Roti canai, a popular flatbread, is traditionally made by Indians and Indian-Muslims. So, when a Chinese makes roti canai, he literally breaks tradition.
Former rubber tapper and odd job worker Chang Wah Tey, 65, loves roti canai so much that he not only learnt how to make it, he opened a coffeeshop to sell it.
Chang of Kampung Tengah in Segamat, Johor, has been making roti canai for the past 18 years.
“The coffeeshop has no signage but locals know it as Kampung Tengah Roti Canai,” said the father-of-four in a telephone interview. The coffeeshop is open daily unless Chang and his wife go on holidays.
He learnt to make roti canai from an Indian-Muslim friend for four months prior to starting his business. (Thrice weekly, he spent three hours learning how to make the bread.)
He used to make roti canai with ghee (clarified butter) but over time, he switched to vegetable cooking oil.
“My customers dislike the taste of ghee and think that it will raise cholesterol levels,” said Chang who sells his roti canai for RM1.30 each. He also sells roti telur and roti sardin. Indeed, the size of his roti canai is bigger and it’s tasty.
In addition to dhall (lentil gravy), which often accompanies roti canai, he also has fish curry and sambal. Egg and sardine toasted sandwiches are also on the menu.
An early riser, Chang’s shop is open from 6.30am to 11.30am. During his rubber tapping days, he also woke up early.
“The working hours are almost the same – working in the rubber estate and operating a coffeeshop. As a rubber tapper, I started tapping rubber from 5.30am until 11.30am,” said Chang .
Only two sons Chen Den, 37, and Chen Yunn, 33, are interested to learn the trade from him. Another son works in a glass factory. His only daughter is married.
With age catching up, Chang is glad that his sons are helping him run the family business. They started to pitch in a decade ago. Between them, they make about 300 roti canai a day and more on weekends.
His wife also helps by making beverages like coffee, tea and barley.
Chang’s clients are mostly Chinese and Indians.
“There are many roti canai shops run by Indians and Malays too,” he said. But the humble and friendly senior is not at all fretful about the competition.
He brushes it off, saying: “Customers have their preference on which roti canai stall they want to frequent.”
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Published at Sat, 05 Aug 2017 01:15:00 +0000