Saturday, November 17, 2012

Around the world - Stopover 22 - Singapore

The small island country of Singapore is located on the southern part of Malay peninsula, separated from Malaysia by a narrow strait of water. Malaysian food is commonly found in Singapore as well as Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Middle Eastern and Western dishes. Noodle dishes are always popular at our house so I happily selected a few to make from an abundance of choices and due to my unsatisfactory attempt at making murtabak for Brunei I was also keen to give this another try.

This version of murtabak was adapted from a Singaporean recipe with a promising blend of spices (no cardamon overload in this version!) and I used lentils and mushrooms instead of tempeh this time. Murtabak usually has egg in the filling so I seasoned some crumbled tofu with kala namak (black salt) prior to mixing it with the rest of the filling ingredients.

I also wanted to try making the roti and watched a few videos on YouTube of murtabak being made in market places. It was a bit daunting to see them being prepared with such ease as I knew it wouldn't be the case for a novice yet it also provided me with a few tips and the inspiration I needed. After making the dough, it was rested for an hour in a bowl coated with oil. The oil made the dough very supple and created an elastic texture that is required for it to be stretched out to a paper thin consistency. My technique was fairly rudimentary after the dough was initially flattened between my palms. I placed the dough on the bench holding one side down and slowly stretched the other side in a flapping motion, if that makes sense! The edges didn't turn out as thin as the centre so I pinched them with my fingertips and stretched them out last as best I could. Perhaps a rolling pin could have been better for this task!

The initial concerns I had about the thin dough not holding the filling went away after the first murtbak was successfully assembled and I gathered some momentum for the remaining ones. We loved the curry dipping sauce last time I made murtabak so I made another one based on a recipe from Munting Kusina. Thai thin soy sauce was substituted for fish sauce and even though I used a hot curry powder it didn't turn out too spicy. This turned out to be one of the favourite meals I have cooked recently. The murtabaks paired with the dipping sauce were so delicious and everyone was disappointed that there weren't any leftovers.

Mee Goreng is one of the man's favourite noodle dishes, he frequently orders it from Chinese/Malaysian restaurants but I haven't been able to replicate it at home as well as I would like. This latest attempt was much closer to how we are used to it although I was a little heavy-handed with the chilli and it still needs a few minor tweaks to the ingredients in the sauce.

Singapore noodles have become rather popular at home since In the Mood for Noodles posted a fantastic recipe last year. This time I tried a recipe from World Vegan Feast by Bryanna Clark Grogan. I found it interesting that it used jalapeno chillies and smoked tofu as well as seitan or soy curls. I omitted the seitan/soy curls and bumped up the quantity of the smoked tofu instead. Bryanna's version was very tasty and quite spicy although the recipe from In the Mood for Noodles remains the household favourite as it's the most similar to Singapore noodles we have eaten locally.

Murtabak with lentil and mushroom filling (Adapted from MakanTime)
Makes 6

Roti dough

2 cups plain flour
½ heaped teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dairy-free margarine
2/3 cup lukewarm water
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil

Combine the flour and salt together in a large bowl, then rub the margarine into the mixture with your fingers. Add the water and mix together . Knead the dough for 10 minutes, then divide it into 6 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large bowl, roll the dough balls in the oil to coat them, then allow them to rest, covered with a tea towel for an hour.


½ cup brown lentils
150g firm tofu, crumbled
¼ teaspoon kala namak (black salt)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 small onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2cm piece ginger, minced
200g button mushrooms, diced
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup water

Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Crumble the tofu into a small bowl. Add the black salt and stir well to combine.

Heat the peanut oil in a deep sided frying pan or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir through the garlic and ginger for a minute then add the mushrooms and allow them to cook until softened. Add the garam masala, cayenne pepper, turmeric and salt and stir for a minute. Stir through the cooked lentils and the water and allow to cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix the the tofu through. Allow the filling to cool down prior to assembling the murtabaks.


Take a dough ball in your hands and flatten it between your palms. Place it on your bench and carefully stretch out the dough with your hands until it is a rectangular shape and your benchtop can be seen through the dough. Place 1/6 of the filling in the centre of the dough and smooth it into a small rectangle. Wrap the ends of the roti over the filling so it is enclosed like a parcel. Place the roti on a plate seam side down and repeat the steps five more times.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a frying pan and place on medium-high heat. Fry the rotis in batches for a couple of minutes on each side or until browned. Top up with additional oil in between batches as necessary.

Serve with the following curry dipping sauce.

Curry dipping sauce (Adapted from Munting Kusina)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon hot madras curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ tablespoons Thai thin soy sauce
165ml tin (2/3 cup) light coconut milk

Heat the peanut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and fry the garlic for 30 seconds, or until softened but not browned. Add the curry powder, cayenne pepper and turmeric and stir for 30 seconds. Pour in the Thai thin soy sauce and coconut milk and bring to the boil then turn off the heat and allow to cool. Transfer to a bowl for dipping.


Did you know?

Although Singapore is one of the smallest countries in the world, it's population density is the second highest.


  1. Those photos of the noodle dishes have just made me decide that I want Asian noodles for dinner tonight :P Really impressive! I am also extremely impressed with the roti - both your dough efforts and the filling. It sounds like Singapore was a good stop over!

    1. Thanks Kari, we have been enjoying a lot of Asian meals recently and noodles have been featuring often. I was more impressed with my roti cooking efforts than my mediocre attempt at explaining the process. It was definitely a good stopover!

  2. Those parcels look great (though they look greener than I thought this filling would be). I've tried roti but only to fry up and not to wrap - love the idea of that.

    I've got a mee goreng recipe that I love - it was adapted from vegan about town so I highly recommend you check out steph's recipe

    1. Thanks Johanna, the greenish colour was due to a combination of turmeric with the other spices. It actually was Steph's recipe that I've been playing around with. Steph's is fairly close to how our local place makes it but I'm still tweaking here and there in hope of finding my perfect version.

  3. Mel, I love your around the world series-- what a great idea! And this murtabak and curry sauce look scrumptious.

    1. Thanks Vaishali, I've always loved playing around with other cuisines so it's been a lot of fun to broaden my horizons further.

  4. Delicious! I *might* be off to Singapore next year for work, and I had assumed that the food would be quite Chinesey - I didn't realise there was so many different influences to it. I hope I get to try something like those parcels while I'm over there!

    1. Off again? I'm jealous again! You should fare well for food in Singapore although I've heard it can be tricky to get vegan food in the street and market places. Apparently there are a few Buddhist Chinese vegetarian restaurants over there which would be great to visit. Hope you find a vegan murtabak over there, it would be worth seeking out!