Finding an apom seller in Penang with an eighty-year-old history is a great joy, but how about an apom seller also that uses charcoal flame instead of gas and makes his fluffy apoms in a claypot? This is definitely priceless. Ravi inherited an apom manis ( sweet crepes) business from his father and now runs it with his brother (shown in the picture) from a little corner in a kopitiam called Swee Kong located at the junction of Jalan Burma with Solok Moulmein. As early as 6am, he flames up his 5 charcoal burners and makes little apoms till the batter completely runs out, usually by 9am.
The process of making the apom manis itself is an art, a culinary performance. Batter is expertly poured into a hot claypot. It is then covered by another claypot which keeps the heat in. Whilst the first apom is being cooked, he makes another one in the claypot on top and covers that too. It takes about one minute for the little fluffy apoms to cook, and the top claypot gets moved with 2 wooden sticks to one of the other four sets and the first apom gets picked up with his bare hands. Are you getting this? So, there is always this constant vertical piling up and horizontal claypot movement but Ravi always ends up with a perfectly cooked apom which he serves on a banana leaf.
There are rare moments where the line is not as busy and production slows down a little. This is the only time you can ask Ravi to make his egg apom. After the batter is poured, an egg is almost immediately cracked in the middle of it and mixed in with a fork. This takes another three to four minutes to cook. I can see why he is reluctant to take up egg apom orders during busy times. The longer cooking time disturbs his rhythm and slows down production.
Ravi's little apoms are light, fluffy and a bit sweet. You don't need to eat this with any curries or coconut milk. It is perhaps one of the best-tasting apom manis I have had so far. There is a difference between apom manis and normal ones. Normal apoms are made of fermented finely milled rice flour but apom manis have the addition of coconut milk and eggs in their batter. That's why is good on its own. It is the eggs that makes the apom's fluffy. That's why Ravi's batter is yellow in colour.
The egg version is less sweet, understandable because the addition of an egg dilutes the sweetness of the batter but lends it a more fleshy taste. I don't mind this but I would prefer the non-egg version.
Ravi serves them off-the-claypot hot, so the heat resistant properties of a banana leaf comes in handy to protect your hands from the heat whilst at the same time infuses the leafy aroma into the apoms. Although the apoms are delicious hot, Ravi recommends that you also try them when they are at room temperature. The cooled down apam is slightly harder, still fluffy and light but has a snack taste profile instead of breakfast. Interesting but delicious as an afternoon snack.
Ravi shares that once a while, he gets flown to the Sultan of Pahang's crib to make them fluffy apoms for the royalties and in the palace, he has his own charcoal setup. Yup, he's the man.
More Photos To Drool On