3rd Generation Hainanese ‘Pau’ Makers – Authenticity GuaranteedMay 21, 2011 | 5,853 views
*The original article appeared in the May edition of I.M. – a one of a kind, reader-powered lifestyle magazine. Go grab a copy from your favourite bookstore; for RM3.50 each.
It’s disheartening to see the youngsters nowadays, rushing for nothing but empty calories in the form of fast food, frozen pre-packed foodstuff, greasy unrecognizable morsels and eating in the malls for the sake of convenience more than anything. And yes, even when the price is a few folds more expensive compared to the real deal out there.
You can barely hear about stories on how people travel far and wide, going on food hunts to the rural outskirts of the city, or appreciating a good old feast cooked from the freshest of ingredients from the wet market, or noodles fried with charcoal fire in a most labour-intensive manner, or even biscuits/breads baked NOT in electronic/microwave ovens, but utilizing the most traditional of means.
Talk about Kalumpang, a small town in Hulu Selangor and chances are the young ones will be scratching their heads in a puzzled manner. I don’t blame them, for I myself was one who has never heard of this place that reminded me of Sungkai; an equally small town in Perak where I used to visit when I was small. Only until the time when I passed by Tanjung Malim en route to Kuala Lumpur, that we decided to venture off the beaten track, and into the wild, so to speak. A road less traversed equals a gem worth discovering, usually ……
True enough, the GPS pointed us to this coffee shop named Cheong Fong. Supposedly good for the steamed buns (‘pau’ as we call them) in the late afternoons and curry laksa in the mornings. Half-expecting the shop to resemble the commercialized Yik Mun in Tanjung Malim (also famous for their pau, but gone upmarket now with frozen ones in supermarkets!), imagine our surprise when coming across the façade of this place; an old, pre-war shoplot still reasonably well-preserved until this very day. Judging from the exterior and interior of this shop, its legacy has definitely run for more than half a century.
A fact to which the current owner; Jack Tan, acknowledged and proudly explained about the shop’s rich 70 years-odd history, and he’s the 3rd generation running the business. A whirlwind tour around the kitchen revealed that they still steam the ‘pau’ like the olden days; and don’t expect fancy fillings here.
Only 4 types are available here; kaya (coconut egg jam), BBQ pork, curry vegetables and dessicated coconut. The fluffy creations are only available from 12.30pm onwards, so don’t expect a cup of steaming hot coffee and fresh, fluffy buns in the mornings just yet.
However, they are equally famous for their curry laksa in the morning. Or you can go for the nasi lemak in packets; sourced locally. An interesting note here; the rice used is from the glutinous version; hence the sticky quality of the grains. Still, this is worth a few mouthfuls and goes perfectly with the Hainanese tea or coffee.
Or you can order their toasted or steamed Hainanese bread, served with a dollop of their homemade kaya, and a block of frozen butter. Very classic, as you don’t see the modern kopitiams serve their breads in this manner anymore.
Since Cheong Fong’s famous for the ‘pau’, let’s talk about the highlight of the lunch-tea time we had that afternoon. Of all the four flavours; I was really into the ‘char siew’ (BBQ pork) filling that was redolent with dark, caramelized chunks of pork packed in a moist, sweetish gravy. As old-school as it gets, the Char Siew Pau here deserves a nod.
The other savoury filling, with curry julienned yambean and carrot was delectable too, with crunchy bites of vegetables stuffed into the fantastic dough. Good to note that the pau’s dough did not stick to the teeth, or too dry. Good texture, and moist enough. Best to be consumed straight from the steamers.
The sweet varieties were passable, though I have always preferred savoury over sweet fillings. The sweetened dessicated coconut version was notable for the bountiful of fillings, but I found them to be slightly sweeter than desired.
Sadly, we missed the curry laksa this time around. However, we foresee a future visit when we’re on the road going northbound. After all, Hulu Selangor ain’t that far from city centre. Just spend an hour or so and you’ll reach this small, almost forgotten town from KL city.
Question is; are you willing to sacrifice the comfort of air-conditioning and convenience of free Wifi, and embark on a journey on the bumpy roads to reach this serene, charming town in the middle of nowhere?
Cheong Fong Coffee Shop
No 12, Jalan Besar Kalumpang,
Opens from early morning until evening only.