Roti John is one of those strange foods for me, in a category with lor mee, shengjianbao and shakshouka. They are all things I love, but somehow never seek out; I can function for years without particularly craving them, but if I happen to be somewhere and they happen to be available, I know what I’m ordering. And at Al Ameen Eating Corner, where the menu can cause serious injury if dropped on your head, they have roti john.
The reason I was at Al Ameen has nothing to do with the food, even. Occupying a large space in an industrial park in Marsiling, it just happened to have good seats to the New Year fireworks show, especially in the ‘alfresco’ section (the extra tables that extend to the grass patch outside). But they do have roti john. 9 different ways, in fact.
The basic idea of roti john – a meat-packed omelette fried into buttered bread – has itself undergone change from how I remembered it in childhood. Adding mayonnaise is a good move, as mayonnaise always is. Sweet chilli, though, I’m not so sure. But that’s just the way it’s done now, right?
Al Ameen’s chicken roti john has chunks and slivers of the thing, probably precooked long before it is made into the omelette. It might, in fact, have come from their curry chicken pot; there is a whole pod of star anise embedded here. Which sounds bad. But with the margarine in the lightly toasted, slightly stretchy bread, the well-browned egg and all that mayonnaise, it… rather balances out.
But look, as I said – I like roti john, I happily eat it, but it’s just never front and centre in my food thought map. And especially not tonight, sitting quietly, waiting for the fireworks. People are already streaming in the dark to the fringes of the field where the mortars are placed; for the last and only time in 2016, there are cars double-parked along the main road. Everyone just waiting.
Maybe they’re waiting for 2017 to come; maybe they’re happily, or relievedly, counting down to the end of this fucking year. (And pardon me, but ‘fucking’ is pretty kind as an adjective for 2016.) I know I’m more of the latter, though there is an element of self-deception there too. 2016, the fact that it was 2016, is not the reason for people to retreat to the individualistic, brutal side of human nature – to wallow in fear and lash out in rage, to lust openly and proudly after domination as opposed to coexistence and compromise.
And since it isn’t the reason, there is no reason to expect that a shower of fireworks, a plume of smoke that stretches from the field to Causeway Point, will make anything better in any way.
But maybe other things that happen in 2017 will. I can only do what I can, and await the rest with bated breath. As I did, listening to the emcee in the distance counting down the numbers, staring into the still dark and undisturbed night.
Al Ameen Eating Corner
35 Marsiling Ind Est Rd 3 #01-11 (map)
Contact no.: 6366 1740
Hours: Daily, 24 hours