I’m one of those obsessive types. When I like a song, I will make that song my alarm clock, I will wake up to that song every day, and I will listen to no other song for weeks. When I fall in love with a book, I will read it and re-read it, underlining and memorizing passages. And when I find a type of food that I enjoy, I will eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for a month. People say that variety is the spice of life – but I whole-heartedly disagree. I love me some obsession.
In south-east Asia, I haven’t really had many culinary obsessions as I am not too keen on noodles and rice. That was until I hit Malaysia and ordered myself some roti canai. That was over a month ago, and today I have already consumed ten pieces of roti canai from various establishments around Melaka, so I think that this counts as a full blown food obsession.
But what exactly is roti canai? It is a kind of delicious bread that is local to and very popular in Malaysia. All this fuss over a bit of bread? Well, bread ranks up there as one of my favourite foods. When I order curry, I will always have it with bread instead of rice, and there is frankly very little that isn’t improved by being walloped on to a slice of toast. But roti canai is extra special. It is a circular flatbread that has a number of layers in it thanks to the way that it is rolled out thinly and then folded up. The result is a flatbread that is perfectly crispy on the outside but has chewy layers inside – delicious. In the numerous eateries in which you can find roti canai in Malaysia, you can have it plain or filled with ingredients like cheese, egg, or sardines. I guess I’m a purist because I like the plain version simply dunked into some accompanying dahl.
It’s also an extremely inexpensive meal. Two pieces of roti canai (which always comes served with some kind of curry at no extra cost) is a decent enough meal that here in Melaka sets me back around 2 RM – that’s 40 pence! Kind on the wallet and even kinder on the stomach, roti canai is one Malaysian treat that I just cannot get enough of.