PUBLISHED July 19th, 2014 05:14 am | UPDATED May 22nd, 2017 02:29 pm
Like many other signature dishes, roti prata has evolved from its Indian indigenous roots to one that is uniquely Singaporean, a dish now featured in CNN’s World’s 50 best foods. Its translation as a ‘flatbread’ is a loose one – this dish is closer to a lightly flavoured flat pancake rather than a bread, and can range in from the soft and chewy, to the thin and crispy. There are numerous ways to enjoy this: dipped in sugar, drowned in vegetable dhal or fish curry, or wrapping a range of ingredients from egg and cheese to chocolate and banana.
Half of the enjoyment comes from watching its preparation. Deft fingers toss dough balls into the air and onto the grill with many vigorous swings and slaps, and by the end of all that whipping and whirling, the dough is a flat creation at least four to five times its original size. It is then cooked onto the grill till brown-black blisters are formed uniformly, and depending on the order, may have an egg cracked on it, or various sorts of fillings sprinkled and wrapped.
Just like a good waffle, many like their prata crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. It is best to enjoy this dish the traditional way – by tearing the prata apart with your fingers, dipping it into curry, and popping the entire combination into your mouth. Yeap, just like Oreo.
Especially perfect for supper or breakfast, roti prata can be found easily throughout Singapore with a good number open till late. Every situation calls for a different sort of prata though, so keep this list handy for when the craving strikes.
Crispy & Fluffy
Blk 24, #01-51, Sin Ming Road, Singapore, 570024
Come here for traditional and classic prata that is perfectly crispy on the outside, and fluffy as can be inside. Till today, this place keeps the traditional way of mixing and kneading the dough by hand before resting and moulding them into dough balls. Even without curry, the dough has a subtle savoury sweetness that is very more-ish – paired with their chickpea dhal or mutton curry, both done well, it is hard to stop at just one.
Poh Ho Restaurant, 7 Crane Road, Singapore, 429356
The few marks of a successful stall: perpetual long queues, accolades and photographs of patronising celebrities spilling over the small display space, and sometimes, short opening hours. Although only open seven hours a day, Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan have long queues for his prata: flipped just thrice, he manages to capture huge clouds of air in between flaky layers – we don’t know how he does it, but we’re happy enough to watch and enjoy.
138 Casuarina Road, Singapore, 579526
This place is for those who love their prata really crispy. Instead of the usual four folds of dough during cooking, Casuarina Curry only does two folds, serving up prata in square or rectangular shapes. It is perhaps their secret to a light flaky texture that remains crispy even after cooled, as well as the way their egg prata comes with a runny yolk still – think Asian eggs benedict, with a double egg version available as well. With an unlimited flow of curry to accompany each order, we say, dip away.
Block 85, Redhill Lane, 01-01 Redhill Close Food Centre, Singapore, 150085
You will never know that the prata flipped and grilled to perfect crispiness is actually commercially made and bought. Say what? Despite the change from traditional dough preparation, long queues lay testament to their skills in maintaining the standards of their very affordable prata, made fresh to order and served piping hot and crispy. Go for their mutton curry, where the mutton cooked till soft and tender, without the tough chewiness of tendons and overcooked meat.
Late Night Munchies
326 Bedok Road, Singapore, 469496
Anyone staying in the East side of Singapore will immediately point you to the Simpang Bedok area for supper fodder. Right at the heart of Simpang is Syed Restaurant, which has all chefs trained in the essential skills of twirling and whipping each dough ball into perfect crispy fluffy pratas, so you don’t have to wait long at all for that late night prata fix.
201D Tampines Street 21, 01-1163, Singapore, 524201
Saffron’s is one of the few places to serve their prata with curry and a good dose of sambal. That aside, all my Malay friends would tell you that Saffron is the best, with pratas that have fluffy and soft folds and chicken curry that is fragrant and satisfyingly thick.
246M Upper Thompson Road, Singapore, 574370
Be prepared, this place is always crowded, especially during the late night. Open till 2am, it’s a favourite late-night haunt for those looking for crispy prata served with creamy rich curry for their late dinners or suppers. Besides the plain and no-frills crispy prata, other recommendations include the prata bomb that comes drizzled with condensed milk, and the mushroom and cheese prata, which oozes generously with melted warm cheese.
Made from the same dough and technique, Murtabak is like a stuffed roti prata where meat is wrapped within fluffy grilled dough. To ensure a good contrast of textures and taste, the exterior must remain its crispy flakiness outside to complement the juicier fillings. It is also usually served with a vegetable dhal or mutton curry, and perfect with a strong teh or milo dinosaur.
697 North Bridge Road, Singapore, 198675
Founded in 1908, Zam Zam is one of the oldest eating establishments in Singapore and indisputably the go-to place for murtabak. Here, you can expect big portions, generous fillings and a good dose of curry, including deer murtabak for the adventurous. Those who would like a breather from Singapore’s humidity and heat can also head up to its air-conditioned second floor. We also recommend their briyani here, if you can bear to leave some stomach space after their murtabak.
701 North Bridge Road, Singapore, 198677
Sitting side by side on Arab Street, Victory Restaurant is only two years younger than Zam Zam and no less famous. They offer different variations of meat as well as sizes – chicken, beef, mutton, sardine, in small, medium, large and extra large. Unlike most other restaurants, the murtabak stays deliciously crispy, encasing a generous amount of minced meat that is first pan-fried to seal in the juices and cooked enough not to lead to a soggy murtabak.