Whenever you are traveling along Burma Road, before passing Union Primary School or SRJK (C) Union, there is one stall selling pancake or apom/apong or apom balik as the local call it. You will notice a crowd of customers waiting patiently for their turn. The popular apom stall is owned by Mr Uan Cheng Guan. He is popularly known as Apong Guan. The stall is directly opposite the Ghee Heang tau sar pneah sale outlet(not opposite Him Heang, their main competitor which is located after Adventist Church).
Whenever you approach him to purchase the pan cake, the answer is " eh tang oh, lang order si chap tay'( can you wait, there is an order for 40 cakes). No matter what you need to wait until the prior order has been done. He will never break rule, you need to follow until your turn is up. You cannot jump the queue, he is against that. Some customers are from Singapore and other states, but still need to wait.
Consider you are lucky if you are able to buy without advance order. If by the time your order is ready, and you did not come up, he will not wait for you. He will give it to the next order. That is the rule, he strictly follow that.
If there is an advance order for 1,000 pieces, he will still need to complete the order first...that means your turn will be late...
That is how popular is the sale of the apong from Apong Guan.
Apong Guan, aged 61, speak Queen English, he was the student from the premier English school in Penang, Penang Free School. The school was found in 1816, the school produced many Queen scholar, including the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu. Guan was formerly employed with Malayawata Steel as technician but resigned to start his apong business 40 years ago.
There is another stall not far from Apong Guan, with the name of Apong Chooi, owned by Uan Cheng Chooi, aged 68. Some source said they are brothers, Cheng Chooi is the elder brother, have been selling apong or pancake for more than 50 years, longer than Apong Guan. But Apong Guan is very popular.
Do not ask me which stall sell better pancakes,I believe they are the same the trade secret inherited from the same family. Apong Guan obviously is more popular, as he can talk better and PR is good, this can be supported by his customers who are willing to wait for his pancakes.
What is appam/apong?
Appam, Aappam (Tamil: அப்பம்,ஆப்பம், Template:Lang-sinhala, pronounced [apːam]), Paniyaram or hoppers, are a type of food in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lankan cuisine. It is called chitau(ଚିତାଉ)Pitha in Oriya, Paddu or Gulle Eriyappa in Kodava and Appam in Telugu. It is known as ආප්ප (Appa) in Sinhala. It is eaten most frequently for breakfast or dinner.
Appum or aapum - pronunciation varies between regions - is a term equivalent to bread. A bread made of rice batter on a stone griddle is in certain parts of the country called kalappam, where kal (Tamil கல்) means "stone". Another form of appam is "Kallappam", where "kall" (Tamil கள்) means toddy, which is used for fermentation. This type of appam is prepared in an appa kal (mould). Kallappam looks like a pan cake.
The presence of Tamils in Malaysia has over the years led to the popularity of the apam. Apam is the term used for a steamed cup-cake sized dessert made from rice flour that is eatened with shredded fresh coconut. The string hopper (local name: putumayam) is also popular among Malaysians. Sold by street vendors on modified motorbikes, the string hoppers are eaten with grated palm sugar (gula Melaka) and shredded fresh coconut. Malaysian Indians tend to make their own and eat it with either curry or dhal dish.
In Penang, it is called Apom, Apong, Apam manis or Apong Balik.
Types of Appam
Apam or Apong is originally an Indian food from Tamil Nadu; in the old days only Indian Tamil will sell apong in Penang. The locals called it Apom Manis. This fluffy dessert is made of the simplest of ingredients: sugar, egg, coconut milk and flour. The mixed flour batter is pour into small clay pot(but now some use mini woks) to form thin and crispy sides encircling a thick and puffy center. There are three types;
(i) The one that normally found as street food in Penang. It is thin and crispy, sweet and normally folded into a roll. Penang people always call it apom manis. There is no fillings. This is original Penang apom. It is make from pouring the batter into small clay pots with charcoal fire. It can only be make pot by pot.
The original Indian Apam
(ii) This type is normally sold in banana leaf Indian restaurant. It is thicker and bigger. It served with coconut milk. It is not folded, and without fillings. This is Indian appam.
(iii) This type called Apong balik, is normally sold by Chinese hawker. It is smaller, thicker, with filling of banana, maize, some more innovative one filled it with peanut butter and other jams. But the original one is the one filling with only banana. Some call it nyonya apong, developed from the Penang apom, and it was originated in Penang, I think in the 60s. The inventor must have taken the idea from ban-chan-kuei and appom combined, developed into a hybrid. It is called Apong balik because after putting the ingredient of banana, the apong is fold back into half, thus call apong balik. Initially it only make pan by pan as ban-chan-kuei, but later the clever hawker develop a bigger pan which contain smaller pans, which make the process faster. Like Apong Guan, it has 9 small pans.
The other type called Apong balik by the Malay is actually developed from the ban-chan-kui in Penang.