Tuesday, February 19, 2013

terang bulan, on a moonless night

Did you know that chocolate sprinkles (or jimmies for americans) were first invented by the dutch? There it goes by the name of hagelslag (hail storm). It was brought to indonesia during the dutch colonial times, where it has been adorning children's breakfast sandwiches ever since. Since its introduction, in indonesia the chocolate sprinkles somehow came to be named meses. But whatever it's called, I love it and I can certainly remember the happiness I felt when eating a blue band slathered & chocolate sprinkled sandwich.

Terang bulan (keju meses) - Rp 33,000
Meses is one of the more popular toppings for terang bulan, a thick pancake dessert. In other parts of the country it goes by the name of martabak manis, I never understood why that is as it doesn't in any way resemble a martabak.

In Malang, we've always known it by the name terang bulan (lit: moonlight). Perhaps due to its circular moon-like shape. Or could it be because it possesses a pimply moon-like surface? Or maybe since it's usually purchased and eaten at night whether or not the sky is lit by the silvery moon. Either way, it's delicious. Thick and fulfilling. Sweet and cheesy. Bouncy yet soft.

On this moonless rainy night, I took refuge under the covered courtyard of Gajah Mada Plaza, an older shopping centre in downtown Malang. It is also where I can find the original and the best terang bulan. Amongst the crowded area where various shops are busy hawking various items - mobile phone accessories, toys, underwear, socks and shirts - is a small shop rectangular in shape with cooking equipment set up on its inner perimeter, leaving the centre free for the vendors to move around, attending one pan to another.

I was greeted with a friendly smile as the vendor took my order, terang bulan with cheese and chocolate sprinkles. From then on, he was all business. He turned up the heat of the specialty gas-powered heavy-bottomed skillet, and poured the pre-made batter into the skillet. With a metal spatula, he painted the side of the skillet with the batter. When cooked this painted batter would crisp up and form a crepe-like skin.

The batter was left to cook on high heat without its lid until bubbles started forming on the batter's surface, after which time the heat was turned down and the skillet was covered with its lid.

When the surface has fully bubbled up and the outer edges of the batter turned crispy brown, it was time to lift the edges with a metal spatula in one swift movement. It was transferred (thrown) to the table nearby, where it was ready to be adorned.

A heart-stopping amount of glossy margarine, shavings from half a block of cheddar, a generous amount of chocolate sprinkles and even more sweetness from twirls of condensed milk later, the terang bulan was now ready to be sliced into pieces.

But before that, let's gloss it up with a dollop more of margarine.

Terang bulan is always eaten as soon as it lands in our possession, when the chocolate and cheese melt together into a warm savoury sweet sauce. The prime pieces are the ones in the outer edges. While the middle segments are soft, slightly springy, chocolatey, cheesy and creamy, the edges have the additional perk from the crispness of the crepe-like flap.

I can happily eat half a box in one sitting, but that still leaves me with the other half uneaten. When this happens, I refrigerate. The next morning, I'd have a terang bulan breakfast with a few pieces heated up in the microwave for a few seconds so that the cheese & chocolate melt yet once again. Bliss...

Terang Bulan Madonna
Gajah Mada Plaza courtyard
Jalan Kyai Haji (KH) Agus Salim 18
Open 7 days 9am-10pm

Gajah Mada Plaza is very prominent due its rainbow fluro-lit sign. While you're there, might as well try Madonna's pukis made with similar batter but small in size and half-moon shaped. The popular version is filled with kornet (corned beef).

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