Can you remember when was the first time you ever had store bought baos (steamed buns) or baozi?
When I was very young and living in the Hua Hong Ice Factory house across the river from Sibu my father brought back a pack of baos from Kuching. He had arrived in the afternoon by Malayan Airways. That was pretty swanky I must say. The baos from Hock Hai (Kuching) were so good then. And for old times' sake I still like dropping by Hock Hai in Kuching nowadays. The quality of the baos has dropped a little. Or does nostalgia play a role in determining vintage quality?
Recently this banner caught my sight in Kuching and I was very amused. Is there such as thing called Foochow Big Pau? Pau is the Foochow pinyin of the word in Mandarin - Bao. And this photo has brought me to a discussion on the differences between a big bao and a small bao.
Many would ask : What is the difference between Big Bao and Small Bao? Size of course makes a difference. The big bao has more filling too and the small char siu has a sweet red cooked filling.
Is there a difference between Foochow Big Bao and any other Big Bao?
The big pao or bao is made from 60 gm of dough and is filled with a quarter egg with a piece of chicken and mushroom. In addition there is another slice of pork or minced pork. The filling is seasoned with oyster sauce. It is more savoury than the char siu pao which is on the sweeter side.
Actually the same dough is used for both although some gourmets believe that the big bao or tai bao should be made with a heavier dough and the char siu can do with what the locals call Hong Kong dough which is lighter and can therefore hold a smaller amount of filling.
Below is the Amy Yip Bao which is probably the biggest in Malaysia (only available in KL). It is highly recommendable. The filling is excellent. That is probably the Cantonese Big Bao.
This is Diana Chang who is in an advertisement for char siu Baos....
The homemade or handmade Foochow bao is the small type and the filling is frugal . It is made of bamboo shoots and some minced meat . In addition some bits of dried mushrooms and long beans are added to add weight to the filling. I rather think that it is on the sweet side. The dough is not fluffy like the Hong Kong dim sum bao or light like the Shanghai bao. The filling can be even just salted vegetables without meat. We used to call the onions in our home made buns as "pretend meat".
Our Foochow bao has a home made texture of its own. The Foochows call the skin "nuong nerng" or " giing nung" which can be translated as tangible and soft. Bao skin cannot be "bian" ie flattened. We do not like to bite into nothingness like the texture of some of the locally made bread.
In the final analysis it is hard for any one to pin point exactly what one likes about his or her bao.
I like to have baos brought home by a father for the whole family to share. That makes all the difference .
Baos is what it says....love wrapped up in a dough.
There was a case in Sibu once . A poor Iban father from the ulu was so desperate in getting a bao for his young baby to eat that he simply took one from the shop. In Kapit or Belega he might have been given a free one. In his ignorance he did not know that theft is a very serious crime. He was hauled into the police station nearby and was put in jail for six months! In contrast a bus driver who got a girl killed only paid a fine of RM500 and had his licence endorsed. In this - you can say a bao is more than life.
But then would you give an arm and a leg for a good bao?