Apom / Pancake
Apom Manis is a common food in Penang originating from India that resembles crepes, popular for breakfast or just snacking. One of the oldest apom manis stall in Penang that is still operating can be found at Solok Moulmein in Pulau Tikus. It all started back in 1920 and the family-run business has been operating at Swee Kong Coffee Shop every morning faitfully for the past 80 years.
The current owner, Mr.Ravi inherited the trade from his father and currently, he is assisted by his cousin (in pic) and brother since. And do you know that their apom manis is so delicious that the Sultan of Pahang actually flies them into his Majesty’s palace once a month? Doing what else other than becoming his Majesty’s personal apom manis cook!
Besides the apom manis’ tastiness, one of the reasons to visit this stall is to witness the preparation process. The apom manis here are still made according to centuries-old tradition, using charcoal stove and clay pots instead of gas heated steel pots. You simply won’t see this sight anywhere else in Penang, or even Malaysia.
And although sturdy looking, these custom made to order clay pots could only last at most for 6 months when the moisture in the clay expands so much it ultimately cracks the pot.
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.
Chinese Pancake is not a commonly available hawker food in Penang so you really got to know exactly where to find it. A popular stall, which is my mom’s favorite used to operate along Beach Street. It was so good she would travel all the way to Penang from Sungai Petani just to savour it. Recently she went back to look for it but the stall had mysteriously disappeared. To fulfill her cravings as well as my own curiosity, I did some research and found that the stall has moved to Church Street.
But what do you know? The unexpected happened again. When I went to the coffee shop at Church Street to look for the Chinese Pancake, I was told that the stall had shifted again. This time to Sin Kim San at Rangoon Road.
Luckily my perseverance paid off and I finally found the stall, currently operated by Madam Yeoh who took over from her aunt’s stall at Beach Street (during my mom’s time) years ago. When asked why she shifted to Sin Kim San, her reason was simple: at Sim Kin San she could sell everyday, while the coffee shop at Church Street closes on weekends because they only cater to the banking staff and customers.
If you didn’t know, this unique pancake is actually a Nyonya styled food. The pancake batter consisting of flour, sugar and alkaline water (air abu) is mixed and stirred on the spot for every fresh batch of pancake ordered.