Apong has got to be one of the perfect snacks to go when you are breaking for tea. And if you are a Penangite you would have known that there are 2 pushcart Apong (or Apom) stalls along Burma Road – the first stall is Apom Chooi and about 20-30m away is Apong Guan. Both stalls even have the same pricing for their apong. Kinda ironic eh? But do you also know they are also real life brothers? I didn’t until I read the article displayed in front of Apom Chooi’s stall.
It is undeniable that Apong Guan is the more popular one and has been receiving the limelight more than Apom Chooi due to his good PR skills. Guan has always been the funnier and cheerful one while Chooi is seen as a quieter and more serious person.
Anyway, Chooi is the first person to setup his stall at Burma Road in the 1960s – selling banana fritters initially then decided to sell apong later on. A while later he also persuaded his younger brother Guan to shift his banana fritter stall from somewhere else next to him. As to why Guan also switched to sell apong too and why they aren’t on talking terms now, I do know a little but I won’t make any conclusions. I believe only the two of them know the best themselves.
Despite the similar name the apong sold here is actually Nyonya styled and not related to the Indian version of appam, which is thinner and crispier. Nyonya apong’s batter, if made according to traditional recipe mainly consist of eggs, rice milk, coconut milk, shredded coconut meat and sugar. No flour is used because it will harden the apong, which is undesirable.
The preparation is pretty straightforward – a layer of batter is poured on the steel pan then covered to let it cook for a minute or so. When the apong is half cooked, a couple thin slices of banana and a spoonful of sweet corn are topped and left to cook until the bottom becomes golden brown. Finally they are quickly folded into half and left to cool on a tray.
A specific type of banana called Pisang Raja is used for the apong for its aroma and sweetness. If you look at the bananas hung at Chooi’s stall they are mostly black because they are too ripe. But don’t worry because they are perfectly edible as long as they are not rotten. Chooi purposely chooses over ripe bananas in his apongs because the riper the bananas, the more aromatic and sweeter they are.
For only 30 cents a piece, there’s simply nothing to complain about the apongs. I can safely say you cannot find this kind of pricing anywhere else anymore. Fluffy and soft, they are not too sweet and not oily at all.
Every mouthful taken is filled with a nostalgic burst of flavor full of coconut and egg aroma. And the shredded coconut flesh is great to give some biting texture to the apongs too. I usually pop one whole apong in one mouthful and always finish eating them unwittingly lol.
I have tried both Apom Chooi and Apong Guan and I couldn’t decide which is better because they are equally good and taste very similar. But due to personal reasons I prefer to buy from Chooi. And although I mentioned before that Chooi seems more serious, it doesn’t mean he is not friendly. When I was chatting with him he smiled a lot when sharing his stories and explaining the history of Nyonya Apongs.
Apom Chooi 老字号 (in front of Union Primary School)
Burma Road (Jalan Burma), Penang
GPS Coordinates: N5 25.386 E100 19.324
Open daily 1.30pm to 8pm (Closed on Sundays)