The foreigners would always ask him to fry up an onion omelette, which they would eat with a side order of bread. They ate so much of it, and so often, that Mr Shukor decided to create a ‚Äėtwo-in-one‚Äô dish for them. He added the bread as the eggs were cooking, and the result was a delicious omelette-topped slab of French bread, which he served with a special sweet-chilli sauce.
It went down well with the foreign clientele, and the locals and Mr Shukor needed a name for it. Since it had been created for the foreigners, it was named after them too. ‚ÄúIn those days, we addressed all ang mohs as John! John! So my father named this dish Roti John.‚ÄĚ explained Madam Norhayati, daughter of Mr Shukor who created roti John in the 1970s. And the rest, as they say, is history.
* Anq Moh ‚ÄĒ a Chinese slang term meaning ‚Äėred-haired‚Äô and usually used to refer to Caucasians.
* Roti ‚ÄĒ a Malay word for bread.
Nasi means rice in Malay, while ‚Äėlemak means rich. At its best, this dish is served in a banana leaf wrapping. Unfold the leaf to discover a portion of fragrant rice that‚Äôs been cooked in coconut milk, a small deep-fried fish, some fried anchovies, a slice of plain omelette, some fresh cucumber and the all-important sambal (a paste made from chillies, dried shrimp and spices).
Originally a Malay dish, it is now prepared by the Chinese too, who added many accompanying ingredients, such as fried chicken wings, sausages and vegetables. Traditionally a breakfast meal, it is so well-loved that there are all-night restaurants in Singapore which specialise in serving nasi lemak for late dinners, suppers and wee-hours breakfasts!