Hed Chef: Roti john
The New Paper catches up with the granddaughter of a hawker who made the roti john famous here
While there are different versions of how roti john originated, it was a food seller called Mr Shukor who set the bar for the fried omelette sandwich and cemented its status as a local culinary classic when he sold it at the now-demolished Taman Serasi Food Centre near the Singapore Botanic Gardens from 1976.
After he died in 1985, his wife, Madam Khadijah Mohd Salleh, carried on selling the dish.
In 2001, the stall relocated to Serangoon Garden Market where Mr Shukor's eldest daughter, Madam Norhayati Shukor, 49, and her siblings ran the business until they closed it in March 2010.
Mr Shukor's eldest granddaughter, Ms Sufiah Nordiyana, who used to help out at the stall, said it was a family decision to stop operating the business.
The 28-year-old, who works as an assistant operations supervisor in the logistics industry, said: "It was not an easy decision to make, especially since my late grandmother used to remind us to keep my grandfather's legacy alive."Ms Sufiah, who has a son, 5, and daughter, 6, hopes to some day revive her grandfather's legacy by setting up her own stall.
Her husband is supportive of the idea.
Said Ms Sufiah: "We hope to do this in five years' time, when both our children are older."
In the meantime, she still cooks roti john for several former customers who place private orders with her.
For the record, the Shukor roti john recipe remains fiercely guarded and in the family vault, so to speak.
With the exception of Mr Shukor's wife, only his direct descendants know the recipe of his famous roti john.
Ms Sufiah said: "Even my father does not know the recipe and neither does my husband."
The Shukor descendants are adamant about keeping the recipe strictly within the family and have even turned down offers from parties interested in buying the recipe.
"It was my grandfather's dying wish that the recipe never be shared outside of the family and my grandmother constantly reminded us to honour his request," Ms Sufiah explained.
But she agreed to share a few tips on cooking roti john.
It was my grandfather's dying wish that the recipe never be shared outside of the family and my grandmother constantly reminded us ?to honour ?his request.Ms Sufiah Nordiyana, eldest granddaughter of Mr Shukor, who cemented the roti john's status as a local culinary classic when he sold it from 1976 at the now-demolished Taman Serasi Food Centre near the Botanic Gardens
She uses 1½ to two large eggs for half a French loaf. She insists on using freshly peeled and ground purple onion.
Always use fresh French loaf, which should have a crusty exterior but soft interior that yields easily when gently pressed, she said.
The pan or griddle must be hot before you pour on the egg mixture.
Once the egg hits the pan, lower the heat so that the egg mixture has a chance to cook evenly without getting burnt.
Each roti john shouldn't take more than three minutes to cook.
In a bid to celebrate local food culture, I tried my hand at cooking roti john, with green chilli thrown in for extra crunch and colour, and cheese.
In my version, I chopped the onion, but the next time I try it out, I will go with Ms Sufiah's tip to add ground purple onion in the egg mixture.
ROTI JOHN (MAKES 2)
- 50ml tomato ketchup
- 50ml chilli sauce
- 50ml water
- Pinch of salt
- 1 French loaf (200g)
- 2 tbsp sambal (chilli paste)
- 1 (100g) onion, chopped
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 200g ground beef
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 green finger chillies, deseeded and sliced
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 4 slices (80g) of cheddar cheese
1. To prepare the dipping sauce, place the tomato ketchup, chilli sauce and water in a saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes until the sauce thickens. Season with a pinch of salt.
3. Remove from heat and set the dipping sauce aside.
4. Halve the French loaf breadth-wise.
5. Butterfly each piece of French loaf and set aside.
6. In a clean mixing bowl, place the chilli paste and chopped onion.
7. Add the eggs. Mix well.
8. Add the ground beef and salt. Mix well.
9. Add the sliced green chillies.
10. In a clean flat pan, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil.
11. Over low heat, ladle half of the egg mixture into the pan.
12. Allow the egg mixture to cook for a minute.
13. Take one piece of French loaf and place it, skin side up, over the egg mixture.
14. Use a frying slice or spatula to press the bread onto the egg mixture. Fry for one or two minutes until the omelette is cooked through.
15. Turn the bread over. Place two slices of cheese on one side of the bread.
16. Fold the bread over. Press down gently and fry each side for 30 seconds.
17. Remove from pan and slice into eight pieces.
18. Serve with dipping sauce on the side.
Fancy a healthier sandwich?
Join Hed Chef Hedy Khoo as she shows you how to prepare healthier and tastier sandwiches at the Health & You Exhibition 2017, organised by The Straits Times Mind & Body and Lianhe Zaobao Lohas.
- WHAT: Sandwich-making demo at the Health & You Exhibition 2017
- WHERE: Suntec Singapore Convention Centre, Halls 401 to 403
- WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, 3.30pm
- TICKETS: Free admission