Season’s Eating – Murtabak with Pickled Red Onions – a Malaysian-style Stuffed Omelette
By Amri Abuseman
New York, NY – Spring is moving swiftly, especially with work commitments that have reduced my visits to the farmer’s market in the past couple of months. By the time I was free again, it was Memorial Day! With the spring produce aplenty, I decided to try using vegetables that I have not cooked with before. This week’s selections include verdant spring garlic, garlic scapes and an old favorite – spinach.
Initially, I planned on relaying Jessie Chien’s technique of stuffing ingredients into edible shells. But, the spring garlic and garlic scapes extended the Relay to another of her ingredients: chives, a member of the onion family. Assuming that both the garlic and the scapes were mild in flavor, I launched my experiment to make murtabak (a Malaysian-style stuffed omelette).
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Murtabak is a popular snack throughout Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, influenced by the Indian-Malaysian population whose history I described in my last post. Southeast Asians love to snack in between meals, and we have a wide range of snacks, from chips, nuts, crackers, and fried fruits to chicken wings and stuffed breads. In addition, meals are served around the clock, so one can never go hungry when visiting that part of the world.
Murtabak is typically filled with minced chicken, beef or mutton, sautéed with onions and vegetables. This mixture is then mixed with beaten eggs and poured on top of thin bread dough (stretched like pizza). The dough is wrapped to form a package and pan-fried until golden brown.
My twist on murtabak is to make it using seasonal ingredients and keep it meatless without losing the texture and flavor. To simplify the recipe, I opted to use spring roll wrappers to replace the flour dough. The filling can be made ahead, and once you have the filling on hand, the assembly takes less than 20 minutes. The recipe is versatile enough that you can add any vegetables or ingredients that you have to make the filling.
I was pleasantly surprised with the mild flavor of the spring garlic stem, which tasted a lot like leeks. The garlic head is not as pungent as the regular garlic, and beautifully complements the other vegetables in the filling. The spring roll wrapper can be substituted with egg roll wrapper for the crusts if you prefer.
Murtabak with Pickled Red Onions
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
For the Pickled Onions
- 1 small red onion
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (or any other vinegar)
- 2 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
For the Murtabak
- 1 spring garlic
- 5 garlic scapes
- 4 cups spinach
- 1 cup chopped cabbage (optional)
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ tsp cumin
- salt to taste
- spring roll wrapper
- Thinly slice the onions then add rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir and let it sit while you prepare the filling and assemble murtabak.
- Separate the spring garlic head from the stem and cut the stem length-wise in half. Remove the tough part in the middle; wash the layers thoroughly like you would with leeks and chop thinly. Remove the tough outer layers of the garlic head and slice it thinly.
- Chop the garlic scapes thinly on a diagonal.
- Heat pan with vegetable oil and add the thinly sliced garlic first. Sautée until golden brown and add the cabbage (if using). Sautée until the cabbage softens then add the sliced garlic scapes, cook for two minutes. Add spinach and continue sautéeing until the spinach is wilted.
- Add cumin and salt and turn off the heat. Let the filling cool down for a few minutes.
- Heat non-stick pan with 1 tsp of vegetable oil.
- In the mean time, beat one egg and mix in 1 cup of the filling, stir well.
- Once the pan is hot, add one spring roll wrapper (it will sizzle a little bit). Spoon the filling mixture on top of the spring roll wrapper (try to keep the mixture within the wrapper as best as you can). Leave it for 3 minutes until the bottom wrapper is golden brown.
- Place another spring roll wrapper on top of the egg mixture to cover, then flip it. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes to brown the other side.
- Once both sides of the murtabak are golden brown, served with the pickled red onions.