Upon returning from my motherland, Singapore, I had vowed to commit myself to cooking Malay food at least 2-3 times a week. As much as I enjoy making breads and pastries and catering to Joe’s American taste buds, I worry about the Malay culture and heritage in Singapore. I worry that someday Malays will eventually be eradicated from Singapore’s history. From discriminatory policies to the mass import of Chinese nationals to artificially expand the Chinese majority to simply labeling Malay dishes Nyonya dishes. The list of racially biased atrocities goes on. I fear the day would come when the world would forget that Malays are the indigenous people of Singapore. I shudder at the thought that my generation and the future generations would never hear the real history of Singapore and that the stories of the struggle of the Malay people would forever remain untold. I sometimes feel a little helpless. I wonder if merely lamenting about it online would make any difference. I figured the very least one could do was to educate the people who cared enough to know and listen. The very least I could do is to do my small part in keeping Malay dishes alive and authentically Malay. Despite living in the United States for the last 6 years, I hold on tight to my Singaporean citizenship. It would be easy to walk away and withdraw my CPF funds but the moment I lose my citizenship, the already faint voice of Malay Singaporeans gets a little fainter. I cannot let that happen.
So I embark on my Malay culinary adventure with Roti Kirai also known as Roti Jala. Roti means bread and Jala means net. Roti Jala is essentially a lacy coconut crepe. It is usually accompanied with beef or chicken curry. Malay curry has as much heat as Indian curry, the only difference is that Malay curry goes a little easier on the other aromatics and hence is a little less intense and pungent. Other alternative accompaniments include savory blazing sambal or a sweet twist of serawa (tasty concoction of coconut milk, palm sugar and screwpine leaves).
Just like making any crepes or pancakes, the first few ones are always a mess.But once the pan was seasoned enough the crepe came out petty decent. My batter and technique could use a little improvement as I am a little rusty when it comes to Malay dishes.However, the crepe turned out light yet creamy and it balances with the heat from the chicken curry. Roti Jala is such a dainty and delicate looking crepe, yet it comprises of such humble ingredients. Just like Orang Melayu, almost a little fragile, yet determined and genuinely possess humility. Lovely