I first came across Apam Balik in Penang. We were walking back to our lovely heritage house after a long day exploring George Town when we spotted a steamy hawker food stall on the side of the main road in Pulau Tikus. I was pretty full after grazing intermittently all day on other deliciousness but Zarek immediately gravitated towards the stall. This is when I discovered that Apam Balk is a popular Malaysian street food delicacy that can be found all over the country.
Apam Balik is basically a small sweet crispy pancake filled with sugar, peanuts and creamy sweetcorn. As we queued up to get our share I saw that the stall was lined up with lots of small cast iron pans and the hawker was slowly pouring in his pancake mix in each little pan and cooking each one to perfection. I watched him while he added just the right amount of sweetcorn mix and a final meticulous sprinkle of peanuts before he folded the pancakes in half.
The heady aroma of the sugared peanuts was irresistible and I was certain that it would taste like a treat even before he handed me the half moon delights served effortlessly but perfectly on a banana leaf. You have to trust me when I tell you that it was delicious! It was crispy and light all at the same time, not too sweet and not too salty. I think it’d be an ideal breakfast or dessert or actually it’s just the ideal anything if you can get your hands on it.
Isn’t it really annoying when you ask someone if they would like some food before you order it, they say “no no” but when the food comes they want half of it? Well I was that annoying person, all the self-restraint couldn’t stop me from eating half of Zarek’s Apam Balik stash that day. After this we kept sampling Apam Balik from different stalls whenever the opportunity came. The hawker stall tradition in Malaysia is such a beautiful humble food delight and I truly hope that the recipes and cooking methods are not lost in generations to come.
Now I know that my take on Apam Balik would not rival the original but I had to try because even with all my trying and wishing I can’t keep going back to Malaysia and also there was a slight risk that Zarek would divorce me if I didn’t (he loved this stuff more than me!). Much of the fun of eating these is whilst walking along a bustling humid Asian street market but mine turned out pretty good too. So not wanting you to miss out, here’s what you’ll be making and the recipe:
Recipe for Apam Balik (Malaysian sweet peanut pancakes)
Makes about 10-12 small pancakes depending on how thick you make them.
Ingredients for the batter:
- Plain flour (250g)
- Sugar (½ Cup)
- Bicarbonate soda (½ tbs)
- Baking powder (½ tbs)
- Salt (1 tsp)
- Vanilla essence (1 tsp/optional)
- Water (500ml)
Ingredients for the filling:
- Creamed corn (3-4 drops per pancake)
- Crushed roasted peanuts (a sprinkling in each pancake)
- Brown sugar (a sprinkling per pancake)
- Butter or oil for frying
- Put all the ingredients apart from the water in a bowl, mix together and then make a well in the middle. Slowly pour the water in and stir or whisk to form a smooth liquid batter. Add a little more water in if you find the batter is slightly on the thick side. Let the batter sit for 30 mins or store in the refrigerator to use later or the next day.
- Roast your peanuts in a dry frying pan if bought unroasted. Crush the peanuts using a pestle and mortar or food processor. You want them crushed small but not powdery.
- Heat a small frying pan on medium heat (I prefer to use a non-stick egg pan) and add a dab of butter or coating of oil this adds to the flavour and makes it even easier to flip.
- Pour in a small amount of batter to the pan. I usually use my measuring cup (¼ cup) to ensure I get a consistent thickness for each pancake. Swivel your pan so that the batter coats the whole pan.
- Once you see bubbles forming scatter the whole pancake with a layer of peanuts, a sprinkle of sugar and 3-4 drops of creamed corn. You can add a few drops of melted butter in too for extra indulgence.
- Carry on cooking the pancakes until the batter is fully cooked and the bottom is golden brown. Then carefully using a spatula or palette knife fold the pancake in half to form a half moon. Remove from the pan and place on a wired rack while you make more. But they’re really served best hot off the pan!
- I found my can of creamed corn at my local oriental supermarket but I’m sure you can find it in most large supermarkets. If you have trouble finding this you could substitute it with condensed milk.
- Other fillings we tried in Malaysia included coconut and bananas so try these too!