Wafts of Delicious Bakes
Just the mere mention of the name ‘Siew Pao’ (or Siu Pau/Pow) in Malaysia, the first thing that springs to the mind is ‘Seremban’. Yes this is the infamous place that produced and mass marketed the infamous Siew Pao, which was seriously delicious by the way, in such a way that they both now come together as a name, a brand even, that we Malaysians came to be acquainted to. Seremban dwellers would certainly have been at least asked before to buy these famous Siew Pao for sharing, while visitors of Seremban would certainly have (or even at least thought of) to pack some Siew Paos for self or as gifts. But this is actually quite a funny phenomenon, at least for me, because these Seremban Siew Paos are in fact available ubiquitously everywhere outside of Seremban. Yes, they have long ago venture out and franchises all over Malaysia, all from various companies originated from Seremban, and yet amazingly still manage to maintaine the same quality and taste throughout all of them. I have yet to even taste a ‘bad’ Seremban Siew Pao out here in Malaysia, in fact most do make the mark that distinguish the Seremban ones from the unnamed ones.
Photo from chowtimes
Siew Pao is actually Char Siew (bbq pork that I loved so much) that are wrapped in a crispy and flaky dough, which is then baked till golden brown. Though without much fact backing, I do believe that Siew Pao in general could have been originated from the Chinese Dim Sum, our famous Chinese version of It has nearly the same filling as its sister Char Siew Pao, but I feel that Seremban Siew Pao’s filling in general are more sweet and flavourful, in order to be able to also shine through its thick and hard dough. The dough is made with combination of oil dough and water dough, skilfully rolled together and then wrapped pleated around the fillings. As important the Char Siew filling is, the Siew Pao dough is equally as important to make or break a good and tasty Siew Pao. Some of the Siew Paos will have just plain Char Siew strips in the fillings while some have additional of green peas mixed in as well which will give an extra texture of soft powdery green peas and some green taste. Which fillings are more authentic I am not sure but both have its own uniqueness in taste that is worth the try.
I still remember the first time I get to taste these precious pastries. I was just a young kid then, possibly around 10 years old, the unassuming Seremban Siew Pao was set up as a franchise at Restaurant Soya (the restaurant that used to have the best popiah which I mentioned before). I remembered standing there in awe beside my mother, staring at the huge (although only one) metallic industrial oven that are exuding an addictively delicious aroma of pastries and sweet meats baking. Then I would see, with my big rounded unblinking staring eyes, rows and rows of these rounded dark brown pastries line up in trays ready to be sold. I remembered the first taste when I bit into it, I was sold – the sweet Char Siew meat in thin and short slices cooked in dark soy sauce and sugar, was a perfect match for the thick yet crunchy on the outer and flaky on the inner crust. Ah, I would say it was love at first bite. At that growing age, I can easily down a few pieces at one go, and mind you, at those times, these Siew Paos are really huge in size. After that, I am always excited when my mother mentioned to buy some Siew Paos, I would eagerly offer to help out, that is with her stopping by the roadside while I run down to the shop to pack a bunch of it, while enjoying the freshly baked smell at the stall, which then will linger in the car, in the house and on your fingers long after you have finished devouring them.
Photo from chowtimes
Over the years the Siew Pao has grown smaller in size gradually, possibly due to economic reasons. Most proprietors of Seremban Siew Paos had chosen to reduce the size but remain the price of around RM1. There were just a slight increase in the price since the days long gone, but the size had been tremendously reduced. Nevertheless, the quality and taste had remained so it is still worth all the indulgence, in fact now you can eat more pieces with less feeling of guilt, then again you might need more pieces to feel satiated, be forewarn as it is hard even after many pieces and nearly impossible to stop at one! There are various brands around as well but fret not that most of them, when touted from Seremban, are mostly scrumptiously good. If still unsure whether it is the right one, just look out (or rather smell out) for the discerning baking smell that will surely invoke one’s appetite.
If you are ever in Malaysia and ever stop by the quaint little town called Seremban, mind the traffic and heat though, do look out for Seremban Siew Paos at restaurants or even independent shops, there should be many obvious shops around town touting to sell this infamous Pao. While you are there, you can stop by to enjoy the really delicious Chicken Rice Balls, though this dish is more famous in Malacca, rest assured the one here is just as good if not better. But if you did not get to venture to Seremban do not worry, as I had said that these Paos had actually been setup all over Malaysia, so just look out for them at various Chinese eateries, clues are such as huge metallic industrial ovens and wafts of freshly baked sweet meats pastries, you cannot miss them!
Rokh is a food columnist on Malaysia Travel Guide, she’s an epicurean and a cook who loves to eat, also writes in her own Malaysia Food Guide – Thamjiak.com . In this column, she will bring you along while she explore various Malaysia foods, like what is good, what makes them so special and how or where to best well enjoy them. More [+]