I have mentioned “the humble roti prata” several times in the past. I use the term humble because it is usually cheap – a folded plain prata bread is usually around SGD1.20 complete with a small bowl of curry sauce for dipping. You might pay a couple of bucks for one with onion and egg, or a little more for the sweet banana prata.
Roti prata is very Singaporean – I know that there are similar foods in India, but Singaporeans seem to have taken to it and made it their own. Not everyone eats prata, but a lot of people from every cultural background and walk of life do – love of a good prata seems to be something that many people can agree on and discuss here. Prata is possibly the number one “what do I miss about Singapore?” dish mentioned by those that have grown up here and moved overseas. Tourists that come for a week or two go home to rave about the crab or the fish head curry – but for me, I think I would miss the prata more. There is something very comforting about it – humble, tasty, filling.
In thinking about this post and researching it I was going to use it as an opportunity to share some of the many photographs I have taken in Singapore’s Little India – and while I have eaten prata many times in Little India, I’ve also eaten it in food courts and coffee shops (and it does seem to be one of the things to eat in the average mall food court if this is the only alternative available) – hence I thought to save the pictures of Little India for another time.
Here are a few steps in the making of prata. Previously rested dough is stretched on a flat smooth surface (note the balls of dough awaiting the next order):
The stretched dough is then flipped, sometimes with a pizzaria-style flair, until it is paper thin:
When it is very thin, the filling is added prior to folding – this shows a banana prata being prepared, but the usual filling would be onion, egg or cheese (or a combination of these) – look at how thin the dough is by now!
The banana prata usually has sugar added as well – this choice is very much more sweet than savoury Some prata places will do a chocolate or nutella prata also.
The prata is then folded three to four times and cooked on a flat grill (there are variants of the prata cooked on domed grills in some places, but I have to say I have seen far more cooked on the flat hot plate):
The square objects above are the prata – the thin dough is grilled until golden brown.
And how does it taste? To me, the onion/egg/cheese prata are a little like a savoury pancake dipped in curry gravy, only better. This is an egg prata accompanied by a rich curry gravy.
For me, a good prata yields to the fork and to the teeth with some grace – it is not flabby and over-soft, or leathery tough, but should slice cleanly and easily when cut. The curry gravy should be flavoursome without burning the mouth with chili – and I have to say my favourites will include some anchovies to add a richer texture.
A note for newcomers to Singapore: please, please take the time to find a place that will make you a fresh prata – most do, and I would not like your first prata to be a stale soggy or dehydrated leathery thing devoid of flavour.