I must say I was tempted to begin this post with “It was the best of pancakes, it was the worst of pancakes.” But I couldn’t use the line simply because the two pancakes are absolutely yummy. So, what sets the two pancakes apart? Honestly. It’s just the vowels.
Apam is typical to the Malay and Indonesian community while apom is authentically Indian. Apart from how they are cooked and served , the ingredients for the two pancakes are basically the same – rice flour, coconut milk, cooked rice and yeast plus a little bit of sugar to chug the yeast along. Apam is served with grated coconut while apom is served with gula merah.
Apam comes with many names. In Indonesia it is called, among other names, apem or apem cukit. Apem can be steamed in a steamer or cooked in a small round frying pan. Both methods will yield soft delectable kuih. However just a little note of reminder. Kuih or dessert made from rice flour can harden a little bit when they are cold so it is good to eat them when they are warm. But then again there is always the microwave. Just pop the apam in the microwave and they will be soft again. Ah … the wonders of modern appliance!
If you are thinking of getting the apom, then there is this little Indian stall at Geylang Serai Market that sells them. You can spot it by the queue that meanders from it. The owner of the stall would get the queue moving by occasionally hollering. “Dua baris. Makan sini. Bungkus sana!” (Two rows. Eat here. Take away there!) And the customers would willingly oblige. Like I say, you can never discount the power of good food to bring about acquiescence.
I can always recall a time when the family had fantastic bonding over delicious apam. We were on the main highway, enroute to Bukit Tinggi, a mountainous region in Western Sumatra. By the side of the highway was a quaint little stall selling apam. Except here, it is known as bikang or bika. Hence the name of the stall – BIKA SI MARIANA. The name was proudly displayed on a billboard and it beckons folks near and far.
With 12 small kualis, the cheerful folks at the stall were cooking apam for travel-weary travellers. Many a traveller did stop at Bika Mariana. The cold breeze, the freshly cooked bika and the steaming cups of coffee simply drew in the travellers.
They rested. They talked. And out of these chatter beautiful memories are made.
But you don’t have to take the apam/apom trail. You don’t have to go to Geylang Serai Market in Singapore or Bukit Tinggi in Sumatra to try the two pancakes. You can make them in the comfort of your own kitchen. So for what it is worth, here is my version of the recipe.
Mix 200 gm of rice flour with about 400 ml of diluted coconut milk. Put in 1 teaspoon of dry yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Blend them all in a blender. Allow sufficent time for the mixture to ferment. A good mix will see the mixture rise to double its height. Once the mixture has risen then cook them in a small round pan. You swirl the fermented mixture to get the crispy edges of the apom or you flip the mixture to get both sides cooked. The latter is the apam.
There you have actually made your own apam or apom. And by the way don’t forget to eat them while they are still warm!