Neighbour: Faizal and Aziz

Text by Elizabeth Tan
Photography by Jovian Lim

32-year-old Faizal has been helping his father, Aziz, at the family’s roti prata shop since he finished National Service. Everyday, for 2-3 years, he has been faithfully flipping and hand kneading the dough in a valiant effort to perfect the art of prata making that has so characterized his family in decades past. Shatteringly crisp on the outside, the prata gives way to a soft and delectable bite on the inside. While the curry is spicier than most, pandering to the palates of Singaporeans, its zesty nature fuses in perfect harmony with the chewiness of the prata dough, leaving a sweet aftertaste in one’s mouth.

Aziz is all smiles and laughter when relating his story of how Sin Ming Road Roti Prata came about. He commends his son for his dedication to their family tradition, and reminisces the time when his own father first set up shop in Jalan Besar decades ago during the pre-war period. As luck would have had it, the building where their shop used to be situated was to be demolished and Aziz moved the family business to Bukit Timah, Cluny Road.

Today the shop is nestled in a corner of Jin Fa Kopitiam at Sin Ming Road and is headed by Faizal, who skillfully kneads and flips pratas under the keen eye of Aziz, who has had 45 years of experience under his belt. Hand kneading, according to Faizal, gives more character to the prata, and it is this effort that has sustained their business for generations. Where factory dough is uniform in nature, handmade pratas instead allow one a better grip on the eventual taste of the product. Undoubtedly, it also demonstrates their zealousness toward quality pratas, going the extra mile for their customers.

Where in the past most people would savour the simplicity of one-dimensional pratas, pimping them with just egg or cheese, today, palates have developed to welcome more adventurous and innovative tastes such as cashew nuts and raisins, to pratas with strawberries, bananas, and almond flavours. For Faizal and Aziz however, their specialty lies in their coin pratas which they faithfully prepare for their growing fan base. Thicker than the usual pratas and shaped like medallions, coin pratas boast a crispier-than-usual outer layer that when dipped in curry gives a tangy bite. Faizal described the occurrence of coin pratas as a beautiful accident—a product of an afternoon of experimenting.

Visit Sin Ming Roti Prata, Faizal and Aziz Curry at Blk 24, #01-51, Sin Ming Road, Singapore.

Read more in The U Press N˚8 (Singapore edition).