World Ice Cream Day 2021: Oh Apong Serves Treats Infused With Sarawakian Gula Apong
Ellyna Merican first discovered gula apong when she was in Kuching with her family on a business trip last year. This natural sweetener is made from the sap of the nipah palm, which grows abundantly along the coast of the state in East Malaysia. She noticed how the locals used it in many types of food including cendol, cakes, drinks, even chicken wings.
Her family fell in love with gula apong’s sweet and slightly salty taste, which reminded them of salted caramel. One night at dinner, her sister Emylia had a brainwave: Why not create a place serving gula apong ice cream?
That was how Oh Apong was born. This Kota Damansara-based café, which opened in May this year, is on a mission to promote gula apong as a unique treat in Kuala Lumpur.
“We wanted to differentiate our ice cream from the flavours already available in the market and found gula apong to be a total game changer. We thought more people should try and fall in love with this unique-tasting ice cream, just like we did. We seek to evoke emotions and tell a story with our ice cream, while highlighting its origin,” enthuses Merican.
The café was founded with her family—parents Dato' Zulzurin Merican and Datin Jamaliah Shariff, and siblings Emylia and Eirwan. They hail from Kedah but have been living in Selangor since 1997.
Step into Oh Apong and you’ll be greeted by a light, breezy atmosphere, complete with pastel hues and an abundance of potted plants. Its décor integrates touches of local culture, such as rattan furniture, nyatoh wood detailing and, of course, a nipah palm mural to reiterate the source of gula apong. Decorative tiles and wooden blinds complete the café’s nostalgic feel.
“The design stemmed mainly from our love for the café hopping and dessert-hunting; the good ol’ pre-pandemic days when we would Google the most Instagrammable cafés to chill in,” says Merican,
We envisioned a similar café experience with Oh Apong, a cheerful and refreshing ambience where urban folks can unwind from the stresses and worries of life
See Also: 5 Healthier Ice Cream Brands To Try
Their gula apong is sourced directly from Sarawak. Its harvesting process is time-consuming and risky, as local farmers have to search swampy marshlands for suitable nipah palms to be nurtured. Encounters with snakes and crocodiles sometimes occur.
Once the nipah palms flower, their clear sweet sap is extracted and collected. The sap is boiled for six to eight hours with continuous stirring to evaporate the water content, until it transforms into a thick golden syrup. “We hope to be able to preserve this traditional Sarawakian slow food and improve the livelihoods of the local community of gula apong makers and collectors with our little endeavour,” says Merican.
She adds that gula apong is less sweet than processed white sugar, and has a low Glycemic Index (GI) of 35-40. As it is unrefined sugar, it retains nutrients such as Vitamin B, potassium, calcium, zinc, iron, copper and magnesium.
“It's all natural as our gula apong is harvested from wild-growing nipah palms," she says.
ICYMI: Khoon Hooi And Crème De La Crème Release New Ice Cream
The best way to discover the delights of gula apong is to try their food. The Signature Oh Apong ice cream is topped with multi-grain cereal and a drizzle of gula apong syrup. There are other toppings too, the most popular of which are coconut chips and freshly chopped mangoes.
Apart from ice cream, the café also an assortment of pastries and cakes, including Salt Bae, a moist chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting and a drizzle of homemade caramel.
"That said, our vision is to become a leading purveyor for gula apong-based ice cream and treats. We hope to put this underrated ingredient on the global food stage some day,” Merican stresses.
Oh Apong | F01-03 Emporis, Persiaran Surian, Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Read More: 9 Crushed Ice Desserts From Around The World: Ais Kacang, Bingsu And More
- Images Oh Apong