coconut recollection

those good ole’ coconut buns from our childhood are a rarity these days but you can count on ban guan foong bakery to keep rolling out fresh loaves, as they have for more than five decades now.

there are no shops, restaurants or kopitiams in its immediate vicinity. not that you’d expect there to be any for at a glance, the single-storey wooden structure, its facade painted a pastel green, blends right in with its neighbouring chinese new village homes. a peek inside reveals a living room-like area that could well belong in any malaysian chinese home: vintage marble armchairs settled around a round table with a marble top in front of a cabinet supporting a prayer altar. at the same time, there are few indications that this is not a typical residential: the folding doors, the occasional car or motorcycle that pulls up to its porch in the late afternoons only to leave a short while later. if you look carefully, these transient visitors never leave without a plastic bag (or bags) in hand, filled with baked goods that they will enjoy later that evening or more likely, the next morning at breakfast.

for over 50 years now, ban guan foong bakery has been faithfully feeding ipoh folks with their traditional hainanese loaves and coconut buns, both evergreen favourites that have long been weaved into the fabric of traditional malaysian cuisine. and yes, this old school bakery only bakes and sells these two types of breads. on the wall, the ‘menu’ lists them simply as ‘big bread’ and ‘small bread’.

the former are loved for their dry, thick crusts and chewy texture, great for dipping into freshly brewed kopi o or a chunky curry. malaysians who grew up in the 1980s or earlier would remember the latter well, a childfood favourite that was just as popular among older folks as they’re wholesome, filling and easy to digest. these square buns are similar in texture to the hainanese breads, and are filled with desiccated coconut cooked in brown sugar.

biting into either, or both, of ban guan foong’s offerings and you’ll take one step back in time.

 

50 jalan sultan, pasir pinji, ipoh tel +605 321 3891 opens from 6pm, mon-fri; from 2pm, sun; closed sat