Curry chicken stuffed inside a roti at Homemade Kitchen Roti...

Curry chicken stuffed inside a roti at Homemade Kitchen Roti Shop in Valley Stream. Credit: Newsday/Andi Berlin

At first glance, the new Homemade Kitchen Roti Shop looks like another Latino deli in the bustling neighborhood of Valley Stream. A constant stream of school kids make the trip in for afternoon snacks. The counter has no signs, but they still know what to ask for: tennis rolls, egg ball and China cake.

This is common fare in Guyanese neighborhoods like Richmond Hill, Queens, which is host to dozens of West Indian bakeries, roti shops and clothing stores. Homemade Kitchen Roti Shop feels like a slice of Little Guyana in Nassau County. The shop is owned by Valley Stream residents Seerita Karim and her husband, Shazam, who hail from Guyana and decided to open their own spot now that their kids are old enough to go to school. 

“It was always my dream to own a restaurant. I love to cook,” Seerita said. “We see the population [in Valley Stream] is getting very diverse, so we thought it would be nice to have a place close to home, instead of going all the way to Queens.” 

She's hired three workers to help her prepare the roti from scratch every day, using paddles to smack the wheat flour dough into flaky disks. The large flatbread is a symbol of Guyana's multicultural background, which includes people of Indian, African and Chinese descent as well as Indigenous groups. Considered part of the Caribbean, the South American nation was colonized by the Dutch and later the British, who brought in enslaved people and indentured servants to work on sugar plantations. Guyana gained its independence in 1966 and today boasts one of the most eclectic cuisines in South America.

Roti originated in India and is found across South and Southeast Asia, as well as parts of Africa. But this Caribbean variety is substantially larger than the kind you'll find on the appetizer menu at local Thai restaurants.

Most customers will probably take theirs to-go, folded up alongside one of Homemade Kitchen Roti Shop's flavorful meat and veggie curries. But if you're willing to set up on one of the few bar stools at the small front counter, the move is to get a “roti wrap” with the curry: goat, beef, shrimp or in this case, chicken still on the bone. A server stretches the large flatbread over a takeout box and plops the saucy curry in the middle, folding up the top of the bread like a present.

Eat it pretty quickly, because the wet curry soaks through bottom of the roti. But that's actually the best part, using this flaky wheat tortilla to catch every last drop of the fragrantly spiced chicken broth. Another snack, a fried egg ball ($2.50) of mashed cassava dough, comes with two explosively hot sauces called mango sour and tamarind sour. Just a tiny dip is so spicy that a drink becomes a necessity. Luckily, there's a fridge with dozens of interesting bottles, including a sweet Golden Apple juice that tastes like a thicker apple juice, but lists cherries as its main ingredient. (Golden apple is actually a tropical fruit in Guyana that has a stringy, fibrous pit.) 

Also, don't miss the pastry case at the front, with Guyanese pastries, including butter rolls and the China cake stuffed with sweet black-eyed peas. The store also serves Trinidadian doubles, and a popular street food fish sandwich that goes by the name fish and bread. 

Homemade Kitchen Roti Shop, 204 N. Central Ave., Valley Stream, 516-636-5656, Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. 

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