Apam Johol: The Traditional Steamed Cake from Johol, Negeri Sembilan
Apam Johol is a beloved traditional steamed cake from Johol, Negeri Sembilan. It is crafted by combining wheat flour, water, sugar or brown sugar, yeast and coconut milk, which makes it fluffy, soft, and not too sweet. It is originally known as “Apam Daun Rambai (Rambai Leaf Steamed Cake)” because this delicacy is usually wrapped in a natural packaging made from the fragrant leaves of the local wild rambai (also known as rambi) fruit. The unique leaf gives it an enticing aroma and a visually appealing appearance.
The story behind Apam Johol’s inception is a testament to culinary creativity. In 1970s, a lady named Siti Hajar Hussin faced the issue of leftover apam batter in her home, as traditional apam made in pans had a short shelf life. She ingeniously decided to encase the apam in local plant leaves to increase its longevity. Among various leaf choices, the local rambai plant stood out, imparting a distinct, irresistable aroma and enhancing the flavour. To ensure her recipe lived on, she also generously imparts her knowledge to the locals interested in learning this craft.
Since the way of making Apam Johol is quite simple and straightforward, more and more people in Johol started making it too. This allowed Apam Johol to spread far and wide and gain popularity at events like grand gatherings at palaces, government functions, weddings, and corporate events, becoming a local icon. The cake is so commonly made and enjoyed by the residents of Johol that it became synonymous with the town of Johol.
Today, Apam Johol has delighted both locals and visitors. What was once an exclusive Negeri Sembilan delight, particularly in its birthplace of Johol, has now spread its delicious influence to other Malaysian states like Selangor, Pahang, Melaka, Sarawak, and Johor. Additionally, due to its longer shelf-life, Apam Johol has the opportunity to reach international shores and find home in countries like Singapore, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Jordan etc.
Apam Johol is incredibly versatile, fitting to be served as a light breakfast or as a delightful dessert, whether savoured on its own or enjoyed with flavourful companions like rendang, sambal tumis, porridge, meat gravy, or even durian gravy.