Braddell Roti Prata
No Name Prata Stall
(look for the guy in the picture, he’s at the back of the coffeeshop)
Fu Rui Hong Chang Eating House
2 Braddell Road
(Cnr Upper Serangoon Rd and Braddell Rd)
Open 7.30am-11am everyday
2012 update: the kopitiam name has changed from “Fu Rui Eating House” to “Hong Chang Eating House”
Braddell’s (no name) Prata Man
If you are a tourist in Singapore and have read that Jalan Kayu is famous for its roti prata, don’t be fooled. It’s crap. Thasevi’s Food Famous Jalan Kayu Prata Restaurant has gone down the drain decades ago. The prata is made in advance and stacked in a pile, so you get sad and soggy prata. If business is brisk, they won’t even re-heat it for you, what a heinous sin!
Mum also says the “prata there is the smallest prata ever, kids can eat 10 pieces”. The only good thing about this place is the curries are very good. But in the prata world, the actual prata is just as important as the curry.
Old-style kopitiam. The prata stall does business in the morning. Another vendor takes over in the afternoon and night.
Prata breakfast for 3 with coffees. S$14 (AUD$10.85)
Ah pek (old uncle), having economical rice in the coffee shop. These are scenes I don’t get to see in Oz. Look at his inner pocket sticking out of his shorts!
Even though we can get roti in Melbourne, it just isn’t the same as back home. I’m here to find out why. With Jalan Kayu’s culinary demise, my family went around various places for their prata fix before settling on this humble old-style kopitiam (coffee shop) on Braddell Rd.
It is such a nondescript coffee shop that you’d probably only know about this place by personal recommendation, or through food blogs. The prata stall doesn’t even have a name, we asked the prata man, and he said with a big congenial smile “My stall has no name”.
Roti prata (called roti canai in Malaysia is a flour-based crepe-like dish that originated in Southern India. The dough is stretched and flipped into a thin film before it’s folded into shape and cooked on a hot plate (with ghee). This results in a flaky, crispy ‘pancake’ with layers of air inside. The actual quality of the prata depends a lot on the prata man’s skill. He needs to be able to toss it into a very thin sheet before gently folding it into a bubbly, floatey piece of prata, ready to be cooked. A good prata should be crispy on the outside, yet chewy and fluffy on the inside, full of nooks and crannies to soak up the delicious curries.
Our pratas, being cooked.
Prata kosong – plain prata. (kosong means ’empty’ in Malay). It’s interesting to know that we order this Indian dish from an Indian guy in Malay language
Prata telur – egg prata (telur means ‘egg’ in Malay). He cracks an egg inside, swirls the yolk before folding.
Why do we like this place? The prata is made to order here. First you order, then the prata man will start stretching and flipping the dough right in front of you. So what you get is almost invariably fresh. I’m convinced this place serves up the crispiest prata in Singapore. Dad would have 2 prata kosong, mum just 1 kosong and I would have 1 kosong and 1 telur.
Dad normally orders mutton curries and fish curries to go with our roti prata. We don’t even bother with chicken curries. The mutton meat gives some ‘body’ to our meal, but the real flavour delight comes from dipping your prata into a fragrant plate of hot and tangy fish curry. Since I was a kid, I normally eat my prata with curry and a touch of granulated white sugar. That habit has stuck on and I still eat it that way till today.
So why does Roti in Melbourne just not taste the same as having it in Singapore? Aside from the ridiculous price difference, I think it’s because nothing beats a crisp, freshly made roti prata. I am not sure if there are any joints that tosses and cooks roti right in front of you in Melbourne (I heard Bismi in Brunswick might be one).
The second reason is in the curry. Curries served overseas tends to be too lemak (Malay for rich and creamy), be it Thai, Indian or Malay in origin. A few mouthfuls of rich Melbourne curries and I’d get sick and tired of it fast. Indian curries in Singapore have less coconut milk in them. Instead, they are infused with a cacophony of spices and have a tangier flavour (probably due to the use of tamarind and tomatoes). I really really much prefer that.
2 mutton curries (meat pieces on the left, on-the-bone to the right), and a plain fish curry.
Piece of mutton cutlet.
Dad’s kopi-o (black coffee), mum’s and my kopi (milk coffee).
Hallmark signs of a good prata stall. When you walk into the coffee shop, you don’t see stacks and stacks of pre-cooked prata. When you look around, you might spot a couple of Indian men shaping home-made dough and stacking them in a large plastic tub. Avoid at all costs, stalls where the dough comes uniformly packed in a cardboard box – those are factory made.
Although quite filling to the belly. Roti prata remains one of my favourite breakfast foods in Singapore. In Malaysia, I like having a dessert variant called banana roti. Slices of banana are laid on the stretched out dough, condensed milk is drizzled before folding and frying. So you get a crisp roti with hot caramelised banana inside. Mmmm mmm…