Scroll down to watch me cook Roti John live with friends cooking along in Croatia.
Roti John, to many Singaporeans, is synonymous with the Singapore Botanical Gardens. This is because for years, the best Roti John was found at the (now closed) Taman Serasi Food Garden just outside said Gardens.
Hawker centres are any collection of food stalls selling a variety of dishes. These are found all over Singapore and can be out in the open, with or without covers, or in enclosed, air-conditioned buildings.
I remember many a time in my late teens and early 20s, finishing my 5-10 km evening run with a quick bite of roti john and some freshly squeezed carrot and orange juice! Hey, a girl had to load up after working out, ya know? The Gardens were also quite a popular place for students to go to revise for their exams, given the peace and quiet, not to mention the beauty. I remember doing just that, with friends, for my “O” (16 years) and “A” (18 years) levels and taking a break to eat before going back into the gardens to study! Some of those friends, I’m still in touch with after all these years, despite living in different Continents, thanks to modern technology!
So, what is Roti John, I hear you ask. It’s a baguette sandwich. Roti, as you may well know, is the generic name for bread in many cultures, whether it’s flatbread or any other kind of bread. Legend has it that at sometime during the mid 20th century, a food stall owner was approached by an Englishman and asked if he could do him a hamburger. Not quite knowing what he meant, despite the Englishman’s attempt at describing the hamburger, the stall owner beat together some eggs and onions and proceeded to make an omelette baguette sandwich but cooking the omelette within the bread. He then served this up with tomato ketchup on the side and said, “Sila makan roti, John”.
Sila = please do, please help yourself
Makan = eat
John = all Caucasians were John!
Roti John was born, much the same way we got Ayam Kapitan, the aromatic Nyonya chicken curry.
Not much later, minced mutton or minced beef was added to the mix and these days, you have cheese, sardines (local favourites in a lot of snacks!), pepperoni, the list is as long as the imagination! And it is served with a side of cucumbers, tomatoes, chilli sauce, tomato ketchup and more recently, mayonnaise.
Handy Hints on Cooking Roti John
You can make the Roti John as mild or as spicy as you like. Add some chopped chillies (green or red) along with the onions if you like, or some chilli powder, chilli flakes or even this homemade chilli paste.
I like to cook the meat before adding it to the beaten egg mix, that way, you don’t have to overcook the omelette later.
Season the meat and the egg mix very well to get the most flavour out of your Roti John, bearing in mind that the baguette is going to be as plain as can be!
Serve with a side of salad, and it’s a complete meal under 30 minutes!