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Thursday, 25 October 2007

Murtabak, The Singapore Version

Would you pay seven ringgit for a murtabak? I would if it is a well-made Murtabak Singapore as shown by these photos of the authentic version as prepared by Zam Zam Restaurant in Singapore. Why did you say? Because this will be an upsized version of a mamak murtabak, more like a lasagna with alternating layers of mincemeat mix and over fried paratha squares, wrapped in a whole paratha skin that is then topped with a whole egg, lightly spread and then further sprinkled with the mincemeat to make a crust. As such you know that they are making real murtabak Singapore when the murtabak chef have a ready pan of mincemeat meat on hand when they are making the murtabak.

This is definitely a far cry from the roti masquerading as murtabaks at night market or Ramadan bazaars that are really scrambled eggs and mincemeat filled roti canai, more like onion roti telur with the mincemeat added as compared to a real murtabak. For me this would have at least one layer of the alternating square pastry to deserve the moniker, as the mamak version must have a more generous filling of the mincemeat though maybe not as generous as the Singapore version in order to gain that square shape. Wouldn’t this be logical since murtabak comes from muttabaq, the Arabian original where tabbaq means to fold? To illustrate my favourite murtabak stall prepares their murtabak by first putting the roti square as a sort of tile for the murtabak egg mix to fry on the griddle, before turning it over once it sets and repeating the whole process, making sure both sides cook evenly before wrapping it in roti canai that in this version will fit two pieces. This will then be topped with the heavenly minyak sapi (ghee) or clarified butter, with the chef using the spatula to poke holes into the murtabak to ensure that the butter seeps properly through to give it the die for taste. You just cannot beat this version, because if it was done right you actually get a two in one since you will get well flavoured roti canai as excess once you cut it up, and confession time, I actually prefer to eat this roti canai cover separately and just enjoy the murtabak mince meat with the pastry layer.

What actually got me started to write this piece on murtabak Singapore was that either by design or otherwise, of all the Ramadan bazaars I visited last Ramadan, the one in Bandar Tun Hussein Onn actually had two stalls located close to each other claiming their murtabaks as murtabak Singapore when I cannot even find one elsewhere. Thus it was disappointing to see that upon closer inspection that even though the first stall offered thick murtabak not usually found in such markets, it did not have the aforementioned meaty egg crust that would have qualified it as a Murtabak Singapore in my books. The other vendor offered both murtabak versions, with their Singapore version coming with the requisite larger size and crust. However this was a much thinner version without the layers and was a bit too dry compounded with the mincemeat mix lacking spices, so it was definitely a one time buy even though it cost me the abovementioned seven ringgit. This means that the last time I had a good murtabak Singapore after a very long time was when I made a transit at Air Hitam where I enjoyed one made in one of the stalls opposite the old pottery row. Surfing the Internet, it seems that one place that comes close is located in Section 2, BB Bangi and what seems to be the real McCoy is served at a restaurant in Taipan USJ. At least now I know where to go if I get the munchies.

As a postscript, I would like to say the southerners must really like their mincemeat. In my previous post I have declared that a real Roti John must have a thick mix of meat and eggs to be considered genuine and are not the French toast like versions usually on sale whereby I would usually do a Wendy and ask “Where’s the beef?” Well take a look at this version offered in Muar, that is one heck of a meat filled Roti John. This time I would be asking "Where is the eggs?" then Nyum! Nyum!


Alpha said...

Man...I lurveeee these murtabak singapore!! (also available in Johor...but a bit thinner, especially those sold at pasar malams)

mumuchi said...

I think that's the version i got then at the bazaar ramadhan