Nyonya Roti Babi
Roti Babi is a Penang Peranakan dish which I have been quite curious about since I read the recipe in Debbie Teoh’s book. Bread slices coated generously with an egg batter reminds me much of traditional French toast, a childhood delight for my sister and I, only that in Roti Babi the bread is much thicker and stuffed with an “inti” (filling) made up of minced pork and onions. What is more intriguing is the “rempah” (spice paste) used in the filling, which consist of ketumbar (coriander seeds), buah pala (nutmeg) and cekur (lesser galangal aka “sand ginger”). I can already imagine how wonderfully perfumed the inti will be just from reading the recipe and yet at the same time, wonder how cekur actually tastes like as I’d not used it in cooking before!
The recipe for making Roti Babi is fairly straightforward. But one needs to prepare a full loaf of bread which has yet to be sliced. That would give one the versatility on the thickness of the slabs of Roti Babi later. Also, minced pork belly was used for a good balance of meat and fat. The frying of the inti was done slowly over medium low fire to allow the minced pork to render some fat for more flavour. The resulting inti should still be tending to the drier side while remaining reasonably moist. Minced chicken or even mutton and beef may be used as meat alternatives. But the authentic version uses pork as the name of the dish has already suggested.
Another drawing factor for me to prepare this dish is the use of worcestershire sauce. I love the taste of it and use it considerably in our own home cooking for dishes like Hainanese Pork Chops. Affectionately known as angmoh tau yew in Penang, it is enjoyed as a dip in Roti Babi with sliced red chilies. I imagined it to be the colloquial version of balsamic vinegar! The combination is truly wonderful.
Salvaging bits of the root from daun cekur meant for another classic Penang Peranakan dish, Perut Ikan. . Do not belittle the 5g of it added. It is packed with so much flavour and totally transforms the flavours of the inti.
Ketumbar, coriander seeds which are first lightly toasted over a low flame in a dry saucepan to accentuate the aroma and flavour. It is used extensively in Peranakan cooking for common dishes like Babi Chin and Itek Sioh.
All the rempah ingredients ready to be blended. Too lazy to use batu lesung. Though preferred, I do not have whole nutmeg to grind and had to settle with the storebought powdered form.
Sautéing the rempah which is on the dark side, owing to the tau cheo used. Instead of adding water, I’d used the liquids from the preserved soy beans during the blending of the rempah to help amalgamate all the ingredients together. Salt was subsequently cut back during the frying of the inti. But do adjust it accordingly to personal preference.
Final look of the inti before being dished, reasonably moist but not laden with liquids.
Slicing up the bread into 4-5 cm thick slabs. It is better to use bread which is 1 day old and not those fresh out of the oven. This allows the bread to firm up and harden slightly making it easier to work with during the filling process.
Filling of the inti. Be sure to use a small spoon to nudge the filling to all the corners of the bread. The filling should reach almost to the brim with probably a 0.5 cm allowance. Gently press the bread to nudge any bulging parts of the inti but do not exert too much force and it would flatten the bread too much.
Coat the bread slabs generously with egg wash but not soak them for too long as the bread would become too soggy. Remember to seal the open end with some egg wash.
Pan fry the Roti Babi over medium hot oil, starting with the “open mouth” end of the bread pocket, using the hot oil to cook the egg rapidly and thus sealing the open end.
Remember to fry the narrower sides as well to a uniform golden brown.
The meat filling in bread over egg batter is frequently compared with another favorite snack, Roti John but the difference is quite apparent. For me, the magic in Roti Babi really lies in the rempah. The use of tau cheo makes it truly Peranakan and so does the use of babi of course! Try it and you would know what I mean!
Nyonya Roti Babi
2 tbsp ketumbar (coriander seeds), toasted
5g cekur ginger root
1 tsp lada puteh (white peppercorns, I replaced with ground pepper)
150g (appro. 15) bawang merah (shallots)
3-5 cloves bawang puteh (garlic)
1 tsp tau cheo (preserved soy bean)
½ tsp buah pala (nutmeg powder)
6-10 cloves garlic, minced
500g bawang besar (onions), diced
500g minced pork (I used ground pork belly, or it can be replaced with minced chicken)
2 Tbs sugar, adjust to taste
1 tsp salt, adjust to taste1 big sandwich loaf, unsliced
2-4 eggs, lightly beaten
250ml oil for deep frying
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