Murtabak or martabak, also mutabbaq (Arabic: مطبق) (Thai: มะตะบะ), is a stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread which is commonly found in Saudi Arabia (especially the Tihamah and the Hejaz regions), Yemen, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand. Depending on the location, the name and ingredients can significantly vary. The name mutabbaq (or sometimes mutabbag) in Arabic means "folded". In Indonesia, the Murtabak is one of the most popular street foods and is known as "martabak".
In Malaysia, where it is called "murtabak", it was originally sold in Indian Muslim restaurants and stalls, and usually includes minced meat (beef or chicken, sometimes mutton) along with garlic, egg and onion, and is eaten with curry/gravy, sliced cucumber, syrup-pickled onions or tomato ketchup. The dish is sold throughout the country, with diverse variations in ingredients or cooking styles and has been adopted by Malay Muslim sellers as well. Murtabak also usually includes mutton in Yemen. In Indonesia, particularly Jakarta and other cities, it is called "martabak", and has two versions: a sweet one, and a savory one with egg and meat. Lately, vegetarian murtabaks and other forms of murtabaks with chicken and other stuffings exist and can be found in many Indian Muslim restaurants in Singapore, most famous being those restaurants facing the Sultan Mosque near Arab Street.
Murtabak originated in Yemen, which has sizable Indian population; through Indian traders it has spread back to their home countries, to India and Southeast Asia. The word mutabbaq in Arabic means "folded". The dish referred to as Murtabak is a multi layered pancake that originated in the state of Kerala where the people referred to as "mamak's" (Tamil language = uncle) hail from. The word "mutabar" is the correct name for the particular dish referred to incorrectly as "murtabak". "Mutabar" is an amalgam of two words, "muta" (being the Keralite word for egg, a significant component of the dish) and "bar", an abbreviated form of the word barota, or "bratha roti" (the bread then egg is added on to make the dish). The bread base or pancake on which it is then spread over is referred to in Hindi as "pratha roti" or "pratha". (Note the difference in pronunciations, pratha and brata).
There are similar versions of the bread in places such as Yemen and other regions of the Arabic world and Persia. All of these places in the Middle East were visited by Indian traders centuries ago and it would not be unusual for them to have learned from each other or to have adopted each other's culinary habits and practices. However, the word "mutabar" is the correct name for the egg chilli and onion flavoured multi layered pancake.
In countries where martabak is available widespread, it is common it becomes an everyday dish. This dish is made not only at home, but often found in inexpensive food service menus specializing in traditional cuisine, which is why has the reputation of "street food", a local fast food sold by street vendors. Sometimes martabaki - especially sweet - go on sale in stores already in finished form.
There are many varieties of Martabak. For example, in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, most martabaks are usually not stuffed, instead it is only made of dough (called Martabak Kosong), similar to Indian Paratha. It is a bread-like dough that is kneaded and prepared similar to a pancake or other martabak, by tossing it into the air, they are served up piping hot with a sweet curry sauce.
The common ingredients of Indonesian egg martabak, besides the dough, is seasoned ground meat (beef, chicken, or mutton), sliced green onions, some herbs (optional), beaten eggs, some salt, and potatoes. Some street vendors mix the ground beef with curry seasoning. In Indonesia, the common spices to make the seasoned ground meat is Shallots, Garlic, Ginger, Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, some salt and sometimes a little bit of MSG. All the spices are ground or minced and stir-fried altogether. Some martabak makers add extra stuff and other varieties to make their martabak more unique, but they all share the same main dough. To sautee martabak, the makers use very large flat frying pan or iron griddle. Usually they use vegetable oil to sautee, but it is not uncommon to use Ghee or butter too.
Before serving, martabak usually is cut into portions. Sometimes it is eaten with salty soy sauce and pepper, sometimes with sweet condensed milk, melted butter, honey, or syrup. Martabak in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore usually is served with pickles/condiments made of diced cucumber, sliced carrot, shallot, and sliced chillies in sweetened vinegar. In Malaysia, Singapore or some areas in Sumatra, martabak served with Kari (Curry) gravy. In Palembang, another variety to serve martabak is with Curry/gravy (usually diced potatoes in beef curry) and topped with chillies in sweet-sour soy sauce. The most popular martabak of this kind is called Martabak Haji Abdul Rozak, or more known as Martabak HAR, made popular by an Indian Indonesian named Haji Abdul Rozak.
One variety of martabak, especially in Malaysia or Sumatra, is one called Martabak Kentang (potato-stuffed Martabak). It usually uses the similar dough as other martabak, but for the filling instead of beaten egg and ground beef, it is stuffed with diced potatoes with spices. It is eaten by dipping it into hot sweet-sour soy sauce.
Another variety of martabak is Martabak Manis (sweet martabak), also known bu the name Terang Bulan. This variety is mostly found in Indonesia. Although it shares the same name "martabak", the dough, ingredient and how to cook it is different than egg martabak. While it is baked on a pan, the martabak is spread with butter or margarine, crushed peanuts, chocolate sprinkles, cheese or other stuff. Before serving, the martabak then folded in half, so the toppings get in the middle of martabak. In Indonesia, to distinguish between egg and sweet martabak, people then call the egg martabak as Martabak Malabar.