The Roti King (aka Kalpana Sugendran Sugendran) does not have a food truck. He does not have an Instagram account or a twitter feed. Despite this, anyone who’s been to his small restaurant in Euston would be fast to agree that he makes some of the most authentic Malaysian food you’ll find outside Malaysia proper, that talent trumps trendy and that the hipsters are missing something big here. He does have a Facebook page.
In fact, when I first set out on this adventure, a good friend of mine (conveniently, Malaysian) was quick to suggest an excursion to the Roti King – I couldn’t believe I had twelve letters to eat through first.
At first glance it might look like a bit of a dive – don’t let the somewhat unbecoming exterior put you off. Once you get down the stairs and past the sign above the door that reads “Euston Chinese” you will not be disappointed – unless, of course, you’re looking for Chinese food. Inside the decor is clean and basic. If you are lucky enough to not have to wait for one of maybe ten or twelve tables, you’re in luck. If you’re really impatient, they also do takeaway.
When Stella and I arrived for dinner on a Wednesday night the restaurant was already full. We didn’t have to wait long, but as we did, a robust queue built up behind us, growing long and out the door into the bitter winter night. (I’m a bit late writing this post). Joining us in line were two of Stella’s friends from Malaysia – one of them here visiting the other for a short holiday. We arrived at the same time by chance – seems like much in the same way as Canadians in London wear plaid and say eh, Malaysians go for roti canai at the same spot. Seems like I’m not the only one reinforcing stereotypes, although plaid is my favourite colour.
Roti canai is the buttery, stretchy, delicious flatbread born of Malaysia and sold in mamak stalls throughout; also known as the roti prata in Singapore, it is one of the top reasons why I gained so much weight when I lived there. Calling it my roti baby doesn’t even make it sound cute.
As we waited, we watched as the dough was masterfully kneaded, stretched, flipped and folded. I’d fasted all day in anticipation of my Roti King flatbread, and apparently I’d come to the right place.*
Although I came for the bread, which comes served with a small bowl of curry, there are a number of other traditional Malaysian dishes on the menu. We went for the nasi goreng, not because we needed it really, but because we’re [a little bit] greedy. To drink, the signature cincau, or grass jelly – a drink considered “immortal” and popular among women trying to conceive (don’t get excited mom). Made from a herb plant called mesona chinensis, it does not actually contain any gelatin. In Malaysia they sometimes add soy milk, and call it a Michael Jackson – a reference to his changing colour and/or the song “Black & White.”
Our food came quickly and I was delighted that I had ordered a meal and a half all to myself. The roti canai is generous, but the curry portions are small.
At £6 a head, one could be forgiven for wanting to eat here every day. And in fact, I must confess, between my first visit and the time of writing I actually went back to “scabby old Euston” for lunch. The first time I visited Kuala Lumpur, I was unable to locate real proper local phayre – the street food of KL which is almost legendary. I don’t know how this happened – total amateur fail. Doesn’t matter now though – because the Roti King, or Euston Chinese – now that is a real find.
*That’s a lie, I didn’t. I thought about it though.
Need to know:
40 Doric Way, NW1 1LH
Nearest Tube: Euston