Murtabak is a popular breakfast/snack item in Malaysia and Singapore. The dish itself originated from Yemen, where it’s called “mutabbaq” (Arabic: مطبق). In Arabic, “mutabbaq” means “folded”, which was the characteristic of this dish: dough folded over a savoury meat filling before being griddle-cooked.
There are two theories on how murtabak made its way to the shores of Malaya & Singapore in the old days: one was that they were introduced by the Hadramawt Arabs from Yemen who settled in British-Malaya (the Hadramawt Arabs were prominent in Singapore - the Alsagoffs, Aljunieds & Alkaffs, among others, whilst in Malaysia, the Perlis royal family are of Hadramawt origin). The second theory is that the Keralan-Muslims from India - many of whom have trading links with Yemen going back centuries - brought the dish back to India from Yemen, and subsequently to British-Malaya when they came to settle and started the “mamak” eateries.
The two most popular types of murtabaks in Malaysia and Singapore are the chicken murtabak and the mutton murtabak, usually served with a curry dip and pickled onions on the side.
- Chicken murtabak from Syed Bistro, served with dal curry, fish curry and syrup-pickled onions.
- Murtabaks in Kuala Lumpur differed from those in Penang or Singapore. In Kuala Lumpur, the meat patties are pre-cooked with onions and spices before being folded in dough and fried; whilst in Singapore & Penang, uncooked spiced minced meat and onion mixture are wrapped in the dough before being cooked.
- Syed Bistro’s pickled onions had an overpowering rose syrup scent, not quite what I expected - it should have just been sour-sweet.
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Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
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