Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

Monday, 3 December 2007

Long Live Artisan Breads

Even though eating oven baked breads is not really an Asian culture, years of living under the British yolk has made it an acceptable diet to Malaysian nowadays, especially since it is so convenient to prepare or purchase and consume. For me personally, when I tire of eating rice or noodles, a loaf of bread is an acceptable meal to satisfy my hunger and my younger daughter seems to have followed me in this eating habit. Thus it worries me when the price of bread has started rising in the past few weeks due to the uncontrolled pricing of enriched wheat, so much so that I fear the Roti Man may truly become an endangered species, following the ting ting sound that used to herald his appearance to your vicinity. As it is history may have already repeated itself, as a major modern bakery chain Bread History seems to have closed shop recently like Sunshine Bakeries in Malaysia in the 1980’s. So what fate may await the local artisan bakeries that still offer some old style breads that the young may not even know about. These artisan bakeries are basically small sized Chinese and Indian Moslems owned, though there may be some Malay bakeries in existence. Yet I include the venerable Federal Bakery of Kuala Lumpur as they still maintain their artisan bakery even though they actually have a bread factory of their own.

Shall I start with what used to be my favourite bread from Sunshine Bakeries? To the old timers out there, you may remember them as fluted rolls that are yellow coloured accordion bread that is so fluffy that you can eat on its own, forget what that jingle is singing about. Strangely when I googled for the fluted roll, the name of the bread does not seem to exist until I got lucky and found that its proper name is actually barrel bread or concertina loaf. This British or to be more exact English bread creation is even an endangered breed in its home turf, and only made by artisan bakeries there. Baked in specialised containers that gives it distinctive shape, thus is it any wonder than I only managed to locate only one bakery that still offer this bread, and for you still on the lookout for such bread it is at Southern Bakery in Jalan Pasar, KL. Those tins must be hard to come by nowadays. About the bread itself, even though it has lost its yellow colouring that I assume comes from the margarine or butter that it is supposed to be rolled with, it is still soft and flavourful though it cannot beat the taste of the old fluted roll. Economic considerations may have seen a reduction of its ingredients, as to say it is hard to sell would be a mistake as the last time I was there the rolls was flying off the shelves. That just goes to show there is still popular demand for this type of bread. As a bonus you can also find other types of old style rolls with various fillings in this bakery, and my other favourite is their steamed egg sponge cake (malai gao) that is another rare bakery item, though because this is not really a type of bread isn’t it so I will not dwell too long on it.

Meanwhile after reading about the availability of cream horns from Federal Bakery from this blog, I made the effort to visit the bakery some time ago and found that the picture exhibit was a bit further from the truth. Well compare the picture of the cream horn from that blog and the ones that I bought, and I wonder if I had gone on a bad baking day. Nonetheless the cream horn was still generous in its filling, though it could have been a little bit sweeter. The pastry should also have been more delicate and the addition of the cherry slices does not really add value other than aesthetics me guess. Well at least unlike some people I can still get some good cream horns from my Roti man, baked by an unknown bakery and worse still wrapped in anonymous packaging save for a small sticker giving its origins as from Anwar Bakery. This is the same type of cream horn that I used to get in my hometown Ipoh, and not like some cream horn that has yellowish appearance and taste to boot that is actually more readily available that I give a wide berth to. The problem is that this Anwar Bakery cream horn usually sells out by the time the Roti Man arrive, that if I really want some I have to order specially from the Roti Man. I usually buy a whole packet that contains five rolls, and this can keep for one week so I can have one a day. A neat trick is to keep it in the fridge so that the cream freezes like ice cream, as usually the case it will be last thing to be eaten. Thank god for the small blessing that these are still around for my enjoyment.

Another old school pastry that I can get from Federal Bakery is the sardine roll that should not be mistaken for the fried sardine filled sandwich bread that passes for one nowadays. This is real baked short pastry filled with sardine mix, and the taste is just heavenly. It has been a long time since I tasted one, as even my mom has long ago stopped making this at home. Those would have been topped with a varnish of egg giving additional oomph, and I am glad that Federal Bakery sticks to the recipe. So it is sad that their cream horn is not up to mark, otherwise I would make an extra effort to patronise their establishment to buy both of these beloved pastries.

Meanwhile please compare these old style Rusk bread. They actually are one and the same except the one with label was brought from the Roti Man while the other was bought loose from the bakery directly. At the bakery not only you can buy the Rusks based on the amount you want as it is sold by weight, they actually have different flavours that the Roti Man does not actually distribute. So for those who like these rusk breads, it is worth your effort to go the bakery rather than depending on the Roti Man. As for me, I personally don’t like it so it does not matter as those in my household who eats this Rusk actually prefer the original flavour. The reason being is that this is the original dunked bread, the dunking d's of old. Now at the end I will give my ode to the Roti Man. As you can see, there are still many types of breads like the finger breads and bread sticks in the picture that he can bring to your home that you may not be able to buy from the normal bakeries in this age of standardised fare. So pray that they will not disappear from the local scene totally, as you can already read on the net of so many who laments their departure from their neighbourhoods. Because I believe that once the artisan bakeries goes out of business, these Roti Man may find themselves being pushed out of the distribution network by the remaining large scale industrialised bakeries that usually have their own distribution vans.

No comments: