BM Cathay Charcoal Pancake @ Jalan Aston


Apam Balik has got to be one of the simplest and most traditional snack you could find in Malaysia that is great for anytime may it be breakfast, tea break or supper. It comes in a variety of names too especially among the Chinese community, like 曼煎糕 in Mandarin, ‘Jin Long Gou’, ‘Jin Long Bao’ or ‘Dai Gao Min’ in Cantonese and ‘Ban Chang Koay’ in Hokkien.
Over the years the pancake has gone through evolution as well and you can now find it with all sorts of filling like chocolate, ham and cheese, kaya, peanut butter etc. I am sure the kids love it for this reason.
But for people like me who grew up in the 80s, I still prefer the traditional version, which is filled with just crushed peanuts, sweet corn and sugar. It evokes plenty of childhood memories too, as apam balik and kopi o used to be my breakfast every Sunday when I was a kid.


In Bukit Mertajam there is a pancake seller who has been in this business for over 20 years. For as long as I can remember, the uncle comes in a motorbike at dawn, parks right in front of the famous cendol stall and starts preparing the pancakes with the help of his wife and son. He would use a wooden plank to plate the freshly made pancakes and slice it up in such a precision that each piece had the same size. A fond childhood memory indeed.
Recently I was told by my sister that a particular roadside pancake stall doing brisk business near the old Cathay cinema. My curiosity brought me there and I was pleasantly surprised to know that it was the son who was selling. Then I realized they would sell at the market in the morning then continue here in the noon.


Anyway, a specialty of their pancake is that they are still sticking to the traditional ways of using a charcoal stove instead of gas. If you ask me to taste a pancake cooked on gas and another on charcoal honestly I won’t be able to tell the difference. But seeing and tasting a food cooked on charcoal does make you feel that it somehow tastes better and has a better fragrance too lol.


The timing is pretty important especially when you managing a charcoal stove. But from what I observed, his routine is very organized and the pancake would be ready just after the previous pancake was cut and sold. Like I mentioned earlier, a wooden plank is used to transfer the pancake from the hot pan to another larger plank.


The pancake was then folded into half and left to rest for a while.


A quick dip of the knife in the water ensures a smooth and clean cut. Firstly, a chunk of the pancake is cut.


Then sliced diagonally into even triangles.


Each slice is sold for only 60 cents, a mere 20 cents increase compared to 20 years ago. The outer layer is warm (not crispy like you would have expected) while the inner layer is chewy and sweet. If you are taking away (that’s the only option actually lol) the fragrance would fill your car immediately like what I experienced, even though I only bought three pieces.


Usually there would be a line of customers waiting to buy the pancake but waiting time should be short because of his speed. But sometimes customers might order an entire pancake so you would have to wait for an extra 10-15 minutes or so. He might also run out of batter at times because he prepares it on the spot to ensure freshness, unlike some that are made earlier then kept refrigerated.


BM Cathay Charcoal Pancake can be found in front of the now defunct Cathay cinema, directly opposite Honey Kopitiam or diagonally opposite Jit Sin Independent High School along Jalan Aston. GPS Coordinates: N5 21.745 E100 27.824

Leave a comment:


  1. Here in KL, I would called it ‘Jin Loong Bao’ but there’s other names as well. Been missing it ever since I have to take out peanuts from my diet.

  2. I used to visit this stall when I was staying in BM few years back… That time, It was managed by old uncle in a pushcart…
    Another stall is the bubur chacha stall at jalan datuk ooh chooi chong, just beside jalan aston.. This 2 stall really bring back my childhood memories..

  3. I think charcoal or no charcoal make no difference as what you have said. The problem with these Chinese pan cake sellers is they use cheap & unhealthy white sugar , use-lah brown sugar healthier and got better molasses fragrance. Even better if add a scop of butter no need to add expensive ingredients.
    Seriously, any pakcik at any pasar malam makes better pan cake.

  4. Wow, that looks delicious! I love watching food being prepared – the speed and skill is amazing. I think my pick would be chocolate filled … mmmm :)

  5. I like both crunchy and soft types one, when I am hunting for the softer type, I would go to Sri Muda Pasar Malam on Friday night, 70 cents a piece.

    Though a pak cik selling near the vege side of the pasar malam in Shah Alam Section 19 on Saturday nights, is better in terms of smell, most probably due to the use of a banana leaf when packing into the brown paper.

    But I can’t find myself to enjoy other flavours, just like peanut corn and sugar. Yum. Don’t like those choc etc, same goes to waffle, still can’t get use to chicken floss waffle, just feel weird, but still like my peanut choc combo, hehe, thick and sweet. No wonder I am so fat! Wahahaha

    You must try the one at Taman Yulek pasar malam, Cheras every Thurs.
    You won’t miss it, with the crowd and extremely strong peanut aroma, bit pricey though.

  7. Im from the seychelles island i used to live in bukit mertajam in the 90s with my foster parent then they have a plot of land in lunas and twice a week we use to go there to keep the place clean and on the way we always drop by the stall at the road side for a piece of that nice traditional pan cake when i was nauty they take me to the land in lunas via kulim so that i wont get any pan cake so i have to be good


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