Thursday, March 21, 2013

roti mariam (fried bread)


This is the bread that spawned my easy yoghurt naan, which spawned my easy garlic herb and sesame naan. So I guess you could say she's now a grandma? Hubs was having an evil craving, but I convinced him pan fried naan was what he really wanted, instead of fat sodden discs of deep fried dough. He bought it, for a while, but the beast once again reared it's greasy head and hubs would no longer be denied. 




I recently made a biryani and the first words out of hubby's lips were, "Got roti mariam?" When I grinned sheepishly, he glared and declared, "Enough with the freakin naan! I want roti mariam!". He can't seem to enjoy his biryani without a pile of these crisp, bronzed and blistered breads beside his mound of golden rice and spiced meat. 

He picked up the habit from years of eating biryani at the iconic Islamic Restaurant along North Bridge Road, close to Singapore's famed Arab quarter. Right up to the early 1990s, it was the place to go to, for just about the best biryani in Singapore. Sadly, this is no longer true and the dish of biryani served up at Islamic today, is a wispy shadow of its former glorious self. 


Thankfully, the one thing they still do magnificently, is roti mariam. It's also known as roti meriam (canon in Malay) and the name remains a mystery. I'll be damned if I know what bread and canons have to do with each other! Prior to eating it at Islamic, I had no knowledge or experience of this wonderful bread and even today, no one, as far as I know, sells it. I have recently learned though, that a version called roti maryam exists in Indonesia that resembles our prata or Malaysian roti canai.

Roti Mariam may be an Indian bread, or it may be something created at the restaurant itself, influenced by North Indian or Middle Eastern cooking and local culinary sensibilities. It's more like a fried pastry, rather than bread and resembles the Indian puri but is heartier in texture and richer in flavour. In fact, it bears an even closer resemblance to Navajo fry bread, strange as that may sound. After years of tinkering in the kitchen, I've come up with my own recipe, which I think is as close to Islamic's original version, as I will ever get.




I love making roti mariam for the sheer pleasure of watching it puff up beyond all reason and logic, in the hot oil, because it contains not a grain of yeast or any other leavening. Of course, it's also incredibly delicious and extremely moreish, at least for hubs. I can't eat more than one, much as I love it, as I find it far too rich to eat with impunity.


I also prefer it plain, with just a little curry gravy or keema to take the edge of the crisp hand torn shards. Roti mariam is undeniably delicious, but beyond that, it has a special significance for me as hubs took me to Islamic Restaurant for dinner, early on in our courtship. He was attentive and achingly gallant, until the roti mariam arrived at our table. For a whole six seconds, I was completely forgotten as his eyes zeroed in on the oil slicked, brittle and smoking rounds of bread, wide as the dinner plates they came on.





His eyes glazed over as he reached for one and tore off a piece. He looked at me and said, "This is what I've been wanting you to try. It's amazing!", as he teasingly brushed my lower lip with it. It did smell wonderful and I eagerly parted my lips to accept the morsel. It tasted amazing; I involuntarily closed my eyes. When I opened them, he was looking at me, eyes gleaming, face slightly flushed. "Can you make these for me, some time??!" Can't say there wasn't a part of me that had suspected it all along. Sure was nicer though, thinking I had reeled him in with my rapier wit and irresistible charm. Damn.









21 comments:

  1. wuhaaaaaaaaa..!! what a spoiled husband LOL - indeed, first time I saw in this picture.. I can't control myself, (I need to replace my computer keyboard soon, I believe) - it's look delicious Denise, you are truly devoted wife :)

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    1. Hello Fitri. No lah, not spoiled, but sometimes a bit fussy LOL This really is delicious. I hope you try one day. Frying it is really fun because it puffs up like CRAZY!!

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  2. oh....these look amazing. I don't usually deep fried at home and I wanted to give these a try. Your pictures are beautiful too. What a lucky husband you have. ;) And I totally enjoy your story on how he introduced you to these beauties.

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    1. Hi Amy :) I seldom deep fry too, because it uses so much oil which I don't want to reuse in my kitchen, splutters everywhere and is of course, unhealthy. Hmmm.... I think my husband is lucky too LOL Thank you for your very kind words!

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  3. Hi Denise! I'm new to fried bread... similar to our local "Hum Jin Pang"? But your looks thinner and crispier! Hmmm ... I echo above comments - Lucky Hubby!!! :D

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    1. Hi Alvin :) This roti is not that common in Singapore. Only people who eat often at Islamic Biryani will probably know it. But it really is fantastically delicious and really very oily :P Unlike hum cheem paeng which is sweet or salty sweet, roti mariam is savoury. But both are very tempting treats! My hubby is as lucky as your wife ;)

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  4. Hi Denise , this looks crispy and yummy ... I shall try this . Tq for sharing ;)

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    1. Hi Abbygail :) Welcome to my blog! I hope you enjoy this yummy bread as much as my family does.

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  5. Hi Denise
    This is the first time I heard of roti mariam.....thanks for enlightening me with this post. Must be taste real good with curry together.

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    1. Hi Mel, I'm not surprised as many people don't seem to know about it. Either very few people eat at Islamic Biryani, or I am old already. I think only people of a certain age *ahem* will know this. So sad :( But you should be glad - it means you are still young ;)

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  6. Hi Denise, your blog has beautiful photos and narrative is always inspiring! I am in the U.S. not sure what coconut milk powder is? Please help explain. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Valkuan. Thank you for your very kind words :) Coconut milk powder is coconut milk which has been processed into powder form. To use it you usually reconstitute with water like you would ordinary milk powder. You can also use it dry in baking, cake or breadmaking like I have here. You should be able to find it in Asian supermarkets in the US, especially in Thai or Vietnamese ones. If not, just use regular milk powder though the flavour will be slightly different. Still delicious though!

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  7. Denise I love reading your posts as much as I love the recipes, the pictures, the creative captions...well the whole enchalada actually :)
    I don't recall ever eating this in S'pore. I must have been living under a rock in Pulau Ubin to have missed this. Closest thing I can think of are prathas that I adore. Mmmm my husband and I love Biryani too. Its insanely delicious and these roti mariams look perfect to finish off the sauce left on the plate. Cheers Denise!

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    1. Hi Jean :) Awww... you always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside! Readers like you keep my inspiration and energy flowing . Thank you so very, very much. You are the kind of reader bloggers dream about LOL I'm beginning to feel like a decrepit relic as it seems as if no one below the age of 30 has heard of roti mariam. Yikes! But yes, these are fabulous for wiping your plate clean of gravy! And biryani rocks ;)

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  8. What else can I say, Denise. This looks awesome delish.
    Kristy ((hugs))

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    1. Hi Kristy. How are you my dear? And when are you meeting me for coffee??? This is really very very good. Hope you try it some day. Hugs back at you :)

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  9. This is also my first time heard about roti mariam, sounds pretty special!!!

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    1. Hi Esther - it's special for me and hubby only lah LOL But it really is delicious. I hope you give it a try, some day, if you want to give your family or yourself a sinful treat! Don't forget the curry ;)

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  10. Hi Denise....Why oh why does everything sinfully delish have to be sinfully sinful ? Such as this roti mariam ?
    Eliminate the sugar and the coconut milk powder and you have it's paler and smaller cousin,the LOOCHI,which is again a cousin of the POORI.
    Stunning photos,as usual.

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  11. Very nice DENISE - a lot like bhaturas which I love. Lucky husband! And your pics does everything justice.

    hugs!

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

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