Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Satun Revisited - The Star-Studded Roti Bintang

Much have been written about roti canai, and I have written about some of the favorite roti canai haunts of Alor Setar. It is not surprising, to those who have been to Thailand before, to find roti canai there, and in Satun, there is no exception.

Just like in other regions of Southern Thailand, roti canai is made by ladies. The size might differ from one place to another, and just like in Malaysia, roti canai has become the favorite comfort food in Satun, not just breakfast.

I've had roti canai during my previous visit. On this trip, again, I went to Asip's Roti Canai. It's a small coffeeshop located a few doors across the hotel. In fact, it is just 2 doors away from Kak Sofia's nasi lemak shop. The item I was hunting for on the menu? The curiously named Roti Bintang.

The method of making roti canai is similar enough to the ones here apart from the roti being made by ladies. The roti here is crispier and served with a light fish curry, along with some condensed milk and sugar. Along with your drink is usually a pot of herbal tea. For those who prefers something strong to accompany your roti, there's always cili padi.

What is Roti Bintang? It is basically roti canai dough, flattened with a hole in the center and grilled. Once one side is crispy, the roti is flipped on the other side. An egg is cracked open and placed in the center, fried along with the roti. Once ready, the roti with the sunny side up egg is plated and served. It might sound like the regular roti tampal at the mamak shop, but while roti tampal fries the whole egg, roti bintang has sunny side up eggs shaped perfectly in the middle.

I saw this item being made on my last trip to Satun, unfortunately, on my way out after breakfast. Despite waiting for 6 months to return to Satun to try the roti bintang, I couldn't figure out how this dish is eaten. Sure enough, it's good with the curry, but on the whole, eating it with soy-sauce (or salt) and white pepper seems to be the best. It tastes quite similar to toast and eggs, only the fact that you are eating it with roti canai. Spread the yolk all over the roti, sprinkle some soy sauce and pepper, and for once you can skip the curry...or in some cases, the condensed milk and sugar.

I am not sure whether the item is a major seller or one of the novelty dishes there, but it definitely shows the creativity side of the Malays there, just like the mamak shops here do.

As Satun is not really a tourist destination, Asip Roti Canai shop is not that crowded, although it does have its moments. You can find Malays, Thai and even Malaysians eating there. Sometimes I would see one or two cars with Malaysians plates parked outside the shop with families eating there. One thing that's a bit strange for us is, the shop sells only roti canai and drinks, although the shop looks so much like a kopitiam here. If you want to eat roti canai and your spouse or children wants to nasi lemak, don't worry; just order and they will run 2 doors down to Kak Sofia to order her nasi lemak, or vice versa.

One thing I must say about the roti canai at Asif's. The size of an individual roti canai is quite small. I would say that 3 pieces of Asif's roti is equivalent to 2 at the mamak shop. Size of roti canai varies from one shop to another.

I am thinking of asking Bang Mat at my regular roti canai shop in Jalan Stadium to make this roti bintang for me, one of these days. Who knows, it might just catch up.

The roti canai culture in Satun is quite weel spread. You can find a number of roti canai stalls along the streets, mostly run by Malays. Curiousity got me ordering roti telor from one of the stalls in front of the laksa shop. I must say that the lady was sharply dressed for a roti canai maker, but that is normal there. However, I realized that, unlike Asip's, most stalls selling roti canai do not serve roti with curry of any sort. To my horror, I noticed that when she finishes grilling the roti, she'll pour a dallop of sweetened condensed milk and sprinkle some sugar on top. Lucky for me, there was a man who was waiting for his order who can speak Malay. We explained that we do not want the milk and sugar and he quickly told her. I can easily tell you that it's not a spoonful of condensed milk that was spread on the roti but a few easily.

I realized that her customers really enjoyed the roti with the sweet condiments while watching football on tv. Life in Satun is indeed quite similar to Malaysia, even without mamak shops.

I do miss the roti bintang...I'm off to the roti stall and ask them to make one for me.

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