"Food -- or makan, as we call it -- is a national obsession," said Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan in "A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family." "In the fifteen years that I've lived in the United States, I've often said to American friends that, when it comes to Singapore, I miss the food first and then my family. They think I'm joking."
(Tan is a former classmate, although Facebook and food have brought us closer that four years of undergrad ever did.) In the first chapter of her food memoir, Tan waxed nostalgic about bak kut teh (Chinese pork bone tea soup), Hainanese chicken rice, ice kacang (Malaysian shaved ice), Singaporean Chilli Crabs, and Singaporean roti John.
Most of the dishes I'm familiar with, but the last was new to me.
"The influence of the British -- whom the locals called Johns when Singapore was a colony -- inspired the Malay dish of roti John, which features a baguette topped with beaten eggs, minced mutton, and onions that's then quickly panfried and served with a spicy tomato dip," Tan described.
That sounded delicious, as did her descriptions of making kaya jam and pineapple tarts. But, as I wasn't about to make 100 pineapple tarts or 60 mooncakes or 80 otak (Singaporean spiced grilled fish paste), the recipes in her book weren't quite feasible for me.
A bit of Googling and I came upon this YouTube video by the Singapore International Foundation about roti John at the Shukor Stall Makanan Istemewa featuring Sufiah Nordiyana, granddaughter of the hawker who invented and/or popularized the dish in 1976.
I've changed the methodology a little bit, to scale down for cooking for one as opposed to hundreds. I used Vietnamese-French bread and substituted the mutton with beef, but kept the egg and onion. I also added a chopped scallion for some color and a dash of curry powder and garam masala as a nod to the Indian origins of the dish. Since I wasn't quite sure what the tomato chili sauce tasted like, I drizzled Thai Shark Sriracha, which is sweeter than the Huy Fong Foods, Inc. version.
British, Malay, Indian, Singaporean, the various influences that went into creating this dish, resulted in a delicious sandwich that was perfect for lunch. And again for dinner.
Singaporean Roti John with Beef
Inspired by the roti John at the Shukor Stall Makanan Istemewa.
For 1 serving as a meal, or 2 servings as a snack, you'll need:
1 small French bread roll, split in half and toasted
1 shallot or 1 tblsp onion, finely diced
1 scallion, sliced
2 tblsps ground beef
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp curry powder and/or garam masala
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp soy sauce
Optional: Drizzle or dip with Sriracha or tomato chili sauce.
Split the French bread in half length-wise and toast.
Finely dice 1 shallot or a quarter of a small onion and 1 scallion.
In a saucepan on medium-high heat, drizzle a bit of oil and add the chopped shallot and scallion, 2 tblsps ground beef, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp curry powder and/or garam masala.
Saute until the beef is cooked.
Turn the heat down to medium and add 1 beaten egg and 1/2 tsp soy sauce.
Stir until the egg is mixed with the beef and onion. Cover with a lid for about a minute to cook the egg.
When the egg is about halfway cooked, add the toasted French roll.
With a wooden spoon, tuck the extra egg mixture underneath the French bread.
Do that with the other side so that the filling is completely under the bread.
When the egg is cooked, turn off the heat, and flip the sandwich onto a plate. If you need a little help, I place a plate over the pan, then using pot holders, flip the whole thing.
So now the plate is on the bottom and the pan is on top.
Lift the pan and you have a perfectly flipped omelet sandwich.
Which looks a little colorless until I added a generous drizzle of Sriracha.
As you noticed in the photos, the egg mixture is hanging over the edge of the French bread.
So that's why I had to make roti John again for dinner, and this time, tucked in the sides so the egg mixture didn't spill over.
See? Much better!
Chop up into sections for easier eating.
Delicious enough that I made roti John twice in one day. Next, I'll have to try the Malaysian roti John, which uses canned sardines, but that's a post for another day.
Other sandwich recipes:
Banh Mi Hot Ga Op La (Vietnamese French Bread with Sunnyside-Up Eggs)
Banh Mi Thit Heo Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sandwich)
Banh Mi Thit Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork and Egg Sandwich)
Banh Mi Xa Xiu (Vietnamese Barbecued Pork Sandwich)
Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich)
Denver (Omelette) Sandwich
Lobster Roll with Sriracha Butter
Singaporean Roti John with Sardines
1 year ago today,
2 years ago today,
3 years ago today,
4 years ago today,
5 years ago today, Portland Farmers Market at PSU - Portland - Oregon.
6 years ago today, Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale - Altadena.
7 years ago today, Banh Mi & Che Cali Restaurant - Alhambra.