There’s one thing that has always muddled me about Malaysia and that is how there are always 5 different names for one item and a myriad of different ways to spell it. Understandable of course, as this melting pot of a country harbours so many different cultures and languages.
Take the Apam Balik for instance (or should it ‘apom’?). In Chinese it’s known as Chin Loong Pau. In Hokkien it’s Ban Jian Kuih or Min Jian Kuih. But I’ve also seen it spelt as Jiang, Chiang, Chien and Kuey instead of Kuih. I just refer to it plainly as a peanut pancake though I’ve been told that the correct translation should be peanut turnover. Ah, the joys of growing up amongst five languages! I’m sure there’ll be people who’d quickly inform me what the correct term and spelling is but for now it’ll always be Apam Balik a.k.a Ban Jian Kuih a.k.a peanut pancake to me. After all, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, am I right?
And sweet this is indeed! This has to be my favourite amongst the Malaysian snacks and the first thing I think about when I’m ‘coming home’. The best ones can be found at the morning markets or the night bazaars of ‘pasar malams’ around my hometown of Petaling Jaya (about 20-25 mins drive from Kuala Lumpur). I never get a chance to acquire some for myself as I always stay around the city but fortunately my grandmother would always buy a bag for me whenever I pay a visit. I love my Mama.
Since the trips to Malaysia are few and far between, I’ve had to teach myself to make my favourite Malaysian eats to satiate at least a percentage of my craving.
With Malaysian peanut pancakes, you’d belong to either one of two camps – thin and crispy or thick and cakey. This version is for the crispy, crepe-like pancakes, which I’ve adapted from this recipe. The original recipe wielded quite a thick batter, which I couldn’t spread fast enough before the bottom cooked so I added more water. I also didn’t like the amount of baking powder and bi-carb soda in it – if I spreaded it thin then it’d bubble up too much and make holes. Too thick and it’d rise and become too cakey (I’m such a fussy one). And none of them could form a folded edge or ‘lip’ adequately.
I think I’ll stick to my usual Ban Jian Kuih recipe that makes for a pancake that’s not too thick and not too thin – a real fence sitter like I am heh. But also because that batter is easy to spread, tastes better and cooks beautifully – all with the requisite ‘lip’ (it’s the apam balik version of a macaron’s ‘feet’ and it just doesn’t feel the same without it!).
Apam Balik / Ban Jian Kuih
This recipe is for you if you like your Apam Baliks nice and thin!
170g plain flour
100g rice flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C (250ml / 8oz) of water
200g unsalted, roasted peanuts
120g caster sugar
120g melted butter
Filling – in a food processor, pulse the nuts and sugar until finely ground (but not too fine that it’s powdery).
For the pancake, place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and give it a quick mix.
Mix the 3 liquid ingredients in a separate bowl or jug. Make a well in the flour and pour the liquid mix in and whisk until smooth and lump-free.
Cover it with clingwrap and stick it in the fridge for 3 hours (or overnight).
Heat a crepe pan or a small nonstick pan on medium-low heat (you could use the traditional apam balik pan but I much prefer the ease of non-stick cookware!). Before each pancake you could give it a light spray of cooking oil or a dab of melted butter (for extra flavour and greasing).
Pour in a small ladle of batter and swirl the pan so that the batter covers the entire surface and coats the edge. Once bubbles have formed, sprinkle the peanut filling over the entire surface of the pancake and drizzle a bit of the melted butter over one half.
Cook till the bottom of the pancake is golden brown.
With a palette knife or spatula, flip one side of the pancake over the other to fold in half and remove from pan to cool on a plate or wire rack. Cut in half or into small wedges and serve immediately.