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 黃家添代理商 (2nd shop at Block 5 Left, counting from Rejang River)
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).
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.
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?
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?
Now please excuse me. I have to strike when the iron is hot. *Slurp.*