These long steamed buns with alternating layers of peanut and red bean paste (some offer kaya – coconut custard too) is a signature of Sitiawan.
Like I’ve said before in my post, the folks in this area (Ayer Tawar and Sitiawan) love their pastries (gong pia), buns (brown baked ones) and steamed buns (white steamed bao) which includes these pillow shaped ones.
I have no idea how a small town like this sustains so many bakeries that pretty much make the same pastries, but go late to any bakery in Sitiawan and you will be told that all gong pia/bao/pillow buns are sold out.
So yes, the folks around here seem to eat a lot of bread!
I wouldn’t say that these thousand layer pau/pillow buns tasted amazing, but they are part and parcel of what Sitiawan is, and to experience Sitiawan, one must partake in the local delicacies right? 🙂
As a fan of steamed buns (anything white, steamed and soft) I was excited to try these long pillow buns.
My friend Yungsen (YS) had to time our visit to each outlet just so that we would get our stock. Arrive too early you will be told to wait as the bao are not ready yet, too late you risk walking away empty-handed.
The famous outlet to get these is in Yee Si but it was closed when I was in town, so YS bought me to Shuan Fu instead.
Just like your standard round bao, the pillow bao was soft and fluffy with an airy, cottony texture. It was a simple but pleasurable snack; a tad sweet on its own and flavoured with well, depending on the fillings you choose – coarsely ground peanuts and sugar filling or Kaya or red bean. It works perfectly as a cheap sustenance.
BELOW: Sitiawan/Ayer Tawar famous pillow, thousand layer pau/bao from Siew Hua Biscuits, a nearly 70-year old bakery now run by the 3rd generation.
The dough doesn’t stick to the top of your mouth nor your teeth.
As with most pastries, it is best eaten freshly made or within the day itself. But if you have to buy them home and savour them over a few days, just seal them tight, pop them into the chiller/freezer and steam them after thawing.
Now, where can you buy these fluffy kaya/red bean/peanuts pillow buns or fresh, handmade baos in Ayer Tawar/Sitiawan?
Here are some shops to visit the next time you are in Sitiawan/Ayer Tawar:
1. Kedai Hock Chuan – Bakery
Kedai Hock Chuan is a small shoplot in the middle of a commercial block with a tiny, decrepit signboard. Locating it is a challenge but thankfully I have YS as a local guide so that did ease the food hunting process a lot!
Only vegetable bao was left that day when we swung by so I’ll have to make do.
I’m not a fan of vegetables in a bao because I find eating stir-fried radish with soft bao dough weird. We bought one to try and I am happy to report that the fillings were tasty yet non-greasy and the bao was soft and cottony.
Yes, it was good. Kedai Hock Chuan also sells tong shui (Chinese sweet dessert soups) and particularly famous for their loh mai kai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken) but unfortunately it was sold out that day.
NOTE: A week later, YS tapau-ed (bought) me the red bean, peanut, vegetable (again), meat and BIG (taibao) bao for me!
Prices for these ranges from RM1.00 – 3.00 (big bao).
I enjoyed these as they were not overly sweet (in the case of the peanut and red bean) and the savoury ones were substantially packed with ingredients.
Tai Bao (big bao).
And I finally got to try their famed loh mai kai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken)! It was not overly greasy or salty and the rice was nicely soft but not mushy. Recommended! 🙂
福泉 Kedai Hock Chuan
129 Jalan Besar
32400 Ayer Tawar, Perak
Tel: +60 5-672 4015
Hours: Please call to ask but it is usually 1 pm – 4 pm daily.
2. Restoran Yee Si
Now Yee Si the “the bao shop to go to” in Kg Koh, Sitiawan particularly for the thousand layer pillow bao.
It was closed when I was in Sitiawan so I’ll have to revisit soon. Besides takeaway, you can enjoy freshly fried noodles and your bao with beverages in Yee Si.
80, Jalan Lin Chen Mei
32000, Sitiawan, Perak
Hours: 7 am – 4pm, close on Sunday.
Tel : TBA
3. Shuan Fu 双福福州包
This was what I had – red bean and peanut. As you can see from the cross section, the dough was well-proofed as the bao was airy and tall.
Below is the red bean one.
NOTE: A month after my visit, YS bought me the other varieties from Shuan Fu to try. As below, there were peanut, kaya and red bean! 🙂
I like the pillow buns here – there’s symmetry in the shape and the fillings within the layers are quite even.
ADDRESS: 1014, Jalan Ling Sing Hang, 32400
Ayer Tawar, Perak.
Hours: 12:30 pm to sold out
4. Siew Hua Bakery
You can read more about Siew Hua in another post. I visited Siew Hua during the mooncake festival month so they stopped their usual bakes to make only mooncakes.
However I know that they do sell pillow buns as well.
Lucky me happened to be in Sitiawan during the mid-autumn festival so I got to witness the making of Foochow mooncakes. It was an eye-opening experience and it was my first time eating these mooncakes.
Foochow baked mooncakes are nothing like our Shanghainese, Teochew and Cantonese baked mooncakes. The fillings for the below consist of sugar, eggs, pork meat, lard, sesame seeds and flour.
Traditionally there are 3 varieties of Foochow mooncakes – the (1) salty type with minced pork filling, the (2) sweet type with green mung bean paste, and the (3) daintier shortbread-like biscuits that crumbles in the mouth (Pek Guek Tong Chiew pia).
This is the shortbread-like biscuits (Pek Guek Tong Chiew pia) that are made with shortening. I never liked shortening but once I popped one, I couldn’t stop! Somehow these hard biscuits were seriously addictive, not too sweet and aromatic.
Only available one month before the mooncake festival, the biscuits are packed in a layer of plastic, wrapped in light pink parchment and finally tied with raffia string with a top layer of printed pink paper that has their brand and logo. There are about 16 pieces per pack.
As per the image below, the pink packs are the Pek Guek Tong Chiew pia and the red ones are the Foochow mooncakes.
I do not know the prices as these were gifts. I really liked the old-school packaging. It is not fancy, but rather unique right? 🙂
NOTE: After the mooncake festival, YS bought me a variety of Siew Hua’s famous pillow bao/buns as below – red bean, peanut, kaya (coconut custard) and peanut and red bean combo.
I had the plain “donut” and sesame gong pia during my Ayer Tawar trip but those were nothing like the ones by Siew Hua as below.
Though thick, Siew Hua’s was nicely sweeten and soft to chew. Just like gong pia, toast it a bit before eating for the crispy top. However, as this is the bread-y type you can steam it too if you prefer it soft.
Siew Hua Biscuit,
488, New Village, Ayer Tawar, Perak.
Tel: +605 – 6724 870, 016 – 504 1363
So there you go – 4 outlets/shops/bakeries to buy famous Foochow pillow buns/thousand layer peanut bao in Sitiawan.
Have you tried them before? Which is your favourite? 🙂
PS: For gong pia, check out my list of best gong pia in Sitiawan HERE.