It is thick, traditional Hokkien pancake, filled with crushed peanuts, sugar and margarine. A popular breakfast snack item, Penangites often called it “Ban Cien Koay” or Apam Balik “Turnover Pancake” in english. In Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, it’s also known as dai gao meen. The name Ban Cien Koay (also written Ban Chean Koay or Ban Jian Kway) means “slow-cooking cake” in Hokkien.
It’s claimed that these snacks originate from Fujian. When General Tso Tsung T’ang was sent to Fujian in 1855 to quell the Taiping Revolution, it became his army’s food. Later, this snack spread around the region when immigrants from Fujian brought it over. It was also brought into countries in Southeast Asia by the Chinese Hokkien immigrants.
There are two version of Ban Cien Koay, which are the thick or thin version, and both are easily found. The thick version is made in a big griddle and then cut into triangles and rectangles and the thin version is made in their individual griddle. The thin type are much crisper than the big version and smaller.
The preparation of both version is the same, it is slow-cooked by leveling a layer of batter over charcoal embers. A lid is then placed over the batter to let it cook. Then a generous amount of sugar and fried grounded peanuts are sprinkled over it.
One can choose from the white sugar or brown sugar version. The pancake’s batter is made from a mixture of flour, eggs, coconut milk, sugar, baking soda and water.
When the Ban Cien Koay is cooked, its sides are scraped with a knife to detach it from the griddle. It is folded over quickly before it hardens, taken out of the pan, and placed to cool in pancake racks. It is best eaten when still fresh and hot. When you buy the Ban Cien Koay, the seller wraps it with a piece of oil paper and puts it into a plastic bag.
Some add corn from the can or even freshly grated coconut. It’s important that the ground peanuts be the right texture. If it’s ground too finely, when you bite into the apam balik, there’s not much crunch.
Hawkers are getting more creative in the nowadays which the Ban Cien Koay also available where it’s filled with all kinds of sweet and savoury toppings. The types of fillings are from Nutella, peanutbutter, savoury ham, cheese, tuna, egg and many more.
One bite of a freshly-made apam balik and we reckon you will want more of the fluffy pancake filled with peanuts. Usually, it’s sold as a breakfast item at stalls found in morning markets or as a snack when it’s sold in the afternoon or at the night markets.
Here are few stalls in George Town to try out,
Roadside stall @ Kimberly street (7:30am-12pm)
Roadside stall @ Anson Road (12pm-6pm)
Cecil Street hawker centre @ Cecil Street (11am-6pm)