A local duo in Myaree are shaking up Perth’s street food scene with martabak manis – an Indonesian pancake with chewy honeycomb-like layers and a crisp crown that soaks up the spotlight.  

What is martabak?
Martabak manis (or simply, martabak) is an integral part of Southeast Asian culinary heritage. This humble pancake – made of flour, egg and water – has spread throughout Southeast Asia and collected a number of names along the way. In Indonesia, it’s known as martabak manis, loved for its thick chewy layers carefully cradled in a thin but crunchy crust. In Malaysia, it’s known as apam balik, with a slightly thinner crust and filled with creamed corn and peanuts – a local favourite. Its cousin in Singapore is called min jian kueh, while in Thailand it’s affectionately known as khanom bueang.   

No matter what it’s called, and regardless of your preferred thickness and filling, a good martabak is famed for its fluffy, moist and buttery batter. The batter is thinly layered on a hotplate or pan, and dusted with one’s preferred toppings. Purists will stick to the traditional roasted peanuts and sugar, while modern adventurists will try chocolate and even cheese. As the crisp rim forms and creeps up the edges into a flaky crown, the martabak  is flipped, folded in half and cut to serve. 

Who is selling martabak?
Nanda (Babang) and Debby started selling martabak in 2016. Their love for Martabak ignited in their home in Bandung, Indonesia, where martabak is a shared experience, whether it be between family during lively gatherings, friends catching-up after a long day, or – as Nanda can attest to – a nervous partner wanting to making a good first impression with their future in-laws on a first date.  

Nanda started a martabak store with his friends in Indonesia, looking to bring the classic martabak to the masses, together with modern flavours like Toblerone, Nutella and red velvet. As his passion for martabak grew, he moved to Australia with his wife Debby and committed to spreading the tradition of martabak within the community. After a brief stint in Adelaide, the couple moved to Perth, made martabak at a series of community events (such as Curtin’s Pasar Malam) and delivered and met their customers at various  drop-offs  before setting up a permanent business in Myaree. 


What makes Martabak Babang’s martabak different?
The sound of Martabak Babang’s martabak is special: the soft honeycomb layers pushed up against the crackle of the crisp crust makes a whooshing-crackle sound. The martabak springs lightly back when squeezed, yet the flaky halo crunches deliciously when eaten. It’s a true sensory symphony.  

Nanda (Babang) proudly states that they want their martabak to rival any martabak in Indonesia; he’s even gone so far as to blind-test his martabak with those in Indonesia.  

The couple’s commitment to detail rings true. It’s in the detail they’ve put into their home kitchen, which features custom-made 30-kilogram pans, each individually raised to provide an even heat for the batter and resulting in a uniform caramel-brown base. It’s how, through intense recipe testing, they’ve adapted their batter to suit local Australian ingredients (like Perth’s eggs, which Nanda explains are different in texture and consistency to the eggs in Indonesia). And it’s how they’ve held fast to traditional techniques, with Debby hand-mixing each batter for each pancake to ensure that there’s enough air in the batter to make those distinctive honeycomb layers, and double-roasting the peanuts to ensure a vibrant crunch with each bite.  

The couple have also kept things lively by rotating through a range of flavours and customisable fillings – from Biscoff, to pandan to Oreos. They’re always in conversation with their customers, and eagerly adapt any flavour combinations their customers suggest. Impressively, the duo can adapt their technique to cater for those who seek the taste of their home in Southeast Asia – like by making a thinner batter for their loyal Malaysian and Singaporean customers, who prefer a thinner, crisper pancake akin to the apam balik found at home.  

Where can you buy Martabak Babang’s martabak? 

Nanada (Babang) and Debby make martabak from their home business in Myaree. Orders are made online through Instagram and Facebook (@MartabakBabang) or on WhatsApp (+61 466 257 866). You can arrange for pick-up at Myaree or delivery at a mutually convenient location. 


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