Re-discovering a childhood dessert treat in Astoria.
Last year, we made it our mission to seek out lesser known dessert spots in NYC. From a store specializing in milky tres leches cake, to two focusing on tofu pudding, a cafe offering a small selection of Filipino desserts, another with an array of sweet baked baos, two Georgian dessert spots, to Japanese cheese tart and Portuguese custard tart spots, we ventured beyond Manhattan to visit Khao Nom for a buffet of Thai desserts, and Little House Cafe for boxes of Nonya kuih and cloud-like pandan chiffon cake. Today, we chronicle our visit to Astoria, where in an area more well known for its Greek food, we found a tiny store focusing on Indonesian murtabak.
Rewind some twenty years or so ago, when your Dessert Correspondents here were pre-teens, we used to visit Malaysia every year or two on family holidays. One of the most memorable things of our childhood holidays was starting each day with an apom, aka a Malaysian pancake. Sometimes, the apom would be a paper thin pancake, rolled into a long cigar. You could eat many of them in one sitting…too many, perhaps. 😛 Other times, it would be a thicker pancake, akin to an English crumpet in texture — or perhaps the English crumpet is a version of the Malaysian apom? 😛 This thicker version was folded over like a crescent moon, sandwiching a layer of crushed peanuts, scattered sugar and sometimes, embedded corn. Apom originates not from the local Malay population however, but rather from historical Chinese immigration into the region. In the mainland, the equivalent is the man jian gao (曼煎粿, or man jian kueh in Hokkien). One can also find it in other countries, such as Singapore and Indonesia.
Papa Don in Astoria specializes in the Indonesian version of the apom, where in Indonesia, it is instead known as murtabak or terang bulan. Quite different from the simple peanuts and sugar topping of the Malaysian apom, Papa Don covered its murtabak with a confetti storm of chocolate sprinkles, roasted peanuts and cheddar cheese. Upon slight re-heating, the pancake itself was very soft and chewy, and certainly evoked memories of our childhood holidays in Malaysia. Do take especial note that Papa Don’s murtabaks are available for pre-orders only, not for walk-ins. The sampler set of 4 murtabaks as pictured below was priced at US$ 16, but you can also customize your own murtabaks with different pancake bases (e.g. ube, red velvet, pandan etc) and an array of different toppings (e.g. oreos, nutella etc).
Over the last year, we have been tracing the emergence of stores focusing on desserts from the South-East Asian region. Add Papa Don to that ever-growing list, we look forward to visiting again soon!
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Papa Don, 27-10 23rd Ave, Astoria, New York
- ☑ Budget: $.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Indonesian desserts.
- ☑ Must-eat: Murtabaks.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Rediscovering a childhood dessert treat in Astoria.