Talk about selling like hotcakes. The Jakarta pancake stand, Martabak 65A, seems to be succeeding in more than just that. They’ve managed to seduce social media sweet tooths and boomers alike, with sweet, buttery and eye-catching pancakes, or martabak manis. Daily, they sell over 200 of them.
Condensed milk goes on melting butter and chocolate drizzles
Indeed, the buttery pancake, hailed as the King of Indonesian street food, is chewy, bubble-textured and playfully sweet. First the batter is warmed slowly, until small bubbles puff up and it becomes a dish of soft, pillowy pancakes. Layers of fresh grated cheese, chocolate sprinkles (an influence of Indonesia's Dutch colonial past), butter, a big drizzle of condensed milk and crushed peanut are scattered on top, making it an endless source of sweet pleasure. The circular martabak is then halved, with one crescent squashed on top of the other.
But that’s just the beginning.
A selection of flavours fill the martabak, including Japanese KitKat green tea, peanut butter, and Toblerone
Here, it goes unexpectedly bold and beautiful, with flavours like trendy red velvet, dark chocolately spreads of Toblerone, Nutella, Ovomaltine, and a lively Japanese green tea KitKat. They’re all big sellers by the way. There’s even an eye-raising durian cheese, wouldn’t you want to try that? So you see why it continues to be a surging food trend with gram’-obsessed millennials. Some even call it “the millennial martabak”.
Savoury martabak, usually fried with crunchy vegetables and meat
Now all that is far removed from the 1970s, where street stall only sold savoury flavours like beef and chicken, the traditional Indonesian way. Back then, it was more like an omelette pancake with tasty vegetables bits and minced meat. But even that hypnotised many, with ribbons of people lining the gritty Pecenongan street in Jakarta.
Today, some 45 years later, culinary observers say Martabak 65A has planted that street firmly on Indonesia’s competitive food map- a must-go place if you’re serious about food. The intergenerational business is now in his son Daniel’s hands. Well, he was the man who re-invented his father’s classic martabak into irresistible sweet treats that remain inexpensive and now, instagrammable.
Martabak 65A's winning pancake, one that's buttered many Indonesian fingers
Hours: Everyday, 6pm – 12am
While both are stuffed, sweet martabak bears no resemblance to its savoury sibling.
In appearance, savoury martabak is like folded savoury crepe. Oily, stretched wheat flour is wrapped over an egg and minced meat filling. When fried, the texture is doughy and blistered, similiar to Indian roti prata or canai.
It's also eaten in Arab countries. There, they call the dish 'mutabbaq', meaning folded. And it's much closer to the Mexican quesadilla, with a crunchy outer layer wrapped tightly over a chewier underneath of meat, herbs and spices, forming its basic fillings. Fried egg, cracked deftly into thin hot dough is also a popular order there.
Once all fillings are in, it's not long before you get to chomp into this lip-smacking treat. Now crisp and glowing golden, martabak is lifted and swiftly chopped into squares.
Its neighbour, Indonesia much prefers the topping of raw chillis, pickled cucumbers and juicy onions. And it can differ depending on which part of the country you're in. In the Southern city of Palembang, try ordering the triple crown in savoury Martabak, called Martabak HAR, made popular by an Indian Indonesian named Haji Abdul Rozak. This one's stuffed with diced potatoes, chopped spring onions and spices, typically served beef curry, a tangle of chillies, and sweet-sour-savoury soy sauce.
In the Western part of the country however, a lighter curry is served in the city of Padang.
So, who created the first Martabak?
Well, some point to its origins in India, Arab's Yemen. Still, we aren't so sure. One thing's certain though, martabak, whether savoury, sweet or both, is a tasty part of Southeast's street food DNA, especially in Indonesia.