It goes without saying that Martabak Manis (sweet stuffed pancake) has become the preferred snack for many here in Indonesia. Be it for a family gathering or a hang-out session with friends, the addition of a serving of Martabak Manis is guaranteed to sweeten the occasion.
Also known as Kue Terang Bulan, Kue Bandung or Apam Pulau Pinang, Martabak Manis has its roots in the islands of Bangka, where it was pioneered years ago. However, it can now be sampled anywhere across the country.
My love affair with Martabak Manis began to blossom when I was a child. From the many choices it has to offer, my Martabak Manis of choice has always been those of the chocolate stuffing variety. During the 1990s, we could take our pick from chocolate, cheese, peanut, sesame, or a combination of the aforementioned fillings – quite a wide range of selection to choose from back then.
However, a lot of time has passed since then. With the influx of international cuisines, people began to yearn for something new from the norm – including Martabak Manis.
In the early years of the noughties, Martabak purveyors started to experiment with their creations by concocting new flavours and varieties, yet it did not catch on. In 2010, they tried again, but this time by introducing new fillings by using Toblerone and Nutella. It became all the rage, and the pioneer behind this trend was Martabak Pecenongan 65A in Jakarta.
The owner has stated that the original idea behind their innovative approach to what is basically a traditional treat came not from them but from a random request by a customer. This particular punter paid a visit to the shop with a Toblerone in hand and asked them to use it as the filling to his order. It was a light-bulb moment for the masterminds behind Martabak Pecenongan 65A, and they ended up including Martabak Manis Toblerone into their menu.
Now almost every Martabak Manis seller in town has expanded its menu to include new varieties. Some even offer mini versions of the sweet treat, while others have started to play around with the Martabak dough and come up with all sorts of flavours – with the most notable being the Red Velvet Martabak, which has become a favourite of many due to its sweet-tasting red-coloured dough and unique aroma.
As a Martabak Manis enthusiast, these new innovations only serve to build up my hunger even further.