Mutabbak or matabbak, also mutabbaq (Arabic: مطبق), is a stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread which is commonly found in Saudi Arabia (especially the Tihamah and the Hejaz regions), Yemen, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Thailand. Depending on the location, the name and ingredients can significantly vary. The name mutabbaq (or sometimes mutabbag) in Arabic means "folded". It is a popular street food in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
Murtabak is often described as spicy folded omelette pancake with bits of vegetables. It is the most common form of murtabak; which is egg-filled pancake, sometimes mixed with green onion and minced meat, made from pan fried crepes which is folded and cut to squares. In Indonesia, the Murtabak is one of the most popular street foods and is known as "martabak". There are two Indonesian versions: a savory with egg and meat, and a sweet one. In Indonesia, the savory beaten-egg filled martabak is called 'martabak telur — to differ it from 'martabak manis, the sweet martabak folded pancake.
Lately, vegetarian murtabaks and other forms of murtabaks with chicken and other stuffings exist and can be found in many Indian Muslim restaurants in Singapore, they can be found in Little India area and those restaurants facing the Sultan Mosque near Arab Street.
In Malaysia, where it is called "murtabak", it was originally sold in Indian Muslim restaurants and stalls, and usually includes minced meat (beef or chicken, sometimes mutton) along with garlic, egg and onion, and is eaten with curry or gravy, sliced cucumber, syrup-pickled onions or tomato sauce. The dish is sold throughout the country, with diverse variations in ingredients or cooking styles and has been adopted by Malay Muslim sellers as well. In Yemen, murtabak also usually includes mutton.
The word mutabbaq in Arabic means "folded". This suggested that Murtabak might be originated from Yemen, which has sizeable Indian population; through Indian traders it has spread back to their home countries. Another theory however, suggested that despite its Arabic-sounding name, it was invented in India instead. Murtabak was brought to Southeast Asia by Tamil Muslim trader. The dish referred to as murtabak is a multi-layered pancake that originated in the state of Kerala where the people referred to as "mamaks" ("mamak" means "uncle" in Tamil) hail from. The word "mutabar" is the original name for the particular dish referred to in other languages and dialects as "murtabak." "Mutabar" is an amalgam of two words, "muta" (being the Keralite word for egg, a significant component of the dish) and "bar," an abbreviated form of the word barota, or "bratha roti" (the bread). The bread base or pancake on which it is then spread over is referred to in Hindi as "pratha roti" or "pratha." (Note the difference in pronunciations, pratha and brata).
There are similar versions of the bread in places such as Yemen and other regions of the Arabic world and Persia. All of these places in the Middle East were visited by Indian traders centuries ago and it would not be unusual for them to have learned from each other or to have adopted each other's culinary habits and practices. However, the word "mutabar" is the original name for the egg, chilli, and onion flavoured multi-layered pancake.
In countries where martabak is widely available, it is so common it has become an everyday dish. This dish is made not only at home, but often found in inexpensive food service menus specialising in traditional cuisine, which is why has the reputation of "street food", a local fast food sold by street vendors. Sometimes martabaki - especially sweet - go on sale in stores already in finished form.
There are many varieties of Martabak. For example, in Brunei, most martabaks are usually not stuffed, instead it is only made of dough (called martabak kosong), similar to Indian Paratha. Martabak kosong consists of a bread-like dough that is kneaded and prepared similarly to a pancake or other martabak by tossing it into the air, and served piping hot with a sweet curry sauce. In Singapore and Malaysia (where it is called Murtabak), the murtabaks are usually filled with beef, chicken or mutton and served with a curry sauce, and cucumber in ketchup.
The common ingredients of Indonesian egg martabak, besides the dough, is seasoned ground meat (beef, chicken or mutton), sliced green onions, some herbs (optional), beaten eggs, salt, and potatoes. Some street vendors mix the ground beef with curry seasoning. In Indonesia, the common spices to make the seasoned ground meat are shallots, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, some salt, and sometimes a little bit of monosodium glutamate. All the spices are ground or minced and stir-fried altogether. Some martabak makers add extra ingredients and other varieties to make their martabak unique, but they all share the same main dough. To fry martabak, the chef uses a very large flat frying pan or iron griddle. Usually they use vegetable oil to fry, but it is not uncommon to use ghee or butter too.
Before serving, martabak usually is cut into portions. Sometimes it is eaten with sweet and salty soy sauce and pepper. Savoury versions of martabak in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore usually is served with acar or pickled condiment consisting of diced cucumber, sliced carrot, shallots, and sliced chillies in sweetened vinegar. In Malaysia, Singapore and some areas in Sumatra, martabak is served with kari (curry) gravy. In Palembang, another variety of martabak is egg-martabak (eggs dropped into the flatten dough before folded while frying) served in curry (usually diced potatoes in beef curry) and topped with chillies in sweet-sour soy sauce called Martabak Haji Abdul Rozak, or more commonly known as Martabak HAR, made popular by an Indian Indonesian named Haji Abdul Rozak. There is also a popular martabak variant from Padang, West Sumatra called Martabak Kubang, which is served with light curry as dipping sauce.
Another variety of martabak, especially in Malaysia and Sumatra (such as in Jambi, Palembang, and Lampung), is one called martabak kentang (potato-stuffed martabak). It usually uses the similar dough as other martabak, but it is stuffed with a mix of diced potatoes, beaten eggs, chopped green onions, and spices instead of beaten egg and ground beef. It is eaten by dipping it into hot sweet-sour soy sauce or curry sauce.
Another variety of martabak is called martabak manis (sweet martabak), also known by the name Terang Bulan or Martabak Bangka. This naming however, is only valid in Indonesia, since the identical folded thick pancake is called apam balik instead in Malaysia.
Despite sharing the same name, "martabak" (because they are both folded), the cooking method, dough (which uses yeast and baking soda), also the ingredients (usually vanilla extract is added as essence) are different from egg martabak, giving it a consistency more like a crumpet. While it is baked on a pan, the sweet martabak is spread with butter or margarine, sugar, crushed peanuts, chocolate sprinkles, cheese or other toppings. Before serving, the martabak is folded in half, so the toppings get in the middle of martabak. In Indonesia, egg martabak is also called Martabak Malabar to distinguish it from sweet martabak.
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