Thursday, April 17, 2014

Apom Bokwa With Banana Gravy

This is indeed a typical Baba-Nyonya (Straits-born Chinese a.k.a the Peranakans) dessert that is stepping into 'extinction'.  I only got to eat this whenever my septuagenarian aunt (tua ee) makes it.  I reckon that to many, especially those born in the 80s and below, this dessert is a childhood food that is bound to take you stroll down memory lane.

As a matter of fact, not many nyonyas now know how to make this classic cake (and pardon me, I am referring to today's young modern nyonyas, k!).  So, this accounts for the fact that this traditional kueh (cake) is so hard to come by nowadays.  As a Baba who currently lives in Malacca and loves cooking, I feel called to revive this dying classic.

Well, it all started when I was browsing through my Facebook News Feed a couple of days ago and suddenly someone posted a photo of this dessert.  It caught my eyes almost instantly.  Scrolling down on the comments made me realize that there were so many, both Malaysians and Singaporeans still craving for this dessert.  At the drop of a hat, I googled for the recipe.  Surprisingly, not many I could find except for Amy Beh's, an iconic figure where nyonya food is concerned.

I could have asked my tua ee or even my mummy for the recipe but I doubted they have it written down.  One thing for sure, they will confuse me with their 'agak-agak' (roughly) statement.  Whatever it is, come to think of it, my hats off to these elder nyonyas, anyway.  They just have all their recipes stored in their head without having to refer to any cook books. Just imagine how many of them and if you are a Straits-born, you will agree with me that Peranakan dishes are relatively complicated to prepare incorporating varieties of ingredients and spices.  Even their methods are not that straightforward.  And yet, all these are cleverly stored in their grey matter. RESPECT! RESPECT!

So, how's the verdict of Auntie Beh's recipe and my labour of love?  Generally, I'm very satisfied with what came out.  Though a little complicated with lots of steps to follow, I am indeed pleased with the outcome.  What I heard and gathered from my aunt and a few other elders was that to know as to whether you have succeeded in making the apom (pancake) or not was to look at the the tiny punctures on the surface of the apom.  The more the holes, the better the pancake.

And taste wise? Well, it was surprisingly close, though not exactly the same to that of my auntie's apom.  There is a slight tinge of sourish in the apom.  It could be from the yeast (I guess so, maybe someone can shed some light here!).  From my observation, the longer the rice batter is fermented, the sourer the pancake turns out to be, and the more the holes will form!  Anyway, not to worry, when the apom is dipped and blended together with the sweet banana gravy, it neutralizes everything and the result............HEAVENLY!

So, here I come, bringing you Amy Beh in the house, virtually......
By Amy Beh

I) The Cake/Apom
    (A)  Mix these ingredients together and leave aside to soak for 10 minutes:
            - 500g rice flour (I reduced it to 300g.  500g is just too much making it impossible to soak)
            - 25g glutinous rice flour
This is EBU
            - 300ml coconut water

     (B) Mix these ingredients, leave aside for 15 minutes.  Cook over 
           low flame until it turns gluey to make "Ebu":
           - 50g rice flour
           - 150ml water

     (C) Mix these ingredients and leave aside to froth:
            - 1/4 cup lukewarm water
            - 1/4 tsp sugar
            - 1 tbsp instant yeast
      (D) - 160ml pati santan (thick coconut milk)

II) The Sauce: 
      (A) Prepare the syrup
             - 75g brown sugar
             - 50g gula melaka
             - 175ml water
             - 3 pandan (screwpine) leaves 
       (B) Mix these ingredients together and allow the rice to expand:
             - 2 tbsp glutinous rice flour
             - 25ml water

       (C) - 50ml pati santan
             - 1/4 tsp salt
       (D) - 3 rippen bananas

    Blend ingredients (a) and (b) together. Mixin 1/2 tsp salt and stir well with a hand whisk. Add in (c) and set aside for 30 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth for it to rise to double its size. 
    Blend in (d) and proof for another 50 minutes. Heat a brass apom mould and grease lightly with corn oil.
    Pour in enough batter to fill the mould three-quarters full and cook over medium heat. Cook till bubbles appear. Cover mould with a lid till the top part of the apom is cooked. Touch centre of apom with finger - if it is firm and not sticky, the apom is ready.
    To make sauce: Bring (a) to a boil, strain the hot syrup into (b). Stir well and transfer to a saucepan and cook over medium low flame. Add in (c) and (d) and stir well till sauce thickens. Pour sauce into a small bowl and serve with apom bokwa.

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