The Funny Story Of How Roti John Got Its Peculiar Name

No, it's not made by a guy named John.

Cover image via IDN Times & Iluminasi

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We know Roti John as that saucy, tasty omelette sandwich found at pasar malams and Ramadan bazaars.

But ever wondered how it got its name?

One might think that a guy named John made it, but no. It's actually quite fascinating and a little funny to read the different stories behind it.

Roti John is believed to be linked to the Indian and Malay communities, and it has multiple origin stories

In an oral history interview recorded in the National Archives Singapore, Pakirisamy Rajagopal shared that Roti John was sold at stalls along Koek Road, which was frequented by British soldiers at the time.

According to him, one Indian-Muslim hawker named Abdul, who sold it on his push cart, would often ask the Englishmen, "Roti, John?", which was loosely translated to him asking them if they wanted bread.

The name 'John' was used as a reference for all of the Caucasians who'd come by for a meal. And from there, the name just caught on.

Image via pergikuliner

Another story based on a Berita Harian article in 1973 states that Roti John was adapted by Zawiah Anuar at Geylang Serai Food Centre.

Apparently, the original recipe was made with scrambled egg, salad greens, and tomato on French bread. But Zawiah's version included mutton, egg, onion, peas, and tomato on French bread.

Image via IDN Times

It gained popularity in 1976 after a couple, Shukor and his wife Khadijah Mohd Salle, began selling their own version

A report by The Straits Times in 1986 states that Shukor had learnt the recipe from a Geylang hawker and modified the sandwich, then sold it at their stall in Taman Serasi.

While some hawkers cooked the minced mutton and eggs separately before stuffing them between two slices of French loaf, the couple would beat 30 eggs with chopped onions, minced mutton, and add sambal. Then, they'd pour the mix onto the French loaf slices and pan-fry them.

Their recipe became so popular, selling up to 800 loaves on weekends and 100 plates daily, that it apparently became the benchmark for Roti John.

Khadijah and her roti johns.

Image via NLB Singapore/Cilisos

Today, Roti John is enjoyed throughout Malaysia and Indonesia, with some stalls topping it with sardine, beef, and chicken instead

Whichever is the accurate story, one thing is for sure, Roti John will continue to be a yummy dish enjoyed and loved by many. And that's a fact. :P

Image via GIPHY

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