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.
The heat generated by charcoal flame is a lot stronger so the apom takes less than a minute to cook. But charcoal flame is also harder to manage so experience is important here. This task is made even more difficult when you have to constantly juggle among five stoves as well as stacking and unstacking the pots.
Some charcoals fired up in a separate container, as to maintain a continuous supply of burning charcoals.
The whole process briefly explained: a scoop of apom batter is poured into the pot, which is then given a quick shake to give the batter an even spread over the pot’s bottom. The pot would then be covered with another pot creating a small baking environment.
During the short baking period a nice toasty flavor is imparted into the apom while the edges get all crispy. When the apom is almost ready, a fork is used to separate it from the pot and flipped to cook the other side. Finally the apom is removed from the pot using bare hands and quickly folded into shape while it is still warm and soft.
You could enjoy two versions of apom manis here, either plain or with an added egg. The original Indian recipe for apom actually does not contain egg hence referred as plain version. But for your information, their batter’s recipe was modified not long ago to include eggs for the added fragrance. So the “plain” apom @ 60 cents does contain egg.
For the egg-added version @ RM1.20, an egg is cracked into the pot right on top of the cooking batter immediately after it has been laid out.
Then using a fork, the egg yolk is broken and stirred well.
While the apom with extra egg definitely feels more filling, the drawback would be its softer texture. Besides that, the extra egg dilutes the batter making the apom taste less sweet too. Because of this I prefer the plain version more, which is sweeter and crispier.
From what I know from the conversation I had with Mr.Ravi, it is highly unlikely for him to find someone (maybe except his son) to continue the business due to the immense heat and labor required. So do try some apom manis made with charcoal heated clay pots today, before the practice becomes extinct!
Kedai Kopi Swee Kong,
Solok Moulmein, Pulau Tikus
GPS Coordinates: N5 25.828 E100 18.757
Business hours: 6am till finish (around 9-10am)
Closed on Thursday and occasionally on Monday
Pre-order welcomed. Contact: 012-4707039 (Ravi)