Dining Out 3 minutes 25 February 2018

Breakfast Club: 5 Spots For Min Jiang Kueh Pancakes

Sink your teeth into these old-school and new-school pancakes for a grab-and-go breakfast.

Singapore Hawker breakfast dining

Long before pancakes with maple syrup and bacon were in vogue here, a more humble variant of pancakes ruled the food scene. Enter the min jiang kueh, a traditional turnover pancake that is sandwiched with fillings such as golden showers of crushed peanuts and neon-orange shredded coconut and dollops of red bean paste.

Moist and fluffy, min jiang kueh is a trusty grab-and-go breakfast option that is served piping hot fresh from the griddle. Available at most hawker centres across the island, the pancakes give solid bang for one’s buck at less than $1.50 at most places and make quite a substantial breakfast (best washed down with a cup of kopi).

These pancakes are believed to have been originated from Fujian, China. Its Chinese name, mian jian gao (曼煎糕) alludes to its batter, which is a blend of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar and baking soda. Found mostly in street stalls across Asia, the pancakes are known as martabak in Bahasa Indonesia, ban chiang kueh in Hokkien and apam balik in Malay.

In recent years, some eateries have given the pancakes creative updates by incorporating flavours from green tea, Nutella to chicken floss with ham and cheese.
Chicken floss, cheese & egg pancake from The Pantree.
Chicken floss, cheese & egg pancake from The Pantree.

1. The Pantree

Min jiang kueh is given whimsical twists in this home-grown café that stretches the boundaries of what can go into these turnover pancakes. On the menu are more than 20 flavours (from $2.50 to $5). Those with a sweet tooth can bite into pancakes with flavours such as peanut-studded Nutella and Speculoos (spiced cookie butter). The savoury section comprises mind-boggling permutations of fillings such as chicken floss, luncheon meat, ham, cheese and egg. Popular varieties include chicken floss and cheese ($4.50) and luncheon meat, cheese and egg ($4.20). Earlier this month, The Pantree concocted a salted egg yolk fish skin and cheese min jiang kueh to mark Chinese New Year.

The takeaway kiosk, which started out as a café in CT Hub in Lavender Street in 2016, is run by couple Victor Yong and his Ipoh-born wife, whose father is a street hawker that also peddles mee jiang kueh in Ipoh. The couple has mastered craft of turning out the pancakes from the griddle, which yields a pillow-soft centre and crisp and thin edges.

Earlier last month, it moved to a snazzy location at Marina One, serving mainly office workers in the vicinity during lunchtime, with about 110 pancakes sold daily.

Where: The Pantree, B2-24 Marina One, 7 Central Boulevard, open: 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Mondays & Fridays; 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Tuesdays to Thursdays; open on selected Saturdays and closed on Sundays.

2. Granny’s Pancake

This local pancake chain is a common sight in many hawker centres including Ghim Moh Food Centre and Hong Lim Food Centre. Though the golden brown pancake ($1) is relatively more slender, it is known for its more-than-generous fillings. Each overflows with a copious amount of crushed peanuts, shredded coconut and red bean paste. Best of all, the pancakes turn out quite consistently decent across its outlets. 

Where: 20 Ghim Moh Rd, #01-52, open everyday 5:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Red bean peanut pancake from Frankie's Peanut Pancake.
Red bean peanut pancake from Frankie's Peanut Pancake.

3. Frankie's Peanut Pancake

This hip kopitiam stall offers one of the cheapest breakfast options in the Central Business District, which is lined up with brunch and artisanal coffee spots. At just $1, the peanut pancake at Frankie’s Peanut Pancake is a steal. The clunky pancakes are served piping hot, so much that it fogs up the plastic packaging too quickly.  

The nondescript stall, which is a one man-show, offers peanut and red bean pancakes, but ask for the off-the-menu item, red bean peanut pancake ($1), which is a pillow-soft semi dome that is nestled with red bean paste topped with a copious amount of crushed peanuts. The smooth and velvety texture of the red bean paste is nicely offset by sandy sprinkling of peanuts.

Where: Eden Garden Café, 121 Telok Ayer Street, open: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. weekdays, closed on weekends.

4. Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake

Traditionalists swear by this old-school hawker stall that has been around for more than 20 years. The shop is run by an elderly couple, who uses a house-made yeast starter instead of commercial yeast, that makes their peanut pancakes more tender.

Take your time to savour the subtle differences such as how the crushed peanuts are roasted in-house. This is one of the few places that serve the pancakes on paper liners—perfect for catching bits of crushed peanuts that inevitably spew out from the parcel.

Where: Tanglin Halt Market Place, Stall 16, open: 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (Tuesdays to Thursdays and weekends), closed on Mondays and Fridays.
'Pizza' from Pancake Boss
'Pizza' from Pancake Boss

5. Pancake Boss

Meet min jiang kueh’s heftier cousin from Indonesia—martabak (not to be confused with murtabak, the pan-fried meat-stuffed bread). Martabak, which has a spongy honeycomb-like interior, can be commonly found in street food carts across Indonesia.

Pancake Boss has upped the creative ante for martabak by presenting it in a riotous burst of colours and flavours. Screaming for attention are its ‘fusion’ pancakes such as the Red Robin ($14.80), a red velvet pancake laced with lemon cream cheese and crushed Oreos; Green Joker ($13.50), a green tea pancake that cushions sticks of matcha-flavoured Kit Kat chocolate and cheese. Go black to the basics with the Dark Knight ($14.80), a bamboo charcoal pancake with lemon cream cheese and cheese.

Too fancy to stomach these treats? Stick to traditional flavours such as kacang (nuts), chocolate rice or cheese (from $7). Bigger groups can opt for the ‘pizza’ that is chock-full of toppings such as cheese, chocolate rice, Ovaltine and nuts.

Where: 04-15 Bugis Cube Mall, 470 North Bridge Road, open: noon to 8:00 p.m. daily except Monday. 

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