makes a mighty good one. What flatbreads are you obsessed with? Tell us about them in the comments below.

12 Comments

Beth100 July 29, 2018
Looks delicious! Is this bread equally good cold? I’m thinking picnics tomato sandwiches.
 
Roxanne L. August 7, 2017
Have you ever had platha? I tried it for the first time at Burma Superstar in San Francisco. It is a buttery, flaky bread that they use for dipping and wrapping all sorts of ingredients. I vowed I would try to make it but have not followed through on that yet. Your description of Malawach sounds just like it!
 
Aamna August 6, 2017
Have you tried Malaysian parathas? This looks so similar! They have that amazing crisp exterior and the beautiful buttery layers. I buy them frozen at the Indian grocers! (Also agree about the no eggs in IndoPak parathas!)
 
Mary Y. August 3, 2017
Should I omit the sugar if I plan on savory fillings?
 
Author Comment
Lyna V. August 3, 2017
Hi Mary! do include the sugar, it helps balance out the flavor. Let us know how it turns out!
 
Andres D. August 3, 2017
this is fantastic, and i can't wait to try...but Indian paratha definitely does not use eggs! To me this is basically a paratha, as my mom, granny, and great granny made
 
Author Comment
Lyna V. August 3, 2017
Ah, thanks for clarifying on the paratha, Andres! some recipes I found included it (perhaps optional?). I hope you enjoy the recipe!
 
Prathima July 25, 2018
I'd really question the authenticity of those recipes that contain egg if I were you. Unless there is some reason for it in the filling, Indian paratha will not contain eggs, as many Indians adhere to a diet that does not include them.
 
Exactly what I came here to say- my mom has only ever made paratha with water and flour (similar to roti), and whatever filling we’re having (usually cauliflower or potato). That being said, Malawach sounds amazing!!
 
HalfPint July 27, 2017
I've loved malawach from afar since having it at Saul's in Berkeley. It's the only place I've ever seen malawach sold and it's only available on Fridays, which is why I haven't been able to have it in almost 3 years. I urge everyone to try this. Such a lovely texture and flavor.
 
cricket July 27, 2017
it's own methodology<br /><br />its*
 
Author Comment
Lyna V. July 27, 2017
thanks!