Ipoh Famous Traditional Heong Peng @ Gunung Rapat – 189 vs Seng KeeFebruary 10, 2011 | 9,999 views
Good Rejects? – Just like an abundance of GOLD; a tray full of irresistible Heong Peng (fragrant biscuits) will just have to do for now. And who cares if the biscuits were not of top notch quality?
In the previous post, I did summarize some of the food haunts I have visited over the course of one week; when the festivities granted everyone with an opportunity to indulge (sinfully) without guilt for once. And of course, the aftermath’s deadly ….
To make Heong Peng of uniformed sizes and of the right texture, with a standardized dollop of molasses; this takes skills.
If you have been one loyal/keen/ardent follower of this blog (please make my day and nod in agreement!), you would have noticed that generally, I stick to eateries and confectioneries that still pride on their original roots; the most authentic of flavours can only be savoured if you’re using charcoal to fry your noodles, charred claypots to cook your claypot chicken rice, and nothing beats ‘heong peng’ (or heong peah) broiled in a specially constructed cement contraption fuelled by coconut husk.
So if you do not mind the extra miles taken to grab something of sentimental values, worthy of your effort (satisfaction guaranteed) of venturing all the way into the residential area of Gunung Rapat in Ipoh, then by all means, do read on …..
Flattened dough with the sweet, caramelized filling intact, and sesame seeds sprinkled on top before the broiling process in the special ‘ovens’
There was once when I was mildly in disbelief when Citygal informed me about this Seng Kee Trading that still makes their heong peng in their most stripped down, traditional manner. For I have not been a die-hard fan of heong peng any longer since my favourite Yee Hup shifted gears and moved to the realms of commercialization and mass production.
Baking the biscuits in an electronic oven produces generic, hardened pastries with a serious lack of character and aroma.
Watch in amazement (and perspire to no ends) how the biscuits get all browned, flaky and crispy within 15 minutes of being broiled in the hollowed cement contraption.
But that was more than a year ago. Seng Kee has been my top pick whenever friends, relatives, strangers and readers (see how I separate you guys from complete strangers? Hehe) asked me about good biscuits to take home, aside from kaya puffs from Sin Eng Heong and meat floss biscuits from Ching Han Guan.
Yat Pat Gao (189 in Cantonese) has been around for about 2 decades now, and among the more popular brands of Gunung Rapat classic homemade heong peng.
Until there was this time when the lady boss of Sin Eng Heong urged me to try a packet of 189 Heong Peng. It’s her favourite too, she claimed. And they’re selling them at their shop, aside from the many other biscuits and confectioneries there. Of course, if you can’t get a box of their insanely popular kaya puff, you can still settle for the other selections there.
The brand simply named ’189′ has been in business for about two decades now, significantly longer than Seng Kee, yet shorter than Yee Hup. Never one that pushes for intensive/aggressive marketing measures, the brand lays low and comes only to the knowledge of the privileged few; Motormouth notwithstanding.
For one, I did not even know about 189 until I have succumbed to the lure of Seng Kee. And then the other brands surfaced (or maybe i was a plain ignorant brat back then, only noticing the ones with all the glitters and cheers – Yee Hup, without even paying much attention to the less prominent yet significantly better ones) one by one, the other brand being 362 (hehe, creative?) on the main road of Gunung Rapat.
Completely embracing the essence of homemade; the heong peng from Gunung Rapat can’t get any more authentic than this.
With barely any expectation, I relented and got myself a pack of 189′s heong peng from Sin Eng Heong. Half-heartedly I untied the red plastic packaging and took out one piece to be consumed.
The acid test of a good heong peng? The flaky/crispy crust must be in a slightly oblong shape; slanting towards one end (you’ll understand why later in this post), and the pastry should stay crispy even after exposure to air. And don’t forget that droolworthy, sticky and sweet filling within; a combination of molasses, shallots, etc preferably not in a cloyingly sweet manner.
189 passed the test with flying colours. The crust may not be as crispy as Seng Kee’s, but definitely flakier and suits the elderly more. But the icing on the cake? The absolutely enticing fillings within. With a slight crunch from the caramelization, the liquid hardened to a layer of molasses permeated with the fragrance of shallots.
This has never been easy; as claimed by the boss of Seng Kee. About 150 pieces go in at one time, but some of the biscuits don’t stick and fell to the surface below. 15 minutes should be enough for the biscuits to get browned and ready for consumption.
But if you’re one who detests sweet stuff, and prefer your heong peng with a lower sugar content (read : less filling) then Seng Kee might be your preference. And Seng Kee does a crunchier crust with lesser filling, but still satisfying nonetheless.
Stacked up on the wooden platforms and ready to get baked.
At the end of the day, there can never be one sole winner in this one. And some still prefer Yee Hup’s aesthetically-pleasant creations boosted with an international recognition now. I am proud too, being a true blue Ipohan; to be seeing brands like Yee Hup and Old Town going the distance.
And then there will be the detractors, with preferences for heong peng from Teluk Intan or Taiping. I love Aulong’s version as much, so you’d better not count Taiping’s heong peng out of the equation!
Know why the odd shapes of the traditional heong peng? The baking/broiling process submits the dough to gravity’s force, pulling down the fillings within. Hence you get lopsided shapes with the molasses filling accumulated at one end.
Don’t judge the biscuits from the exterior. Though these ones from 189 were rejects, so to speak. Consequences from an overly confident Motormouth waltzing into the premise without prior reservation. So all I got were two packets of slightly distorted biscuits; at a better rate. Still, good enough for consumption and satisfied my cravings.
The sweet fillings alone made it worth the effort. Next time, I’d better call up before arrival. And no, I don’t get better treatment for being this random chap with a camera snapping away. She said it’s usual for people to come over from all corners and take photographs of their production team. Very media-friendly people at 189.
Got your attention yet? If not, then drop me a comment or an e-mail. I’ll make you a believer. I’ll tell you stories from my childhood days, of how I used to follow Mum to Yee Hup back when they were operating from the wooden shack on the same lane as Seng Kee’s. And if there’s ONE item you can’t miss to bring home, aside from pomeloes from Tambun and salted chicken from Aun Kheng Lim, it has to be the good old, traditional heong peng broiled with coconut husk.
Let’s preserve this novelty of a concept, and not let commercialization destroys this industry.
>> 189 (Yat Pat Gao Enterprise)
189, Lorong Gunung Rapat 5,
31350 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Telephone : 6016-560 9781 (Lew), 605-312 7033
>> Seng Kee Food Trading
177, Lorong Gunung Rapat 3,
Gunung Rapat, 31350 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Tel No : 605-312 0972. H/P No : 6012-507 0728
Seng Kee and 189 are situated almost back to back, so you can go for both and witness their production of the biscuits, buy few bags back and compare if you want.