Roti prata, Chinese version
Do you know that roti prata is sold by the Chinese, too?
Mr Zenn Sia once ran a kopitiam in Casuarina and leased a stall to a now famous roti prata hawker. But the prata hawker's hours of operation changed and both went their separate ways eventually - not before he learnt the ways of making prata.
Then, off he went to set up what was believed to be Singapore's first Chinese roti prata hawker stall in Jurong.
When we first noticed, and ranked him in our old edition of Makansutra more than a decade ago, we saw stacks of plates placed on the floor by frustrated foodies who could not wait for the cleaners to clear the tables.
It was a makan phenomenon in our truly multi-racial and don't-care-who-sell-so-as-long-as-it's-good-and-not-expensive makan culture.
Then Mr Sia moved on to other locations and even operated at industrial canteens.
He left the business some eight years ago to pursue other interests and there was this Chinese roti prata void.
Now, his son Chong Ren, 21, who recently completed national service, is carrying on where dad left off.
"I learnt and helped my dad when I was younger, so why not carry on," says the young man.
The independence of the job is addictive.
And this Gen Y kid knows his stuff.
"It took me months to learn the most difficult part, the flipping," he confesses but also says he has "sort of" mastered the art of flipping the dough till it's gossamer thin and "you can see through to the stainless steel table below".
Then it is pan fried, in a lot less oil than what you'd associate with pratas.
And the result shows. It comes thinner than most and less oily.
The Sias' range includes a sardine murtabak. Their standard chicken and fish curry comes thick and has nothing "Chinese" about them. The mutton curry comes with chunks that are fork-soft and just a touch gamey, which is how I like it.
I also like their onion prata version which has fresh purplish slices in the dough.
The younger Mr Sia knows how to banter with his customers. When some pretty girls order and can't tell him their table number, the single guy quips with a wide smile that their phone numbers will do instead.
So back to the question of what's different in a Chinese prata? Frankly, I think no one cares. Just know that this is very good roti prata by a talented Singaporean.
Well done and keep it up.
Chinese Best Crispy Roti Prata
Bukit Timah Hawker Centre, #02-137
- 6am to 2pm, Tuesdays to Sundays