SINGAPORE — Another day, another Malaysia-Singapore food war.
Last Sunday (Sept 10), Croatia-based food encyclopaedia TasteAtlas released a list called the 100 Best Rated Breads in the World, based on 9,461 ratings by its audience.
Topping the list was roti canai from Malaysia, while roti prata from Singapore came in 12th — a ranking that baffled some Singaporeans, who went on online forum Reddit to ask what is the difference between the two.
A Reddit thread on TasteAtlas’ list, started by user “doyouhaveabadge” on Monday morning, had received 300 upvotes and 120 comments as of Tuesday evening.
One Reddit user mused: “What is the difference between roti prata and roti canai? Serious question. I really don’t know.”
Another remarked sarcastically: “Wow, roti prata is so awesome it appears at least twice on this list.”
A top comment, referring to the two countries’ long and storied history of food wars, joked that Malaysians must be exhilarated to find out “their version of the same dish beats out Singapore’s”.
Malaysians often describe Singapore’s food as “Malaysia-lite”. In June this year, a tweet by a former Canadian minister about nasi lemak (coconut-infused rice with fried fish and other dishes) being the “most delicious breakfast in Singapore” drew ire from the Malaysian online community, who were quick to scoff at the “inauthentic” dish.
Under TasteAtlas’ Facebook post of the list, many Malaysians were quick to express their pride as they cheered, “Malaysia boleh!”, a popular Malaysian slogan, which translates to “Malaysia can do it”.
On the other hand, Reddit users from Singapore poked fun at the weakening Malaysian ringgit (MYR), which in July slumped to a record low of 3.48 ringgit against the Singapore dollar (SGD).
One wrote: “(The difference is) one is in MYR and the other in SGD.”
Another agreed: “Of course (roti canai) is the best bro. Value for money… 1:3.5 for the same thing.”
In Malaysia’s defence, some people countered with the argument that this also translated to a “1:3.5 flavour ratio”.
A number of Redditors also wondered why the original paratha or parotta from India, which spawned both variations, was ranked 29th on TasteAtlas’ list. Also listed was “roti (collectively)” at number 27.
While the original paratha differs across India, roti canai and roti prata both originate from the Kerala variant of the dish, which is fluffier and crispier than that of other regions. Online users who have tried India’s paratha said that it has more of a wheat flavour, is “less cooked and more gooey (as) compared to Singapore’s roti prata”.
Malaysia and Singapore’s variants, on the other hand, are largely similar in terms of preparation and characteristics.
Seasia, a subsidiary of Indonesian digital media outlet Good News From Indonesia (GNFI), reported that one key difference between the two lies in their thickness — roti canai is typically thinner, lighter and crispier, while roti prata is usually thicker, denser and chewier.
The dishes also differ in serving style.
Roti canai is often served with a side of curry of dhal (lentil soup) for dipping or pouring over the flatbread, while roti prata is usually accompanied by a variety of sweet or savoury condiments such as curry, sugar and condensed milk.
Dish differences aside, some people also called into question the legitimacy of the rankings, especially since the original paratha was ranked much lower than roti canai and roti prata.
One Reddit user said: “If the ranking is based on online voting, then it can be gamed. I suspect that’s probably what’s going on here.”
Another pointed to how TasteAtlas had angered the Malaysian online community for ranking the country’s cuisine at 46th globally in June 2022, and 39th in December 2022.
“Since then, their food rankings on Malaysian dishes have been posted on r/malaysia (the Malaysia subreddit) and Malaysia websites regularly,” the comment continued, suggesting that TasteAtlas may be a well-known site in Malaysia due to this and thus gets more ratings from Malaysian online users.
On its website, TasteAtlas stated that it uses a “series of mechanisms that recognise real users and that ignore bot, nationalist or local patriotic ratings, and give additional value to the ratings of users that the system recognises as knowledgeable”.
“For the 100 Best Rated Breads in the World list until Sept 11, 2023, 14,596 ratings were recorded, of which 9,641 were recognised by the system as legitimate,” it added.