Roti John, bread that has an English name, is a classic and a must-have food item, especially during the month of Ramadhan. It is a concoction of savoury, meaty goodness that is hard to decline when being presented. It is not only known in Malaysia, but Roti John also has many adoring fans in Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei.
What is Roti John?
To put in a simpler term, Roti John is a sandwich, a Malay version of a sandwich. It is made up of a baguette-like bread filled with eggs mixture. The eggs mixture contains spices with mixed beef or chicken. It is topped with sliced onions and cucumber and drizzled with a generous amount of mayonnaise and chilli sauce.
History of Roti John
The history of Roti John has always piqued the interests of Malaysians. How could a local favourite named John? According to a news article written by The Straits Time in 1988, a hungry Englishman was trying to buy some hamburgers from a Malay hawker in Sembawang which located in Singapore.
In comparison to today’s world, back then, the hamburger was not widely known and hard to come by. As a substitute to the request, the hawker minced some beef and onions which he spread in between bread and fried it with eggs. The hawker then proceeded to say “Please enjoy this bread, John”. It is not known whether the Englishman’s name was John, but the call was a common English name in which locals would call any foreigners with that name.
Traditionally, Roti John consisted of fried, scrambled eggs, salad and tomatoes on French bread which was sold to British soldiers by Indian hawkers, as reported by an article in Berita Harian dated 8 March 1973.
Cik Zawiah of Geylang Serai Food Centre was inspired by the original recipe and had innovated the recipe to a version that most of us know today. She would prepare Roti John that consists of mutton, scrambled egg, onions, tomato and peas in between the French bread. A more famous story tells about a hawker named Shukor who set up a stall at Taman Serasi hawker centre. He attained the recipe from the hawkers at Geylang Serai Food Centre in which he changed the recipe by adding sambal as a condiment. Shukor’s Roti John was immensely popular that he sold up to 800 loaves per weekend. Now, the business is managed by her daughter and has moved to Serangoon Garden Market.
Variety of Roti John
Instead of the just standard minced chicken, beef, and the occasional lamb, hawkers nowadays are getting more creative. They are creating new menus to attract customers. One of them consists of meatballs with melted cheese on top.
Rather than letting the cheese melt on the grill, sellers would blowtorch it before adding the garnishes. Some even incorporate the concept of nasi lemak into Roti John, serving it with sambal and anchovies.
Boss Burger Solo which located in Taman Sri Sentosa, Jalan Klang Lama takes their creativity to a whole another level by creating an array of 22 menus of Roti John. It is a beautiful feeling knowing that this beloved dish still exists, surpassing the hurdles each year. It will never be forgotten and will forever be cherished as people keep evolving a new recipe of roti john following the latest trend.
Where to buy Roti John in Malaysia
Roti John is commonly found at Ramadhan bazaars during the fasting month. However, due to popular demand, many places have started selling the popular grub regardless of the day. You can get the famous roti from any roadside stalls but do bear in mind that the stalls usually start operating after 4 pm.
Try the variety of Roti John either plain or with cheese from Roti John Putrajaya (Kuala Lumpur). Roti John from Roti John Tarik MaeLambong (Melaka) comes with mozzarella cheese, mayonnaise, black pepper sauce and eggs. Find more of the Malay cuisine on foodpanda!