Malaysian Monday 27: Apam balik (a type of Malaysian pancake)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Phew, for a minute there I thought it was going to be Malaysian Tuesday this week. But luckily I’ve managed to find some time to visit my happy place. So, hello! Glad to be here again.

Today’s offering is known as apam balik (apam = type of “pancake” and balik = return). I’m not quite sure why it’s named that way, and to make things just a tad more confusing, there are actually two versions of this popular snack. One version is thick, with a chewy yet spongy texture, and the other version has a crisp shell. Think “thick crust” vs “thin crust” and you’ll get the idea. They are both cooked in a flat pan, then sprinkled with a mix of ground roasted peanuts, sugar and creamed corn (yes, corn).  It’s a popular snack and can usually be found at the night markets (pasar malam)

I found an interesting recipe for apam balik in a book that my Aunty G had sent over not long ago (thanks aunty!), and was intrigued that the batter contained a combination of both yeast and baking powder. The resulting apam balik was actually very “fluffy”  and pancake-like when eaten warm, but when it cooled, it had that slightly chewy edge I remember from childhood. I did omit the lye water called for in the recipe, substituting with baking soda instead. Why did I substitute? Uh, check out the wikipedia entry for lye water and you’ll understand. Having said that I’ve probably ingested loads of the stuff through my growing years without realising it. Which may explain a few things…

mmm..look at that

Best part about this apam? The batter can be made the night before and stored in the fridge to yield fresh, piping hot pancakes in the morning. This is one breakfast I eagerly devoured. So did the mini-critics. Mr. Kitchen Hand (as usual), freaked out over the addition of corn. Wimp.

now zoom in

Apam balik
(adapted from “Hot favourites, Kuih” published by e-lifestyle – can’t find any authors mentioned so I can’t credit them)

Starter dough
100g plain flour
150ml lukewarm water
½ teaspoon dry yeast

Combine all the ingredients and set aside for an hour

200g plain flour (the recipe calls for bread flour but I used all purpose and it worked fine)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda (to substitute for lye water)
1 egg, lightly beaten
300l water (may not need all of it)
30g sugar.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Using a fork, beat in the egg and the starter dough from above, then add the water a little at a time until a really thick batter is formed. It’s quite rare with Malaysian recipes that I find the amount of water given is exactly what I need, but in this case, it was a pleasant surprise.

Leave the batter to prove for 50 minutes. Or do as I do and pop it into the fridge until ready to use (I left mine in the fridge for at least 8 hours).(edit: if doing this, don't forget to cover with plastic wrap. Or store in an airtight container).

Crushed roasted peanuts (I prepared about ½ a cup worth, use more if you like it very nutty)
Sugar (I’d estimate about a level tablespoon per pancake (again, use more or less as you see fit. The batter itself isn’t very sweet).
Creamed corn (the type in the can.)

When ready to cook, heat a non-stick frying pan on medium heat then oil the surface and sides of the pan. I find that a wadded up piece of kitchen paper dipped in oil works very well. Pour in enough batter (I let it sit for 10 minutes at room temperature first) to cover the frying pan, but not too thickly otherwise the underside will burn before it cooks through.

Leave the batter to bubble and when it starts to set, sprinkle on some peanuts, sugar and corn on half the pancake’s surface. Cook until completely set then fold it in half, (covering the filling) and slide onto a chopping board or plate – slice into wedges and serve. Best enjoyed warm.

Mmm, I know what I’m having for breakfast again tomorrow ☺

Have a great start to the week!


3 hungry tummies said...

I used to stand in front of the apam seller and wait patiently for my order! Do you have the recipe for thin version too?

mike@scallopsandpancetta said...

Hey! The creamed corn filling sounds slightly odd yet delicious. Good call on leaving out the lye water I think, I followed your Wiki link. Not something you want to be putting in your food very much. Or really having in your house at all!

Is the alam traditionally with peanuts and corn? I might be tempted to experiment with savoury fillings...

shaz said...

Ha ha 3HT, I too waited very patiently! As for the thin apam, if you look at my blog links on the left, follow the one to Lily's blog and then do a search. She's got a crispy version I've tried once before and it did turn out similar to the pasar malam ones.

Hi Mike - we use corn in lots of things - think sweet corn ice-cream (my favourite flavour!). Yes the corn and peanuts are quite traditional, and I think some versions use a red bean paste filling. But Malaysians like to experiment so go ahead and give savoury a try. I guess if I decided to try something like that I might experiment with a cooked sambal(spicy chilli relish) or maybe some meat floss (sweet and salty at the same time).

♥LOVE2COOK♥ said...

Hi Shaz...mmmm apam balik! My fav too...been quite some time since I ate that! Pass me some...hehehe :)

MaryMoh said...

Now you make me miss home. I miss apam balik. I have to make. Thanks for sharing.

grace said...

i'm fairly certain i can tolerate any type of pancake without trying too hard, and this batch would be no exception. thanks for the unique and authentic recipe, shaz!

Hungry Dog said...

I love these Malasian Mondays...every single thing you post is new to me!! Such an education I get here at Test With Skewer. Happy Monday, Shaz! 9or is it Tuesday in your part of the world?) :)

Juliana said...

Oh! I feel that I am missing a lot...never had a chance to try this :-( Looks so yummie!

Anh said...

oh gosh! you made it! I have heard about this cake a lot but never had a chance to try!

Barbara said...

Lye water Shaz? Yikes!
Another dish that is new to me. Which is why I love coming here! This one is really unusual...I can't imagine nuts, corn and sugar in a filling.
Wish I could taste yours!

shaz said...

Yours to share, anytime ♥LOVE2COOK♥!

No problems Mary, hope it tastes like the pasar malam kind :)

Thanks Grace - you're much braver than Mr. Kitchen Hand.

Thanks Jungry Dog, yup it's Tuesday morning here.

Thanks Juliana - it is very yummy if you like that sweet nut and corn flavour.

Hi Anh, it's actually a pretty simple thing to whip up, quite surprised myself actually.

Hi Barbara- the lye water used for food is probably not as caustic as the actual lye itself, but still, with a "parent" ingredient like that, no thanks. Happy to sacrifice some texture or taste instead.
I wish I could share this with you (and a cup of tea and a chat) :)

Heavenly Housewife said...

What an exotic pancake! Perfect for a housewife such as myself ;)
*kisses* HH

Vanille said...

The filling with roasted peanuts makes me want to try these Malaysian pancakes !

shaz said...

Thanks HH and Vanille :)

3 hungry tummies said...

Thanks for the info, I'll have a look :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Shaz, I'm so saving this for a weekend breakfast! I love it that you can prepare it ahead too! :D

WizzyTheStick said...

This has got to be the most original pancake I have ever seen. Peanuts and creamed corn??? Okay so you've dared me. I must try this.