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This murtabak recipe is for a delicious folded roti or flatbread stuffed with juicy flavorful chicken. Popular in Singapore and famous in Asian and Arab countries, murtabak is a beloved food. This easy version of murtabak Singapore makes little pockets of goodness that are crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Journey to Singapore with a local favorite everyone will go crazy for!
What is Murtabak?
Murtabak is a type of folded flat bread popular in Arab countries and Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
These folded breads are square shaped and slightly golden in color. When you bite into them, you discover either meat, vegetables, eggs, onions, and more.
The seasonings and fillings in Murtabak vary from country to country. This folded flatbread, made with wheat flour, has sweet and savory versions.
It is usually filled with chicken or meat, egg, vegetables, and herbs. Sweet versions include chocolate, nuts, and even condensed milk.
In the countries where murtabak is popular, it is enjoyed as an everyday dish and is a popular street food.
In this murtabak recipe, we focus on chicken murtabak, one of the most traditional and tastiest versions we had in Singapore.
History of Murtabak
Murtabak, also known as mutabbak, matabbak and mutabbaq, comes from the Arabic word “folded” (Arabic: مطبق).
However, some historians also link the word murtabak to the Macedonian word “mutabar.” By which this dish was known in ancient times.
This word “mutabar” is a blend of “muta” or egg, and “barota”, or bratha roti, to refer to bread.
The first versions of murtabak were made in Yemen. Yemen was formerly populated by a significant Muslim Indian community of Tamil origin.
Indian Muslim traders are said to have spread the recipe on their commercial activities throughout Southeast Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula.
Today, there are dozens of regional preparations for murtabak. They all differ significantly from one country to another, in the ingredients and the preparation.
Murtabak filled with lamb and murtabak with minced meat are common. The meat is seasoned with local spices with some chopped vegetables added.
In most cases, you’ll not find pork murtabak. This is because murtabak is popular in countries with large Muslim populations and pork is not a Halal food.
Murtabak is extremely popular in Singapore. Fluffy with a crisp exterior, the murtabak is stuffed, folded into a square shape, and cooked in ghee.
In Singapore, popular stuffings include mutton, shredded chicken, tuna, sardines, or minced beef.
In recent years, some creative stall owners at hawker centers offer murtabak stuffed with squid, prawns, or crab.
In 2016, chefs at Springleaf Prata Place, an Indian Muslim restaurant, attempted to make Singapore’s largest murtabak.
The single murtabak measuring about 6 ft x 1.5 ft / (2.1 x .45 m) paid tribute to one of Singapore’s beloved dishes.
Murtabak Singapore is typically served with wet gravy and sliced cucumbers soaked in a tomato-based sauce.
Singapore’s Zam Zam restaurant, a century-old famous eatery is where we savored chicken murtabak.
Discovering Murtabak in Singapore
Even before arriving in Singapore to explore the food, locals we met on our travels had already told us about Zam Zam.
Zam Zam, an Indian Muslim restaurant that opened in 1908, is the most famous restaurant for murtabak in Singapore.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were immediately captivated by the murtabak preparation process.
In the outdoor kitchen, right by the entrance, the vendors skillfully press the dough, stretch it, stuff it and cook it to perfection.
There are theatrics involved and the whole process is fascinating to watch. It definitely gets one in the mood for murtabak.
We ordered chicken murtabak, the restaurant’s signature dish. The large and beautiful crispy pastry with a golden appearance tempted us.
Succulent chunks of chicken, perfectly seasoned with eggs and onions filled the inside.
At Zam Zam, the chicken murtabak was accompanied by a thick bowl of chicken curry and sliced cucumbers.
When dipped into the curry sauce, the chicken murtabak was heavenly.
With mind blowing flavors, there is everything to like about murtabak.
And, with this murtabak chicken recipe, you can make one of Singapore’s heritage dishes in the comfort of your kitchen.
Murtabak Recipe – How To Make Singapore Chicken Murtabak at Home
This murtabak recipe contains two sub-recipes. The first is the recipe for the dough, which is cooked raw, directly in a pan.
The second sub recipe is for the filling, which is a chicken stew in our case.
The first step in making the murtabak is to prepare the dough. This dough requires a bit of rest so that the flour particles absorb the moisture from the dough.
While the dough rests, make the filling with the chicken and spices.
When the murtabak dough is ready, it is spread out on a flat surface. And filled with oil so that it can be easily taken off. This dough should be very thin, almost transparent.
The cooked filling is placed in the center and closed like a letter to form a square envelope.
These filled squares go straight to a skillet with ghee and are cooked on both sides. If your murtabak is on the thicker side, simply hold it down with a pair of tongs to cook evenly.
First, it is important to understand what the dough of the murtabak is like. Those who bake and have experience in kneading expect the dough to come off easily when it’s done.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for the murtabak dough. This dough is soft, sticky, and quite moist. This way it can be stretched enough to make foldable pancakes or murtabaks.
To make the dough for the murtabak, the first thing is to add the salt to the wheat flour and mix it well.
Then, add the liquid ingredients a little at a time, starting with the ghee and ending with the water.
This dough is easier to knead in a bowl, at least until the flour absorbs the moisture.
The kneading process requires patience to get a dough with an elastic consistency.
The dough must rest for a couple of hours, before dividing it into small balls to make the murtabak.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Using the same dough, you can also make a traditional Thai dessert. Get the recipe for Thai Roti – Best Crispy Banana Thai Pancake
Murtabak Chicken Filling
Making the filling for murtabak is as simple as it is tasty. To prepare the chicken stew, first chop the onions, chives, and garlic and then sauté everything together.
When it becomes transparent, add the chicken and the spices to form a delicious stew. This takes less than twenty minutes to cook.
The stew must be dry so as not to ruin the dough.
Murtabak Recipe Tips
Use Bread Flour To Make Murtabak Dough
Bread flour has a high gluten content making it a strong flour that provides the right structure and texture.
Compared to 12% gluten in All-Purpose flour, bread flour usually contains 13-14% gluten. This makes bread flour popular for breads, rolls, pizza dough and the recommended flour for this murtabak recipe.
The extra protein from the gluten makes it a bit denser and perfect for containing the chicken filling in this murtabak recipe.
You can order bread flour and have it delivered from Amazon. Alternatively, you can also use All-Purpose flour in equal amounts.
Tips To Stretch The Murtabak Dough
To stretch the dough for the murtabak, you must first cover your hands and the surface on which you will stretch them with oil. If not, the dough will stick easily to your hands.
If the murtabak dough sticks to the surface where you stretched it, you can peel it off using a kitchen spatula.
If you have never made murtabak before, first start by stretching a ball of dough. Stretch it out on a flat surface without filling and try folding it.
Repeat as many times as necessary until you feel comfortable stretching and folding the murtabak dough.
Spread enough ghee in the pan where you will cook the murtabak. And, choose a nonstick skillet.
Cook the chicken very well, the only liquid that contains the murtabak filling is the egg.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: How To Make Phyllo Dough From Scratch – Easy Homemade Recipe
Have Ghee or Clarified Butter to Coat The Dough
Ghee is very important to the murtabak tastes and flavors. It is used as an ingredient in the dough and also to knead and stretch the dough.
Similarly, the pan where the murtabak is cooked should be covered with ghee or clarified butter.
Curry Dipping Sauce
In Singapore, murtabak is usually accompanied by a delicious curry sauce. While you can enjoy the murtabak without the curry sauce, having the additional flavors elevates the experience.
We recommend this Madras Curry sauce, a zesty blend of black pepper, coriander, coconut milk and curry leaves.
Simply simmer the sauce and use it as a dip for your Singapore murtabak.
Freezing Murtabak Dough
Murtabak dough is very simple and does not contain yeast. So, it can be refrigerated for up to three days, and stored in the freezer for up to four weeks.
In both cases (freezer or refrigerator), the dough should not be thawed in the microwave. Only at room temperature.
Prepared murtabak can be cooked and stored in an airtight container for up to five days.
Murtabak Recipe – Step by Step Instructions
Make The Murtabak Dough
Prepare the dough by mixing all the ingredients together. When the dough appears elastic and homogeneous, put it inside a bowl and cover with a lid on it.
Let the dough rest for about two hours. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.
After two hours, remove the dough from the bowl. Turn it over onto a clean flat surface and knead it for a couple of minutes.
Divide the dough into eight or nine dough balls of similar size. Each ball should weigh approximately 90g.
Make the Chicken Filling
Over medium high heat, cook all the garlic and onions in a pot with ghee. Add the spices and continue cooking.
Add the chicken to the pot. Using a spoon, shred the chicken while mixing it together with the onions, garlic and spice mix.
Cook uncovered and stir to prevent the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Turn off the stove when you don’t see the liquid at the bottom of the pot. Set aside and let it rest.
Once the chicken has cooled down, in a mixing bowl, add the eggs and stir well.
Grease a flat surface with ghee and put a little on your hands. Take one ball of dough and stretch out the edges using your fingers.
Using a tablespoon, take a generous serving of the chicken mixture and place it in the center of the dough. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling and shape the murtabak until it looks like a square.
Repeat these steps for all 8 or 9 murtabak balls.
Heat ghee in a pan over medium heat. Lay out the murtabak and cook it on both sides for about 3 minutes on each side until crispy.
Add more ghee as you cook all the murtabak. If your murtabak is well stuffed and thick, use kitchen tongs to gently press down. Cook all four edges until crispy.
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Rosemary, ex-marketing and advertising strategist, is a digital nomad and content creator at Authentic Food Quest. Since 2015, with her partner, Claire, they travel the world in search of the best local food experiences. Their mission is to help you enjoy the best local specialties on your travels or via recipes in your home kitchen. Favorite country for food: Peru. Favorite local dish: Bacalhau. Favorite way to keep fit: Running. Rosemary is the chief content writer and strategist on Authentic Food Quest. She is also co-author of Authentic Food Quest Argentina and Authentic Food Quest Peru, available on Amazon.