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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — One bite of a freshly-made apam balik and we reckon you will want more of the fluffy pancake filled with peanuts. Usually, it’s sold as a breakfast item at stalls found in morning markets or as a snack when it’s sold in the afternoon or at the night markets.
Depending on where you get this snack, it’s called various names by the Chinese using different dialects. In southern Malaysia and Singapore, they call it min chiang kueh. Up north, the Penang Hokkiens refer to it as ban chian kueh. In Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, it’s also known as dai gao meen.
It’s claimed that these snacks originate from Fujian. When General Tso Tsung T’ang was sent to Fujian in 1855 to quell the Taiping Revolution, it became his army’s food. The story goes that the soldiers were using spring onions and chilli sauce to eat their bread but as Fujian was rich with sugar cane and peanuts crops, the ever-practical army general switched to these ingredients to make the pancakes that was also easy to carry around. Later, this snack spread around the region when immigrants from Fujian brought it over.
Here in Malaysia, there are two types that are sold and cooked in hot pans. You have the larger, softer pancake with a honeycomb-like pattern from the use of a rising agent like baking soda in the batter of eggs, milk and flour. This is usually cut into smaller pieces.
The prized pieces are the edges that are crispy, so ask for that. Another variant uses the same type of batter except it’s cooked in smaller pans and the batter is spread thinner. After it’s cooked, you have thin crispy edges.
Usually the fillings are ground peanuts and sugar. Some add corn from the can or even freshly grated coconut. It’s important that the ground peanuts be the right texture. If it’s ground too finely, when you bite into the apam balik, there’s not much crunch.
Modern versions are also available where it’s filled with all kinds of sweet and savoury toppings. One place that you can get all types of fillings from Nutella, marshmallows to even savoury ham and cheese is the food truck known as Ding Heong Golden Apam Balik. They have branches opposite Pudu Plaza, Taman Yulek in Cheras and Mahkota Cheras.
Stall at Jalan Hang Lekir (off Jalan Petaling), KL. Open: 1pm to 9pm (Mondays to Fridays), 11.30am to 9pm (Saturdays and Sundays)
Look for this 30-year-old stall that is parked in front of Koon Kee Wantan Mee. The old uncle who is known as Ah Loh sells apam balik and the softer small Penang style apom balik filled with freshly grated coconut. His apam balik is generously filled with coarsely ground peanuts that makes every bite incredibly tasty. Ask for the crispy edges to get a nice contrast with the pillow soft pancake and the crunchy side.
Stall at Taman Segar Pasar Malam, (in front of Gold Car Care Services), Jalan Manis 7, Cheras, KL. Open from 5.30pm every Friday.
It’s worth your time to track down this couple’s 20-year-old stall at the Friday night pasar malam as their apam balik is truly superb. Here the pancake layers are not too thick and they are incredibly generous with the coarsely ground peanuts. You can also order bananas, corn or just the plain variety. Our favourite is the one with ripe sliced bananas, a perfect combo with the toasted peanuts. They also trade at the Sri Rampai pasar malam on Thursdays and operate on Saturday mornings at the market in Taman Sri Sinar, Kepong.
Stall at SS2 Pasar Malam (next to the Medan Selera), Jalan SS2/61, PJ. Open from 5.30pm every Monday.
Join the crowd to grab this crispy apam balik filled with ground peanuts and grated fresh coconut. It’s worth the wait for this delicious combination. They also sell the larger apam balik and the sweeter, crispier apom.
Apam Balik Nusantara, Jalan Raja Alang (before HR Steakhouse), Kampung Baru, KL. Open: 6pm to 10pm. Closed on Fridays.
For a decadent apam balik filled with durian and cheese or even chocolate bananas, look for this stall in Kampung Baru that is run by an Indonesian Edrian Edward. Here the thick layers of apam balik are brushed with margarine and layered with your choice of fillings. From September onwards, they will be operating at No. 14, Jalan Hamzah, Kampung Baru.
Uncle Soon Apam Balik (In front of Hock Kee), Jalan SS2/10 (Chow Yang), PJ. Open from 5.30pm every Thursday.
You will be spoiled for choice at the Chow Yang SS2 pasar malam as there are at least three stalls selling apam balik but Uncle Soon is the best with its fluffy layers and a filling of toasted peanuts and corn. You can also pick up the smaller, thinner crispy apom variety too. They are also at the Bangsar pasar malam on Sunday nights.