Bagus Makan: Raju’s Roti Canai Section 5

In Malaysia, it is called roti canai. In Singapore, it is called roti prata. It is the same thing, except for the difference in name. It is a type of Indian flat bread.

This place is always busy during the weekends. People come here for breakfast and the summons cum tow truck folks do a roaring business clamping vehicles that are illegally parked and towing them to somewhere far away where people have to go to, to pay the fine and redeem their vehicles.

Many locals come here and I am one of them. They do try and encourage customers to get their more expensive items but if you are satisfied with just roti canai kosong (plain flatbread) or telur (with egg) and bawang (onion) and teh tarik, the meal does not need to be too expensive. The food is pretty good though a little on the expensive side and the variety of food that one can eat with roti canai is fairly wide-ranging.

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Good-looking roti canai with egg.

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Gravies and curries that you can eat the roti with.

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I usually do not order vadai. It is made of dal, lentil, flour or potato. My friend ordered it and it was delicious.

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Teh tarik.

Raju’s Restaurant, Off Jalan Gasing at Jalan 5/13.

Red, White and Blue: Yak and Yeti, no, not their meats!

We were longing for Indian food and my friend brought me to her favourite Indian restaurant in town. So off we went to this place. A yak, I know. But a yeti? Two drawings on their signboard showed a deer or goat-looking animal and a gorilla. The yeti must be a gorilla, or something similar and a Google search resulted in another term, ‘apeman’. Since both animals are known in the Himalayas, I concluded that the food must be North Indian, if it is Indian. As it turned out, some of the food was Nepalese and Tibetan, housed in the oldest Victorian house in Arvada! We ordered Indian.

Being more familiar with Indian food in South East Asia, I was especially surprised at the size of the samosa, which was about twice the size of what we got in Singapore. But food portions are usually larger in the USA to begin with. The taste of several of the dips seemed less pronounced than what I was used to. I liked the meat dishes though the meats were cooked just right and not overly spicy. The weather too played a part as the dryness made some things like the pappadams taste really nice. I liked the Naan bread as well.

Yak and Yeti, 7803 Ralston Rd. Arvada, CO 80002. Te+1-303-431-9000. http://www.theyakandyeti.com

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Pappadam entree with four dips

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The pappadams were great – crunchy and fragrant with spices.

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Vegetarian Samosas that were larger than what I was used to.

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I am used to skin that are thinner as the skin or wrap here was rather thick. But I do not know if such skins are the standard here in the USA though.

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This was like set meal for one person but we ordered it to share between two people which turned out to be a great idea. The rice was of good quality and fine. The meats were not too spicy – we asked for medium spiciness – and the dessert of rice pudding, which I did not know was a dessert at first, balanced out the meal perfectly. The sweetness of the dessert balanced out the spiciness. I then wondered if perhaps in Indian food, the dessert was eaten at the same time and not later, like in western meals.

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Chicken masala

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Plain naan bread which was nice too.

Prata verdict

In the battle for the nicest roti prata in town, I’ve finally discovered the place which serves them. By now, I’ve eaten in several roti prata places and decided that I like roti prata that is crispy, teh tarik that has sufficient tea flavour in it and is not overly sweet, and good curries. This place has all three and is reasonably priced as well. It also won the Hawker Master award for the best roti prata in Singapore in 2011, which I was not aware of before. They serve a very wide variety of prata here.

Casuarina Curry Restaurant, 136-138 Casuarina Road. Tel: 64559093.

Paper prata that was thin, crispy and nice.

Egg prata that was also crispy.

 

Egg thosai

Chicken masala

Naan and more

It’s been a while since I’ve had naan or Indian bread. This place was filled with people for lunch, from locals to Caucasians. There were also a few cyclists who turned up on their bicycles, adding to the different kinds of people who come here. I figured this would be a good place to have lunch. There was a large group of us and we could order more.

I ordered the Naan Keema (Indian bread with minced lamb) as the Naan Kashmir was already sold out. To accompany the naan, I ordered the Kerala fish curry — a beautiful, thick fish curry. I loved it as the gravy was nice and thick, compared to the more watery curries that I am normally served when I order prata or thosai. This eating place was not an Indian air-conditioned restaurant which meant that it was not as expensive as an Indian restaurant. The variety on their menu was pretty amazing for both the food and drinks. Their service was average. I was a little worried that they would get our orders wrong so we repeated them sufficiently. Wrong orders are not refunded even when the error is theirs. It’s the nature of this place. The moral of the story is NOT to get the orders wrong!

It has also been a really long time since I last had a mango lassi (mango yoghurt drink) and so I ordered one, which was nice. My simple meal of a drink, a curry and one naan must have come up to about $15 or $16 and to me, that was rather pricey but having the reputation that this place has, it probably could afford to charge a little more. But the food was nice and the last time I had naan was at a restaurant so it wasn’t too bad.

A friend had Thai Pattaya fried rice which is a Malaysian dish and very popular in Malay restaurants. Pattaya may be a Thai name but this dish has nothing to do with Thailand. The Japanese have a similar dish called omu rice, short for omelette rice. The Japanese version has tomato sauce rice on the inside while the Pattaya fried rice does not, though I’ve seen some fried in tomato sauce as well. Instead tomato and chilli sauce are placed on the rice itself, along with slices of cucumber. Another friend had ayam penyet (smashed fried chicken) which was not at all smashed. Chicken which is smashed to pieces properly is easier to eat. The chicken is smashed after it has been cooked so the meat is still nice and moist usually, which is the whole point of this dish. The chilli sauce is also different from normal chicken rice chilli sauce and spicier.

This place is halal. There are many food shops here and it is like a food street — Chinese, Indian, Thai, Korean food are all found here — quite a variety for such a short street.

Al-Azhar Eating Restaurant, 11/11A Cheong Chin Nam Road. Tel: 64665052.

Mango lassi (mango and yoghurt drink). This was nice.

Milo dinosaur — iced chocolate drink that is made of Milo

Thosai with a variety of sauces and curry. The thosai was a little sour though fluffy.

Rice with fried chicken

Pattaya Fried Rice. This dish is usually served with chilli sauce at the top and I am always amazed at how artificial the colour looks each time. The rice tasted nice but oily and the chilli sauce overwhelmed everything else.

Naan Keema — bread with minced lamb. The brown bits are the minced lamb that has been stuffed into the naan

Kerala Fish Curry — this was nice and thick. I really liked it as it was a nice change from the watery curries that I had become accustomed to.

Egg prata was chewy and soft. There was supposed to be cheese in it as well but there wasn’t a lot of it.

Lessons from the prata man

It was a dripping wet morning when we tried to look for this place. When we finally got there, I could not find a place to park nearby. After going around a few times, I decided to leave as my food-tasting accomplice had to go to work and risked being late. So we left — a case of so near and yet so far. Today was when I realised that Singaporeans REALLY love their food if they can get out of bed on a cold wet Saturday morning to eat out instead of eating at home. Many have nothing at home to eat — such is life here, where good food at affordable prices can be found not far away.

We returned again the next day, it was less wet and less crowded. I found out later that most of the lunch crowd had already left. It was not even 1p.m. yet. In fact both the stalls we patronised had already sold out on their key items. The nasi lemak stall had sold out on their nasi lemak. They only had white rice left. The prata stall had also sold out their pratas. They were into their second batch of pratas and had to make some more fish curry.

I had looked up this place to try their pratas. They were slightly crispy (I like my pratas crispy) and not oily even though they had been fried in oil. I have eaten crispier prata elsewhere and frankly, couldn’t really tell the difference between this prata and some of the other crispy pratas sold elsewhere. The fish curry was made from sardines but I was surprised that I couldn’t really taste the canned sardine smell which I don’t really like, in it. We actually tried the nasi lemak first (from the stall next to the prata stall) and that was when we realised the rice had no lemak in it. It was just plain rice. The beef rendang, peanuts and anchovies were good. I do not usually eat brinjal but they did not have any other vegetables and claimed that their brinjals were nice. I decided to have them. It was soft and tasty. I still don’t like the soft texture of brinjal but at least it was not mushy soft.

As the lady who served us our prata was going about serving and clearing plates, I decided to strike up a conversation with her. That was when I realised that this prata stall IS different. The man and his wife (the lady was his wife) both run the stall with the help of a helper. The man does the actual kneading of the dough and cooking. The wife serves and collects the money. She also clears the plates. They have been at this outlet for five years and the man has been making prata for 30 years! They are both rather polite folks, unlike the many other prata stalls that I’ve been to where the person serving barely speaks English and one wonders whether the order has even been recorded correctly in the first place. When I told her this was my second attempt at coming, she thanked me for the support! The prata may not be crispier but the service was certainly better.

Then I had a lesson in life from the prata man. He only makes and sells prata. And he only makes them in three versions — kosong, egg and bawang(with onions). He doesn’t make thosai, murtabak or other pratas with fancy toppings like chocolate or strawberries, or innings like cheese, banana, mushrooms, etc. He doesn’t do tissue or boms either. He only makes good ole prata!

A dear friend of mine once told me that in the US, they learn a skill, become good at it and then use that skill to make a living. That was how she had grown up and how she made her living. Here was the prata man, perfecting his art of prata-making for 30 years and using that skill to feed many and making a living out of it. There were no credentials or paper accolades. His stall was very basic with only the main ingredients. His publicity were the queues of people buying his prata for the past five years and counting, and sharing their experience via word-of-mouth. Here was a lesson in hard work, doggedness and consistency, from a simple man. Thank you.

Oh, and before I forget, the tea from the coffeeshop was not very good. One could hardly taste the tea in it. And no, it’s not from the prata stall.

Mr Mohgan’s Prata Stall, Poh Ho Restaurant, 7 Crane Road, Singapore. The nasi lemak stall is just next to the prata stall. They sell out by about lunch. There is also a Chinese noodle stall here that looked good and value for money but it was not open. I’ll visit them another time.

Nasi lemak. The rendang was good, as was the sweet sambal.

Closer shot of the rendang and peanuts and anchovies.

Prata dough before it is kneaded flat and fried.

One prata kosong and one with egg, with curry on the side.

Two prata kosong.

Prata time

The eating places in the row of shophouses at Thomson Road have become our latest eating haunt, after several visits to different restaurants here. The prices here are reasonable compared to restaurants in malls. Tonight it was roti prata. The prata itself was not outstanding but the curry chicken here was good. The teh tarik halia (ginger-spiced tea) was also good and when eating Indian food, the tea is as important as the main meal and has to be as good.

It certainly is a place that one can come back to again.

Meera’s Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant, 910-B Upper Thomson Raod, Singapore 787112. Tel: 6455 8267

Teh tarik

Roti prata with egg

Plain roti prata with chicken curry

Thosai, anyone?

I had wanted to try this place for a long time but the queue was always long. Today, I happened to be there before dinner time. Like in most food places, queues are an indication of whether the food is good. It is no different here. But if one does not want to queue, there is a plethora of other foods that one can try in this mall. I am quite amazed at how many different restaurants have set up shop in this mall.

I decided to order a Masala Thosai or South Indian pancake, made of rice flour and dhal batter. It had fillings on the inside. The portion was large and very filling, perhaps a little too filling as it was mainly carbohydrate-laden. There are a lot of good eating places for Indian food in Singapore and one is definitely spoilt for choice. This place is but one of the options available.

This outlet has now appeared in several malls, showing a trend whereby ordinary Indian food can be had in air-conditioned comfort. Some of the other offers on the menu are more popular and perhaps more value for money than what I ordered.

Prata Wala, Nex@Serangoon Central, #02-K5/K6, Singapore. Tel: (65) 6634 2910.

Masala Thosai. A very hearty portion indeed. The fork and spoon are an indication of the size of the serving.

It is served with coconut, chutney and lentil curry.

A friend ordered roti prata and curry

The thosai or pancake is filled with potato, corn and a bit of curry leaves. Thosais can be filled with anything, really, depending on the person making it. Potatoes are quite commonly used.

Teh tarik that looked good but did not taste good. Unfortunately, I could taste the condensed milk more than the tea in this drink. When eating roti prata or other Indian food, the tea is very important. It is as important as the food and has to be as good, if not better.