Roti John literally translates to “John’s bread”. “Roti” is the Malay word for bread. “John” was a slang term some Singaporeans used back in the day, to refer to a Caucasian man.
The story (one of the many) goes that in the 1960s an Englishman was looking for a hamburger and this was something a food stall owner whipped up for him. Then, it became a popular snack throughout Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.
I should note that many cooks who sell this sandwich claim it was their Dad/Grand father/Uncle who invented it. And there is much disagreement whether it is a Malay or Indian invention or whether it hails from Singapore or Malaysia.
It’s kind of a grab and go hawker style food. It’s humble, simple, filling, and delicious.
And it’s easy to make.
1 lb lean hamburger (minced beef)
1 small onion, diced
6 large eggs, beaten
½ tsp garam masala (not authentic, but we like it)
1 fresh green chili, seeds removed and diced (optional)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
6 hotdog style buns
Sweet Chili sauce for dipping (This is a must!)
Finely grated cheese (optional)
Whisk the eggs in a bowl and set aside. In a skillet, add a few drops of oil and fry the onions, Chili,and spices until fragrant. Add the beef and fry until cooked. Set this aside in another bowl.
In the same skillet, add 3 heaping tablespoons, or so, of the beef mix (spread out) into the center of the skillet. When hot, pour some egg into the middle. Quickly take an opened bun and lay face down on the egg-beef omelet that is already starting to cook. Quickly press the bun down so it sops up some of the egg. With spatula, catch any escaping egg that is running away from the bun and push it back close to the bun. Press down on the buns again. Flip over and cook the tops of buns briefly, then plate the bun, open-faced. Add the cheese now, if using. Serve open faced or closed like a sub and sliced into manageable pieces. Serve with a dollop of sweet chili sauce for dipping.
Makes 6 sandwiches.
If you have any interesting Roti John stories or if you solve the mystery of it’s origins, please share with me!