Malaysian Murtabak

Posted on June 6, 2011


One of the things I love about summers in Toronto (yep, it felt like summer yesterday!), are the many festivals happening all over town.  Some of them don’t get too much publicity as Caribana or the Pride Parade, but it’s equally entertaining and free.  After a long period of rain and gray skies, it seemed so wrong to be cooped up at home when there is a festival happening at Queen’s Park.

A friend of mine sent out invitations to watch him take part at the Muhtadi International Drumming Festival.  Coming from all over the world, they all converge at Queen’s Park downtown Toronto to showcase their passion for drumming. The festival is with high energy and very well diverse performances, all the dancing, swaying and clapping can get a girl work up her appetite.  Best kept secret on festivals like this is that it is where you get to see food to be authentic as the culture who loves them.  I often find that the food booths are owned by small business/restaurants and most of them stay true to how they would eat it.  I often browse around and try to observe which one has the longest crowd and I most often than not, join in the crowd.

This time around though, my friend, Valerie, has had her heart set on one booth.  It’s a Malaysian vendor with only one item on their menu, Murtabak.  Murtabak is a roti-like wrap with curried meat or veggie filling inside.  She once told me about her trip to Malaysia and she attests how this one is a filler.  We approach the food stand and they have quite gregarious ads beckoning people to check them  out.  Amidst all that is a huge print out of an old article from the Toronto Star back in 2009, chronicling Pondicherry Caterer and their goal of getting Murtabak into mainstream food scene.  I stand there and skimmed and scanned the article as Valerie buys us our share.

I watch in fascination as the food is prepared before me.  Fresh elastic dough was piled high on a stainless work area.  The man behind the table picks up one and stretches it very quickly, stretching it as if it’s a roti.  After much stretching and pulling, he then throws the dough to a cast iron round griddle which was earlier greased with ghee.  I can imagine the richness of this dish as I see the man spoon a generous amount of beef filling on the center (you can also get it with chicken or vegetarian).  Using a spatula, he expertly folds the sides of the dough and flips it to get a good crust on the top side.  A few minutes more, he seemed content that the dough is aptly cooked and toasted, he slices through the square and divides it to four small squares for easy eating.

My friend Valerie warns me that Malaysian food are known for outrageously spicy fare.  I tentatively taste a little morsel and it seems something that I can withstand.  I sort of figured maybe they toned it down for less discerning palates like mine.  I changed my mind though as I ate more as I find that the heat builds in the tummy.  It was pleasant and restrained kind of spice.  I imagine this must be too tame to a true Malaysian.

Finishing the food, I sit contented.  Awesome food and free entertainment.  I am quite easy to please.  It’s unfortunate that Pondicherry Caterers doesn’t have a restaurant which would give me an option to get a Murtabak when I crave it.  I guess I have to hit more festival across Toronto throughout the summer and see if this Malaysian Murtabak is up for the picking :)

Posted in: Toronto Eats