Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Food - Sarikei Chinese Buns (Pau)

Sarikei Merdeka Park Food Centre.
Pau store is at the right of the left exit (shown).

One of the simple pleasures in life in Sarikei in the 1960s was munching on those hot steamed Chinese buns (pau 包). In the 1960s, a Cantonese hawker sold these buns at the row of open air hawker stalls at the location of the current Rex cinema. In the 1970s, the most popular bun seller was arguably the Foochow one operating behind the shop at No. 37 Repok Road, Wong Kah Tieng Agency 黃家代理商 (2nd shop at Block 5 Left, counting from Rejang River)

Sarikei pau store 2007.
Merdeka Park Food Centre
Find the dough mixing bowl.

Yours truly decided to check out how a hawker makes pau at the stall at the Merdeka Park hawker centre. I asked for permission to take pictures and the baker was amused that someone would be interested in his trade. His hands were so fast that I had to ask him to do it in slow motion and strike a pose (see picture below).

Sarikei pau store 2007.
Merdeka Park Food Centre.
Putting in the fillings.

To make the dough, firstly mix sugar, warm water and yeast and allow to stand for about 10mins till the mixture becomes frothy. Then sift in the flour and baking powder into the bowl, add shortening and mix well. Knead the dough till it is smooth and elastic. Put the dough into a bowl and cover it with a cloth to allow it to rise to triple its size in about 2 hours.

Sarikei pau store 2007.
Merdeka Park Food Centre.
Modern stainless steel steamer.

Now knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is elastic. Make the dough into a long roll and divide it into pieces. Then flatten each piece to form a thin circle. The center of the circle should be thicker than the edge. Place one portion of the filling in the center of each dough circle. Wrap the dough to enclose the filling by pinching the edges. Let the paus rest for 10 min on a square piece of white paper and steam the paus for 12 minutes. Full recipe here. How many of you have tried eating the crumbs off the pau paper?

Sarikei pau hawker 2007.
Kept warm in a bamboo steamer.
Nyelong River Vegetables Market.

The most popular filling has to be that of the fluffy big bun (大包) with its pork, mushroom, spring onions, white pepper, corn starch, sesame oil and a slice of hard boiled egg. How do you know the fillings of the smaller type of buns without opening them? They are denoted by different coloured dots made of permitted food colours. eg: roast pork buns (char siu pau 叉燒包) , red bean paste bun and lotus seed paste bun. Are you the type that eat around the pau till you have just the fillings held by two layers of the dough, i.e. leave the best for last?

Big pau, 2007.
(This was not from the Merdeka Park stall as the pau was not ready)

Big pau, 2007
(This was not from the Merdeka Park stall)

Now please excuse me. I have to strike when the iron is hot. *Slurp.*


JW said...

hey!!! Nice post!!! I haven't tried that stall before. Maybe I should do when I go back for CNY very soon. Anyway, I thought the best pao (meat pao) is the one located besides "LongFong" (translate to Dragon Pheonix) restaurant opposite Methodist Primary. Theirs "nuk pou" (meat pao) used to be my favorite. I heard it's a family business started by their father (who passed away long times ago).

jimonge said...

wahseh, saw the pau, my stomach is grumbling now! hahaha.. like what jw said, have to enjoy the pao during CNY!

Lidasar said...

I am sorry but to me Sarikei's Bao is low quality. Is just something to fill an empty stomach and nothing close to satisfying taste buds. Far from the Juicy and mouth watering Char Siu Bao & Xiao Long Bao that found in more demanding Chinese society where you could still recall and dream of the experience the next day. Hope I didn't offend anyone.

In the old days before the war there was a Hong Kong styled restaurant at the wooden shop house where now 金山Kim San coffee shop is located. The name of the restaurant was called 一四七 and if you ask the old town elder who are in there 80s they would probably tell you fond memories of this outlet where items such as Char Siu Bao was available. The block was demolished to give way to the concrete block that we see now. I guess that could be the best Bao Sarikian experienced, please ask the town elder if they can still recall.

kanga said...

I understand the angle where Lidasar is coming from. My favourite pau in sarikei is still the vegeterian type (chai pau) and eat it as fresh as possible. I think to make good pau you need top grade flour and that is not cheap. When I visit Sarikei and eat pau I always recall this Cantonese whose early morning 'dok-dok-dok' sound of mincing the ingredients......

jw said...

Wow ... I guess different generations have their favorite stall of 'bun' ... I had no idea of this 一四七 mentiioned by lidasar ... from the way he described it, i would love to try out the cha siew pao (which is very common & second to siao long pao) ;) ... Thanks for the sharing!!

BTW, the toast 'butter' bun from longfong (used to be) is another favorite of mine ... man ... i can go on & on of my favorite food which can only be found in Sarikei ...

WinnieT said...

Sarikei pau is still the best! Long live Sarikei pau!!! ....maybe the fillings can be improved, but the pau itself is definitely better than many (most) places.

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