Mataba

3-1 pupusas

3-2 pupusas

I’ve been hooked ever since I found out about pupusas, a delicious Salvadoran food.  That’s why, when I walked past a particular street vendor here in Bangkok the other week, something made me stop dead in my tracks.  The woman was making a pupusa!  On the street!  Like it was the most natural thing to do in Bangkok!  Well, obviously, the fillings this woman was adding to her “pupusa” were not the same as the traditional Salvadoran pupusa fillings, but the concept was the same.  She had a dough which she stretched out.  Then, she spooned a filling with curried chicken, onions, carrot, and egg onto the centre of the dough, folded it up into a kind of square, and fried it until it was crispy.  I stood there trying to make heads or tails of what I was seeing.  Here I was in Bangkok watching a woman make a pupusa on the street right in front of me.  I stood there for so long that eventually I felt obligated to buy one (which wasn’t actually a terrible obligation—the pupusa was delicious).

I found out later that this dish is called mataba and is a popular Thai Muslim dish.  I also found out that “mataba” means “fat” in Tagalog, which leads to a pretty interesting selection of results when typed into a Google images search (try it and you’ll see what I mean).  I found several reviews of a restaurant called “Roti Mataba” which, as it turns out, was just a few feet away from where I’d discovered my glorious street vendor.  Regardless of whether you buy from the actual restaurant or from the cute little covered lady on the street, it’s going to cost you 35 Baht.  Roti Mataba has a TripAdvisor sticker in their window, but I would recommend buying from the vendor on the street.  Her mataba are much bigger and fresher than the mataba in Roti Mataba.  Also, I get the sense that Roti Mataba, while it was at one time great, has let itself go.  One review which I read of the place says that they used to be good but now it seems like they’re just resting on their laurels.

If you are not in Thailand and checking out this street vendor is not an option for you, I found a helpful video that shows how to make mataba.  The video is in Thai, but even if you don’t understand Thai, you can get a general sense of what most of the ingredients are and what the method is.  See if you can adapt it at home (and then come back and leave a comment to let me know how it went)!

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