Apam Balik

Apam Balik from The Lotus and the Artichoke MALAYSIA vegan cookbook

It was my first day in Kuala Lumpur…

I’d just arrived and was at the start of a 5 week culinary adventure to get a taste of Malaysia, Singapore, and Borneo. The sun shone bright and the sky was that deep, satisfying shade of blue. I was on a short morning walk from the Winsin Hotel on the edge of downtown Chinatown, heading towards the Indian neighborhood.

Just outside the subway station on a particularly more urban street corner was a line of shiny, silver food trucks. My eye was caught immediately by one in particular: A woman was spilling roasted, candied peanuts and then corn kernels from a can onto a golden, round, thin pancake. She folded it over – making sort of a sweet taco – and placed it on a rack on the chrome counter of her street food cart. She caught me watching and smiled.

“Hey Mister! You try Apam Balik!”

Well, what could I say? I got closer and watched her make another two crepes. First, she stirred a simple batter of mostly rice flour and coconut milk and poured and spread the crepe on the sizzling griddle. Moments later, she pried up an edge, slid her spatula tracing under the circle, and flipped it over. I watched her again top the thin, crunchy crepes with peanuts and corn before folding them in half and setting them on the rack just in front of me.

Just then, a colorfully dressed Indian woman parted from a few family members and approached the cart from my side. She reached out an anxious hand in a dance-like gesture, rattling rows of wrist bangles, and scooped two of the Apim Balik pancakes from the rack. She rattled off a few sentences in Malay to the seller, they exchanged some money, and both giggled briefly. The Indian woman turned to me and extended one of the crepes until it was right in my face. She said to me in melodic Indian English:

“This one for you. Apam Balik. Peanut Pancake!”

It was in my grasp and between my teeth before I knew it. The crepe was crunchy on the outside but then soft and chewy, quickly giving way to the delightful combination of sweet and salty flavors from the roasted peanuts, punctuated by bursts of fresh corn juiciness. It was perfect. I devoured the rest of it.

Weeks later, back in Berlin, I set about to re-create the deliciousness.

For the vegan recipe in my MALAYSIA cookbook, I made a simple, sure-fire formula for making Apim Balik at home in the kitchen. I didn’t have to veganize anything. It’s a pretty much straight-up thin pancake batter based on rice flour, coconut milk and sugar, lending a crunchy thin crepe. For the filling, I simplified it going with just candied peanuts. My variations (below) include optionally topping it with a sweet syrup and going authentic street food style with sweet corn kernels.

Apam Balik

crispy, crunchy peanut-filled pancakes

recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MALAYSIA

makes 4 to 6 / time 30 min +

  • 3/4 cup (100 g) peanuts crumbled or very coarsely ground
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) flour (all purpose / type 550)
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) rice flour
  • 1/4 cup (45 g) sugar
  • 1 Tbs corn starch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) coconut milk
  • 2 Tbs water
  • agave syrup or coconut (palm) syrup optional
  • vegetable oil for frying pan
  1. Crumble or coarsely grind peanuts and dry roast in a pan on medium heat until golden brown and dark spots appear, 4–5 min. Add sugar and salt. Mix well. Stirring constantly, roast until sugar melts and mix starts to stick together, 1–2 min. Remove from heat.
  2. Combine flour, rice flour, sugar, corn starch, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in coconut milk and water gradually. Mix until mostly smooth, but do not over mix. Cover and let batter sit 20–30 min.
  3. Heat frying pan on medium high heat. Put a few drops of oil on pan and rub it around with a paper towel. Do this before each pancake. When a drop of water sizzles and dances on surface, pan is ready.
  4. Pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup (60–80 ml) batter in the center of the hot pan. Tilt and turn the pan to form a large, thin, circular pancake.
  5. After bubbles appear on surface and underside is golden brown (about 2–3 min), use a spatula to carefully peel up the edges around the pancake and then flip it over. Cook the other side for 1–2 min, then flip it back over. Put 2–3 Tbs of the sugary peanuts on the pancake and roll up or fold over. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with other pancakes.
  6. Serve plain, or drizzle pancakes with agave syrup or coconut syrup.

Variations:

Creamy: Use peanut butter instead of roasted, crumbled peanuts. Bananas: Add sliced banana to filling. Traditional: Add 1–2 Tbs sweet corn kernels to each pancake filling.

Apam Balik - Malaysian Peanut Pancakes on Instagram (The Lotus and the Artichoke)

vegan recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MALAYSIA available in English & German

Malaysia vegan cookbook cover blockprint

 

Mexican Street Food Dinner Party

Mexican Street Food Dinner Party at Chaostheorie in Berlin

Mexican Street Food Dinner Party

Saturday 25.06.2016 at Chaostheorie in Berlin

In a few weeks, I’ll be cooking up an amazing, all vegan Mexican Street Food Dinner Party with many of my most favorite recipes from The Lotus and the Artichoke MÉXICO for 40 lucky guests.

In only 3 days the tickets were SOLD OUT… and we’ve got 10 people on the waiting list. Possibly we’ll free up a few more places and let more people join us. This is a dinner party I’ve been wanting to put on for years. I’m excited it’s finally going to happen! I’ve done smaller Mexican dinners, but never for more than 20 people. If all goes well (I expect it will be a smashing success) I’ll be doing more big dinner parties like this, not just in Berlin, but in other cities and countries.

This is not the first dinner party I’ve done! Several times a year I put on vegan dinner parties, and so far I’ve had the pleasure of cooking for groups of 8 to 50 people in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Mainz, Solingen, and Vienna. Just to name a few. I’ve done Sri Lankan dinner parties, Mexican dinner parties, North and South Indian dinners, American Diner Classics, and one of my favorites: Around the World dinner parties… all with vegan recipes inspired by my travels to 50 countries all over the planet.

Here’s the menu plan for the night:

THE FOOD

  • Chiles Rellenos – fried stuffed peppers & Red Chipotle Sauce
  • Jackfruit Tacos & Mango Salsa
  • Tostada Supreme (Soy Chorizo) & Guacamole
  • Spinach Mushroom Sopes & Salsa Verde
  • Apple Pineapple Empanadas
  • Lemon Caramel Coconut Flan

THE DRINKS

  • Frozen Margaritas (with/without alcohol)
  • all of the awesome Chaostheorie cocktails & drinks

This event is sold out, but if you’d like to find out about future events or make arrangements with me to cook for you (or with you) wherever you might be in the world… Sign up for the newsletter, send me an email from the CONTACT page, and be sure to LIKE The Lotus and the Artichoke on Facebook.

You can also follow my cooking and travel adventures here: The Lotus and the Artichoke on Instagram and get some hilarious insight into my day to day silliness and fun on SNAPCHAT: lotusartichoke

Here’s a photo of me getting it on in the kitchen of our little apartment in Guanajuato, Mexico, where I stayed for about a week while traveling and living in Mexico for 3 months to research Mexican food, ride some waves, and escape the German winter.

Guanajuato Kitchen JPM - Vegan Cooking in Mexico

Vegetable Roti

Sri Lankan Street Food - Vegetable Roti

If you ever talk to anyone who’s been to Sri Lanka… and especially if you talk to someone from Sri Lanka, just mention Vegetable Roti and you’ll see their face light up. It’s practically impossible not to have tried them, and it’s even less likely to not love them! They are made and enjoyed pretty much everywhere in Sri Lanka, from North to South and East to West, coast to countryside to hill country. It’s also one of those classics, that despite their popularity, you just almost never find outside of the homeland. Unless you make them yourself… or have someone make them!

Most of the few, good Sri Lankan and South Indian restaurants that I’ve found in Europe and North America don’t have stuffed roti quite like the original. One exception is in the delicious and awesome Tamil and Sri Lankan neighborhood in Paris, near the La Chapelle metro stop. That’s actually probably where I first had them, and got to try Sri Lankan food for the first time, many years ago.

Since it’s so hard to find Vegetable Roti outside of Sri Lanka, and I (unfortunately) can’t just teleport myself to the island paradise whenever I want to, I was determined to make a convincing, authentic recipe. And when making my Sri Lanka vegan cookbook (with recipes inspired by the 10 weeks I spent exploring the island) there was no question about it. I knew I had to include a Veg Roti recipe! After watching roti being made at least 50 different times by street vendors and in restaurant kitchens, taking lots of notes, studying the technique, making my own recipe wasn’t that difficult.

To be honest, making roti dough takes some practice and experimentation. It’s important to let it sit for at least an hour in a moderately warm place. And I always start with less water and very gradually add more. Learning how to get just the right texture and springiness for the dough is like with any bread-making. I refined this recipe over several weeks, had it tested by a dozen friends before publishing it in the cookbook, and continue to use it whenever I want to make vegetable roti: at home, for dinner parties, cooking classes, as a picnic snack, etc.

Sri Lankan Vegetable Roti with Tamarind Chutney

Vegetable Roti are Sri Lankan “Short Eats”

What’s a Short Eat? Simply put, snacks and appetizers and street food. There is a rich culture in the Sri Lankan tradition of grabbing a few snacks from the street vendors, hole-in-the-wall snack shops, neighborhood take-out bakery, and mobile bakery tuk-tuks. In addition to the classic roti, Short Eats also include all the many fried rolls, vada, baked snacks, bread and much more.

Short Eats are typically enjoyed between meals or as a small meal – on the way to work, on the bus, on the train, at the office, wherever and kind of whenever. They’re everywhere and make a quick breakfast. Or small lunch. Or a mini-dinner, before – or even in place of – a big dinner. The bakery tuk-tuks drive around in the morning and evening – often with their trademark ice cream truck melodies playing funny variations of Für Elise. Yes, really. It’s awesome, and for the rest of your life you’ll start drooling when you hear Beethoven.

Vegetable Roti

stuffed with potatoes, carrots & leeks

recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA

makes 4 to 6 / time 45 min +

roti dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) flour (all-purpose / type 550)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  1. Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add water and 1 Tbs oil. Mix with fork and knead with hands until smooth and elastic, 3–5 min. If batter sticks to hands, knead in more flour. If too dry, add slightly more water.
  2. Add another 1 Tbs oil and knead another 5 min.
  3. Separate into 4 to 6 pieces. Knead and form into balls. Lightly coat balls with oil and place on plate, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit in a warm (not hot) place for 1 hour.

vegetable filling:

  • 2/3 cup (80 g) leeks or spring onions or 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 medium (80 g) carrot peeled, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 large (140 g) potato peeled, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander ground
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder or paprika ground
  • 5–6 curry leaves and/or 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3–4 Tbs water (more as needed)
  1. Heat oil in a large pot or pan on medium heat. Add mustard seeds. When they start to pop (20–30 sec), add ground coriander, black pepper, chili powder (or paprika), and curry leaves and/or curry powder.
  2. Add leeks (or onions), grated carrot and potato, turmeric, salt. Cook partially covered, gradually adding water, stirring and mashing regularly, until vegetables are soft, 7–10 min. Remove from heat.
  3. Uncover dough. Briefly knead a ball. On a greased surface, press flat and roll out or continually flip and stretch to form a long, wide strip. Wrapper should be almost 3 times as long as it is wide and about 1/8 in (3 mm) thick. Knead some oil into each dough ball if too firm and not stretching easily.
  4. Spoon about 3 Tbs filling onto one end. Fold over repeatedly in triangles until sealed. Transfer to lightly greased plate and continue for others.
  5. Heat a large, heavy frying pan on medium high heat. Place filled triangles on pan and press down lightly. Fry on both sides, until brown spots appear, 3–5 min each side. Arrange standing up on edges, pressing down lightly and leaning together to brown edges, 2–3 min each end.
  6. Continue for all rotis. Serve with chili sauce, chutney, or eat plain.

South India Street Food Photos

Photographs from various trips to South India in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011. (I’m saving photos from North India and 2001 for another time!)

Just a small collection of street food carts, fruit and vegetable sellers, vendors of sweets, spice shops, fantastic hand-painted signs, and some the faces that go along with it all.

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