It shouldn't come as much of a surprise when I tell you that the most important holiday traditions for my family tend to revolve around food. In the lead up to Christmas this year, however, I'm on a month-long trip to Singapore. I'm here with my friend Harry Cummins, and we are collaborating on a pop-up restaurant focused on sourcing and featuring as many local ingredients as possible. And while Christmas decorations are certainly in abundance here, turkey is not. For the time being, I'm not too heartbroken about it, though, as Singapore has a rich and diverse food culture just waiting to be devoured.
One ingredient that has particularly caught my eye (or should I say taste buds?) is called chye poh, also known as preserved radish. We first tasted it at the famed Tiong Bahru Market, where it is featured in a very popular dish called chwee kueh, which is essentially delightfully chewy steamed rice cakes drowned in a relatively oily, yet deeply satisfying condiment made using chye poh. For our version, we did our best to recreate the famous condiment, but have incorporated it into a grilled flatbread inspired by roti prata, also often found in the street food markets here.
Chye poh is available in both sweet and salty varieties, and is used in dishes originating in China, Thailand and, of course, Singapore. For this application, I prefer the sweet version as I find the salty one to be a little overbearing with the flatbread.
This dish, while utterly delicious and indulgent, is anything but traditional – kind of like Christmas in Singapore, with its 35 C weather and 90-per-cent humidity. Still, I feel confident that it would make a great addition to any holiday snacking table. If you can't readily get your hands on the preserved radish, don't fret. These flatbreads would be wonderful with just about any savoury spread you have on hand.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup water
2 tablespoons, plus 1 tsp plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Chye poh condiment
1 cup, plus 3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked, rinsed, strained well and finely minced (optional)
2 tablespoons, plus 2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup shallot, minced
1 x 150 gram package of sweet chye poh (also known as sweet preserved radish), washed, rinsed and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons light soya sauce
1 tablespoon ketjap manis (or sweet soy)
12 pieces fingerling potatoes
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
Add the flour, water, yogurt and salt to a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Process on speed 2 for 10 minutes. Remove from the mixer and wrap tightly with cling film. Allow to rest in the fridge for two to eight hours.
Portion the dough into six pieces. Working one at a time, roll each portion out into a roughly 6-inch-by-6-inch square on a lightly floured surface. Spread a thin layer of softened butter over the entire surface of the rolled dough. Fold the dough lengthwise into thirds as if you were folding a letter and then roll the whole thing up into a small, loose log, kind of as if you were rolling up a cinnamon bun.
Allow to rest on a well-floured surface while you continue to roll and fold the other flatbreads.
Repeat the rolling, buttering and folding a second time on each flatbread.
Again, allow to rest for a minimum of one hour on a well-floured surface, this time preferably in the fridge, covered loosely with cling film to ensure they do not dry out. Best made the day you intend to eat them.
Chye poh condiment
Start by heating the oil to 300 F in a medium-sized pot. It can be helpful to use a thermometer. Carefully add the minced shrimp and fry for 30 seconds while stirring with a whisk. Carefully add the minced garlic and shallot in three steps, whisking in between additions. The oil will bubble up as you add everything so take care not to let it boil over.
Whisk and cook everything for 10 minutes until the garlic and shallot become fragrant and are completely cooked. Add the chye poh, light soy and ketjap manis. Continue to cook over low heat for another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. The oil should be flavourful from the garlic and shallot, with the preserved radish providing a crunchy texture while lending a sweet, yet balanced taste.
Bring the potatoes to a boil in a big pot of well-salted water. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for approximately 25 minutes covered with a lid, or until potatoes are tender and fully cooked. Strain and allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge. Can be made up to two days in advance.
Roughly smash the fingerling potatoes using your hands and warm them with butter in a non-stick frying pan. Season with fine sea salt to taste.
Preheat your barbecue to around 400F. Roll each flatbread into rectangles roughly 10-inch-by-5-inch in size on a lightly-floured surface. Grill each side of the flatbread until grill marks appear and flatbread is cooked when it puffs and inflates, separating from the top and bottom layers. (Approximately 30 seconds to one minute a side.) It should cook fairly quickly so be careful not to burn it.
Spread a couple of tablespoons of the warm chye poh condiment over each flatbread. It can be a bit oily so strain off some of the oil as you spoon, if you prefer. Line two pieces of smashed and warmed fingerling potatoes along the shortest edge of the grilled bread. Sprinkle with sliced spring onion and roll the breads into logs. Slice each roll into four even pieces.
Place cut-side up on a serving platter and spoon more of the warm chye poh condiment over each of the pieces. Garnish with more sliced spring onion and serve immediately.