Singapore is a funny place, part the Dubai of Asia, all shopping malls, skyscrapers and designer clad rich kids, part intoxicating cultural melting pot, and I loved AND hated aspects of the city with passion.
One thing I did enjoy immensely was the city's ability to fuse a plethora of different culinary traditions into something quite unique and most importantly very delicious.
There are Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western influences, and national dishes come with elements of all of them, packed full of vibrant flavours.I for example adore Laksa, that fragrant a spicy noodle soup popular in the Peranakan cuisine of Southeast Asia which is hugely popular in Singapore, but my biggest culinary discovery of the trip was the humble roti canai.
What is a roti canai you may ask? Well again it's a product of fusion, an Indian influenced flatbread made from dough which is usually composed of fat (butter in this case), flour and water and a dash of condensed milk.
The dough is repeatedly kneaded, flattened, oiled, and folded before proofing, creating amazing layers. The dough ball is then flattened, spread out until paper thin and gathered into a long rope-like mass. This "rope" is then wound into a knot or spiral and flattened, so that it consists of thin flakes of dough when cooked.
Don't be intimidated by the homemade roti canai, it's a great weekend cooking project in times of lockdown and totally worth the effort, indeed for a second I was transported back into the exotic and vibrant surroundings of a Singaporean Hawker food court which I will hopefully be able to revisit again one day!
- 4 cups bread flour (520 g)
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter (40 g), melted
- 1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- 1 ¼ cup water (310 ml)
- 1 tsp salt (not shown in video)
- In a standing mixer bowl (or by hand in a bowl), add in flour, salt, egg, melted butter, condensed milk and water.
- Mix to incorporate and knead for 10 minutes.
- Leave to rest for 10 minutes and knead for another 5 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 10 small balls.
- Coat each ball generously with unsalted butter and place them in a container that has been generously buttered.
- Cover the container tightly with cling film and keep in the fridge overnight.
- The next day spread some unsalted butter on the working surface.
- Take one ball and lightly flatten it.
- Press and push the dough with the heel of your palm to make it bigger.
- Stretch it as thin as possible, until you can almost see through it.
- Now and then spread some soften unsalted butter on it to help the stretching.
- Optional, lift up one edge of the dough and gently pull to stretch it even more.
- Scrape and push the upper end of the dough to the middle.
- Do the same to the lower end, forming a wrinkle thin log.
- Starting at one end of the log, roll it into a circle and tuck the other end inside.
- Leave aside for 10 minutes before cooking.
- Meanwhile you can continue with the rest of the balls.
- Once ready to cook, take one rolled circle and flatten it into more or less 10-15 cm diameter.
- Heat some unsalted butter on a pan using medium heat.
- Place the flatten dough on the pan. Cook for several minutes and then flip.
- Continue cooking for some minutes more.
- This is important for a fluffy roti canai: remove the cooked roti canai and place it on a working surface. Immediately yet carefully grab it using both of your hands and squeeze it to the center.
- We want to fluff it.
- You can see this part more clear in the video.
- Keep the roti canai under a kitchen cloth to keep them warm.
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 shallots
- 1 tsp ginger
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 garlic cloves
- 2 curry leaves
- 1⁄2 tbsp turmeric powder
- 2 carrots
- 1-2 potatoes
- 250g chana dhal
- 1 1⁄2 l water
- 1tsp chilli flakes
- 1⁄2 tbsp salt
- Heat oil over medium heat and sauté sliced onions until golden brown.
- Remove onions from pan and leave aside.
- Using the same pan, fry chopped shallots, minced garlic, minced ginger and curry leaves until fragrant.
- Add tomato slices.
- Cover pan with the lid to allow tomatoes to soften.
- Chop carrots, potatoes, aubergine and carrots into bite-size pieces.
- Add them into the pot along with turmeric powder, dried chillies and dhal.
- Add water and cook over high heat.
- Once it boils, lower heat to the minimum and simmer for about 30 minutes or until dhal softens. Keep stirring from time to time to prevent curry from being burnt. Add salt to taste.
- Finally, stir in fried onions.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon red curry paste
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (shake can well)
- Heat oil in small pan over medium heat.
- Add curry paste and curry powder.
- Stir until curry paste is smoother and spices are fragrant.
- Reduce heat to low and add coconut milk and brown sugar.
- Combine well and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt.
- Pour into serving dish and enjoy with your roti canai