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, 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 or gravy, sliced cucumber, syrup-pickled onions or tomato sauce. 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. In Yemen, murtabak also usually includes mutton. In Indonesia, particularly Jakarta and other cities, it is called "martabak", and has two versions: a sweet one, and a savoury 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 sizeable 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 "mamaks" ("mamak" means "uncle" in Tamil) 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). 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 widely available, it is so common it becomes an everyday dish. This dish is made not only at home, but often found in inexpensive food service menus specialising 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. Martabak kosong consists of a bread-like dough that is kneaded and prepared similarly to a pancake or other martabak by tossing it into the air, and served 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, salt and potatoes. Some street vendors mix the ground beef with curry seasoning. In Indonesia, the common spices to make the seasoned ground meat are shallots, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, some salt and sometimes a little bit of monosodium glutamate. All the spices are ground or minced and stir-fried altogether. Some martabak makers add extra ingredients and other varieties to make their martabak more unique, but they all share the same main dough. To sauté martabak, the chef uses a very large flat frying pan or iron griddle. Usually they use vegetable oil to sauté, 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 pickled condiments consisting of diced cucumber, sliced carrot, shallots and sliced chillies in sweetened vinegar. In Malaysia, Singapore and some areas in Sumatra, martabak is served with kari (curry) gravy. In Palembang, another variety to serve martabak is with curry (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 commonly 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 it is stuffed with diced potatoes and spices instead of beaten egg and ground beef. It is eaten by dipping it into hot sweet-sour soy sauce.
Another variety of martabak is called martabak manis (sweet martabak), also known by the name Terang Bulan. This variety is mostly found in India. Although it shares the same name "martabak", the cooking method, dough and ingredients are different from egg martabak. While it is baked on a pan, the martabak is spread with butter or margarine, crushed peanuts, chocolate sprinkles, cheese or other toppings. Before serving, the martabak then folded in half, so the toppings get in the middle of martabak. In Indonesia, egg martabak is called martabak Malabar to distinguish it from sweet martabak.