Should you wake up one morning in Yogyakarta afflicted with a fierce hunger, find your way to the Pasar Burung (bird market) in the Kraton, the walled city within a city that's home to the Sultan's palace. You're not there for the bird market, but the wet market next door, a small covered maze of stalls selling everything from melinjo flowers, leaves, and nuts to prepared dishes.
Wander the aisles until you find, at one far corner, this vendor, who's been making and selling her baked apam (rice flour cakes) here for over 35 years. These aren't just any apam, but lovely spongy, light-as-air apam made with coconut milk and lots of fresh grated coconut.
If you're a coconut lover you'll want to order four, five, or more. They're only lightly sweetened, so the flavor of the coconut meat sits right at the fore. The vendor sells so many that there are always hot ones to hand. Ask for yours to be wrapped in banana leaf rather than paper; the heat of your rice cake will draw out the leaf's fragrance.
It's quite an ingenious set-up she's got here. A specially indented cast-iron apam tray is suspended over a metal box filled with hot charcoal. She spoons in the apam batter, and then places a metal lid over the tray. The apam bake just as if they were in a conventional oven.
Every once in a while she lift the oven lid to turn the apam, making sure that both sides crisp up and color golden brown. While the inside of the apam stays tender and fluffy the outside develops a very thin, lightly crunchy and chewy crust.
Did I mention that she makes two versions? One with egg, and one without. You'll want to try both, of course, for purposes of comparison. But the egg version possesses a certain extra something that pretty much makes it the coconut pancake of my dreams.
Rice flour cakes - are made all over Southeast and South Asia. Some are steamed, some are baked. Some are soft, some are crumbly, some are gummy. Some are eaten plain, others embellished with palm sugar. Some are plain, some flavored with pandan or coconut, or colored with ubi.
These Jogja baked apam are - so far - our favorite.
Apam vendor, wet market next to Pasar Burung, Kraton, Yogyakarta. 630am-noonish.