Murtabak: A Malaysian Treat

I first had Murtabak long, long ago, in the days before I became a vegan, and I loved it. This delicious Malaysian dish is typically made by stuffing minced meat, usually lamb, and eggs inside the folds of a paper-thin flatbread. It reminded me somewhat of a paratha, although that is more often vegetarian, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that Murtabak first originated among Malaysia’s huge Indian population.

When I announced Malaysian as the cuisine for this month’s It’s A Vegan World, I knew rightaway that I wanted to make Murtabak again, but this time a vegan version of it. I don’t often cook with meat substitutes because I don’t care much for them, but I also wanted to make sure I kept the integrity of this satisfying, hearty dish that makes one want to burp with satisfaction and lick one’s fingers till every last bit is gone.

TVP was out because even softened and cooked, it is not soft enough for stuffing inside a delicate bread. After looking over the meat substitute shelf at Whole Foods, I finally picked up a package of vegan sausage (Gimme Lean).

The meat, or in this case the vegan sausage, is cooked with a mixture of spices and onions not unlike a kheema would be. Contrasted with the crispy-thin overlay of bread, it is deliciousness itself.

So here’s the recipe, and a reminder to get cooking and send me your vegan Malaysian dishes before the deadline, Sept. 5. This is not difficult, folks– Malaysian cuisine is chock-full of delicious vegetarian foods that would appeal to anyone’s tastebuds. In fact, here’s a great resource from a reader who just sent in her recipe to IAVW: Malaysian Delicacies. Sudha’s blog has lots of delicious-looking vegetarian dishes to get you started, if you haven’t already.
Enjoy, all!


For the bread:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus more as needed

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup soy yogurt

2 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

2 tbsp flaxmeal + 6 tbsp water, whisked together

1 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Knead the dough around 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until you have a smooth dough. Place in an oiled bowl or container, turning over once to coat the top of the dough, cover, and set aside at least for half an hour.

For the stuffing:

1 pound ground vegan sausage (I used Gimme Lean)

1 medium onion, minced

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

1/3 cup black raisins

1/4 cup sunflower seeds (optional– I like the slight crunch they add)

2 green chillies, minced

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

1 cup firm tofu, crumbled

Juice of one lemon

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp canola oil

Heat the oil in a skillet and when warmed, add onions. Saute until they begin to soften, about 8 minutes.

Add the ginger and garlic, stir quickly, then add the sausage, breaking it up into little bits as you put it in the skillet.

Stir-fry until the sausage starts to brown, then add the powdered spices and salt to taste and stir fry for a few more minutes.

Add the crumbled tofu and stir again. If the sausage is still clumping together, mash it down with a ladle or with a potato masher until it is broken up into tiny bits.

Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the raisins and sunflower seeds and mix thoroughly. Add lemon juice, sugar and mint and stir in. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

The assemble the murtabak:

Tear off a lemon-sized piece of the dough and roll it between your palms into a smooth ball.

Using just as much flour as is necessary, roll into a very thin disc, about 8 inches in diameter. The dough will put up some resistance at first, but it will relax eventually. You should be able to see the countertop through the rolled disc, that’s how thin it should be. Don’t worry– the dough is pretty elastic and doesn’t tear very easily.

Now place about 3-4 ttbsp of the stuffing in the center of the disc, leaving a border of about 2 inches.

Fold over the top and then the bottom of the disc over the stuffing, and then fold in the sides, until you have a packet. Push the stuffing into the corners of the packet using your fingers, so it is even.

Sprinkle some flour on the countertop and roll the packet out into a square of about 6 inches.

Heat a cast-iron or non-stick griddle and smear some oil on it. Now place the murtabak on it and cook until golden-brown spots appear on the bottom. Flip over and cook until spots appear on the other side.

Before serving, cut into four squares.

Serve hot with a spiced herb dip (recipe follows).

Spiced Herb Dip

1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves

1 cup firm tofu

1/2 cup soy yogurt (optional)

1/2 cup soy milk

1 green chilli, minced

Salt to taste.

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until you have a smooth dip. Add more soy milk if necessary.

Remove to a bowl.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

20 thoughts on “Murtabak: A Malaysian Treat

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 21, 2009 at 1:05am

    oh, murtabak, fantastic! i used to love this, but have not yet had a vegan version.

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    Curry Leaf

    August 21, 2009 at 1:16am

    Vaishali we think alike.Sweet version of murtabak was to be my dish.Yes, there are several veg options in Malaysian food

    Love the way used gimme lean.I could not try it.

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    August 21, 2009 at 2:59am

    This is new to me. Malaysian food seems quite doable to me. Will check some recipes soon.

    I like the hearty looking bread. Seems really filling!

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 21, 2009 at 3:08am

    There’s this street food we used to eat in Calcutta called ‘Mughlai Paratha’ ..murtabak sounds and looks exactly like that!

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 21, 2009 at 3:36am

    The name is so new to me as is the cuisine.Great to see how you made it vegan!

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 21, 2009 at 4:36am

    Thats awesome Vaishali..SUch a healthy version..thanks for sharing..many times I had a special dish from Genting hotel ‘Imperial Rama’..Seafood Souprice..Ha what a complete meal that was..So,I cant forget the awesome Malaysian reciptes yet..


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    August 21, 2009 at 7:59am

    That’s a tempting paratha for me Vaishali. I have never eaten the Malaysian food, would love to try this.

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    August 21, 2009 at 8:52am

    Lovely malaysian treat…looks fantastic Vaishali!

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 21, 2009 at 10:08am

    That looks fulfilling, love the herby dip, would be amazing combination

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    vegan dinners

    August 21, 2009 at 11:11am

    Hi Vaishali, I was surprised to see you talk about kheema and I am reminded about how connected the foods
    of countries from Greece to the Middle East to India and beyond are!!
    In greek κιμας (or kimas in english) is minced meat.
    Best. Maria

  11. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 21, 2009 at 2:34pm

    Very interesting dish with double dose of soy. Looks delicious. Have a great weekend.

  12. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 21, 2009 at 3:31pm

    i have tasted the vege. version of murtabak in singapore…love it..

  13. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 21, 2009 at 3:50pm

    This reminds me of our stuffed rotis…your vegan version sounds fantastic, I could try this dish for my husband who is a vegetarian :)

  14. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    August 22, 2009 at 4:34pm

    Steph, Thanks.

    Curry, Sweet Murtabak sounds amazing. Looking forward to seeing it!

    Sunshinemom, Malaysian food is very doable– lots of echoes of Indian cuisine. Hope you send something in!

    Maddy, Never had Mughlai paratha, but I can imagine it must’ve been similar.

    Shri, Ann, Priya, Pari, Priya, Parita, Thanks.

    Maria, it really is amazing, isn’t it, how connected the foods are?

    Pavani, Sowmya: Thanks.

    Gita, I hope you’ll try it!

  15. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    October 18, 2009 at 3:52am

    I went to high school and Singapore and also worked there as a nurse when I graduated from college. Murtabak was a favorite of all the kids at the school. We had a particular restaurant we went to and we took our “veggieburger” along with us. I have been hunting for a good recipe for a long time. My mouth is watering just reading your post. This will be a nice recipe to try at my vegan monthly potluck.
    Many thanks.
    “terima kasih banyak”

  16. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Nuff Sed

    June 16, 2011 at 6:01am

    We lived in Singapore from 1963-66 and had the opportunity to eat Vegetarian Mortubak many times. The first time we took our canned meat substitute with us to the restaurant they were afraid to touch it. After they learned what the ingredient were they were more than happy to acommodate us. Try using the canned Worthington Vegetarian Burger. I think that you will find that it has the texture and moisture you need. Regards, Nuff Sed

  17. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 3, 2012 at 6:19am

    Hello, Have copied several of your recipes to my personal recipe book.
    Your Murtabak recipe sounds really good. However I am annoyed at: “1 package ground vegan sausage”. Does this mean 1 ounce, 1 pound, 1 Kg?
    The web is world-wide – we don’t all live in the same country and go to the same supermarkets. (Sorry to be a grump ;-)

  18. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 3, 2012 at 2:54pm

    Malcolm, One pound would be right. I understand that readers outside the US would be confused, so I have added it to the recipe instructions.

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    April 14, 2012 at 2:10pm

    I tried this yesterday at a bike rally it was slightly different they also used chickpeas and corn as well as tomatoes and coriander leaves served with coconut chutney it was so good

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