I grew up eating apom manis on a daily basis, I kid you not.
The famous Penang apom manis stalls were all conveniently located near me as I lived in Pulau Tikus.
Zipping around on my trusty little bicycle/bike (depending on my age I owned either one) I would visit them based on my whim; what do I favour that day?
Would it be the sweet, coconuty crepes from Apom Guan? Or an added egg one from either the Ravi/Nathan of Swee Kong or Mr Ravi at Sin Hup Aun coffeeshop?
For breakfast my usual pick is Ravi/Nathan’s apom from Swee Kong coffee shop just opposite the police station, which coincidentally a mere 5 minutes walk from my house. I alway add an egg, for I need a substantial boost to start my day.
I love my apom/pancakes with a strong eggy taste; thus Uncle Teh’s version happened to suit me best. It is sweet enough to satisfy, and filling (after woofing down minimum 5 pieces) as a in-between meal snack.
His happens to last the longest (from morning til evening) as it consisted of more flour and eggs than coconut milk so I always buy a stack of 4 to be kept as a snack for tea.
Uncle Teh Apom:
Look for him at the front of Bee Hooi coffee shop at Pulau Tikus #Penang. He is there every morning, only taking one day off per week, which is usually Wed/Thus) or when he feels like it, though he’s reliably fanning his stove most of the days.
His apom doesn’t require extra egg because it is eggy enough! To me it is akin a soft, fluffy version of our beloved kuih kapit.
This is slow-cooked over charcoal so be prepared to wait if the demand is high.
It is RM0.80/piece now though during my time it was only RM0.50 each.
But Uncle Teh isn’t the type to simply raise his prices. He’s been selling his apom manis for over 3 decades. And I told him. I hope he’s here for many more. #PenangFood
Mr Ravi and his wife is now based in Kuching Road, just at the side of the New Cathay coffeeshop. Back in my days he used to be at Sin Hup Aun coffeeshop, which is on the same row as the Pulau Tikus market.
His apom has a soft, spongy middle with nice crisp edges. He still serves them on banana leaves, and leaving a hot apom on the leaf for a few minutes did impart a delicate banana leaf fragrance to them.
By the way, just in case you don’t know, banana leaves are not exactly cheap. So do appreciate such firm hold to tradition, for it does cut into the cost of their profits.
Heck, some banana leaf rice in KL doesn’t even serve the meal on banana leaves anymore, though the prices charged are higher and they reap higher profit margins than a humble apom stall.
It took me many years to be able to revisit Pulau Tikus and not be gripped in pain by old memories.
Though I’ve returned to Penang once in a while for media trips over the last decade, I had never felt the urge to extend my trip for leisure activities.
I did a pork-free/halal trip last year (link HERE), and realized then the ache has lessen considerably though I avoided Pulau Tikus. I love my Penang Hill hikes, and I make that run & hike whenever I can.
This trip, I felt at home again. I revisited some hawker friends and said hi. I sat at Pulau Tikus market one evening and looked at each hawker and realized they haven’t changed much! They are the same uncle and aunties whom I bought my daily dinners from ever since I was 13 years old.
I had a sudden urge to order everything in sight.
But I digress.
Back to the topic of my childhood favourite – the apom manis.
1. Uncle Teh at Bee Hooi coffee shop, opposite Belissa Row; story as above.
2. Mr and Mrs Ravi at New Cathay Coffeeshop.
3. Ravi + Nathan apom manis at Swee Kong coffeeshop, Pulau Tikus.
Located at Restoran Swee Kong, Pulau Tikus, this is probably the most famous Indian apom manis in town. They have been serving these thick, rich apom for 80 years.
Back then when I was a kid I never thought of asking the “who, when, why, what, how“. Today I’m back and like a tourist I asked about the history of this business.
I met Nathan who was just packing up that morning when I zipped over on my bike. He dug out the the last few pieces unsold, and I was glad to have them though that means I didn’t get to order my usual added egg one.
Well, 3 pieces are better than none! They start firing up the 5 stoves by 6am, and by 9am they are usually sold out, possibly earlier on weekends.
This apom manis is the only one prepared using Indian clay pots or belanga over charcoal.
Watching the apom being cooked is a visual feast itself; with deft hands alternating the pots with batter inside them over the 5 stoves and some stacked to cover the batter as it cooks.
So the delicious apom is a combination of decades old recipe plus dexterity of handling the heat during the cooking process.
The apom manis has slight yeasty aroma to it and a distinctive honeycomb structure; an indication of the fermentation method used.
4. Apom Guan & Apom Chooi.
This is a long ago Penang history that most Penangites would be able to spin the tale if you wish to know; where a brotherly feud had both of them separated by a mere 30 metres from each other.
Don’t try to talk to one about the other, else you will be the recipient of a death stare.
I have a detailed post outlining the differences between both apoms HERE so you can refer to it to hazard a guess which you may prefer; else just buy both and try, for its cheap and each has its merits.
I personally prefer Apom Guan over Apom Chooi, for the former has a lighter and more pronounced coconut flavour and it is thinner.
Apom Chooi’s version has a higher ratio of flour, for it is thicker and spongier. He is also on the verge of retirement, for when I wanted to take a picture of him, he said to take a pic of his “apprentice” instead.
Apom Guan doesn’t have an apprentice, but he’s willing to part with his knowledge and recipe for RM10,000. The duration of the apprenticeship is “as long as it take for you to pick up the skill of cooking the pancakes, for the control of heat is important“, he had said.
Both stalls are located at the front of the primary school, SJK(C) Union along Burmah Road, and you can pack a drink to go with your apom, either from the stall selling sugar cane juice (beside Apom Chooi) or the Loh Han Guo stall a bit further down from Apom Guan.
Apom Chooi’s apom (RM0.50):
Apom Guan’s apom (RM0.50):
So, which of these apoms have you tried? Which is your favourite? 🙂
PS: Check out my Penang Halal/Pork free food guide~ http://www.rebeccasaw.com/list-of-halal-or-pork-free-outlets-in-penang-by-rebecca-saw-rebeccapenanghalalguide/