Cooking is about passion, so it may look slightly temperamental in a way that it’s too assertive to the naked eye
– Gordon Ramsay
Roti John is a peculiar dish. A product of the diasporic nature of early Singapore, nobody really knows its true origin. Except that it is a MacGyver-esque concoction in the 1960s, where an anonymous Malay hawker was asked by yet another anonymous Caucasian for a hamburger. Given the obvious lack of hamburgers, the hawker slathered a mixture of minced mutton, onions, and fried while coated with scrambled eggs (Source).
There are many places with long and famous history of selling Roti John, but today brings me to somewhere close in my childhood: Haig Road.
Rosy & Nora
Named after the two eponymous stallholders, this stall has been up and running for at least 35 years. Even ‘Kak’ (Sister) Rosy, who usually runs the show herself nowadays, cannot put an exact date to their long-running enterprise! Situated in Haig Road Market & Food Centre, most first-timers can easily miss their bright orange signboard in the glittering array of tasty Malay and Indian Muslim cuisine.
The Roti John
Roti John is usually made with a local variant of the French baguette that is shorter and supposedly softer in texture. I’ve been to quite a few Roti John stalls (including those that you find at the Pasar Malam here in Singapore), and always felt that their bread is still quite tough and chewy, perhaps due to overcooking as well.
However Rosy & Nora’s take on the iconic dish has always made me feel at home, as it is very much fluffier and has a generous layer of scrambled eggs and onions. Coupled with their secret chilli gravy dip, it’s a good balance of sweetness, acidity and savouriness coming from the spiced minced mutton and egg spread.
Rosy & Nora don’t just sell Roti John of course. Drop by during dinner and you will see unwavering lines of people coming in waves ordering the popiah (spring rolls;), burgers, and ball kentang (potato) served with soup as well. At just tree-fiddy ($3.50) per half-loaf of delicious bread, you can hardly get better value elsewhere. The Popiahs come in two options: Goreng (deep-fried) or Basah (“wet”, otherwise just the usual spring roll we know)
One more to note: although various other food guides state their opening hours as 2pm-10pm, it often sells-out as early as 7:30pm!
It’s a hawker stall, come on! However, it is very popular among the regulars and during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, be prepared for Mcdonald’s-hello-kitty-toys magnitude of queuing nearing dinner time!
At tree-fiddy, it’s hard to beat.
Some may discount the quality for the lack of intense mutton flavour compared to other popular Roti John stalls, but the combination of the chilli dip with the generous egg and onion spread more than makes up for it!
p.s. More Haig Road hole in the wall reviews coming up!
Rosy & Nora
14 Haig Road
Haig Road Cooked Food Centre
Opens Daily from 2:00pm to 10:00pm
Rosy & Nora sells Halal-certified food.