In Indonesia every time Henry Lukman and his dad were too lazy to cook they’d head to the streets for martabak. They’d watch the chef take a glob of roti dough and toss it like a pizza until it was almost translucent and close to tearing. The dough would sizzle and crisp up on an oily grill and then the chef would stuff it with egg, minced beef, shallots and onion, and then fold it into a crunchy package before cutting it into squares to be eaten right away.
Now Lukman makes the delicious snacks himself.
Lukman took over Rosebery Martabak (which, confusingly, is in Kingsford) in 2015 with his wife, Yenni Lo. “I had a joke when I passed [the shop], ‘One day if they sell it, I'm going to buy it’, then it just happened,” says Lukman.
Lukman and Lo make one of the best martabaks in Sydney; it’s both sweet and savoury. They’re handmade daily, have a corn-chip crunch and are well seasoned (Lukman won’t tell me with what). They’re packed with egg, curried-beef and shallot; meatballs, crab and smoked oysters; or Lukman’s personal favourite, corned beef. “Some people, when they open restaurants [in Australia], they adjust their recipe and taste to fit Western [tastes] but I wanted to keep it exactly the same as what it is in Indonesia,” Lukman says.
Sweet martabaks offer an entirely different experience. Think of it as a hybrid between a crumpet and a Japanese pancake; they’re circular, wide, soft and full of crumpet-like perforations. “You need to have those pores so the butter seeps in,” Lukman says. “You should be able to bite through and feel every inch of the butter in there.”
To make it Lo cooks a pancake in the pan and once it’s risen she adds in butter and then sweet or creamy toppings. The most popular are cheese, chocolate, peanuts, sweetened condensed milk or all the above. When it’s all piled on and layered it’s folded to make a pillowy but crunchy and crusted pancake sandwich that tastes like childhood birthday dreams and a breakfast-style cheesecake. It might not be wise to eat if you’re watching your cholesterol.
Although martabak is the speciality here (which is rare in Sydney), it’s not necessarily the most popular order. That title goes to the fried rice. For $9.50 you get a big bowl of dark and smoky rice that’s been blasted with wok hei – or “breath of a wok”, giving it a complex, charred aroma. “We know how it feels to be a student so we keep it cheap and good, and we give you a lot,” says Lukman.
Before we leave we ask if Lukman’s dad visits to eat martabak on those lazy evenings. “When we first started yeah, but now I bring him food. At least twice a week I bring him the martabak. He likes it,” he says with a grin.
341A Anzac Parade, Kingsford
(02) 9662 3706
Sun to Wed 12pm–9.30pm
This is another edition of Broadsheet’s Local Knowledge weekly series, where Nick Jordan explores the eateries at the heart of Sydney’s different cultural communities. Read more here.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on June 11, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.