Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sitiawan's Gong Pian

Sitiawan town.
"You can only get this biscuit in Sitiawan."
That is according to my friend, Looi when he took me for a short trip around the town by car. Well, we were actually on our way to Lumut, and we passed by the town to grab this famous biscuit. Gong Pian a.k.a Gong Pia a.k.a Kwang Ping, depending on what dialect you are using, it refers to the same thing. It is Foo Chow in origin, and you can get this biscuit in Foochow in China, or either in Sitiawan in Perak or Sibu in Sarawak, where a relatively huge number of Foo Chow people in these places.
Sitiawan Cheong Cia Gong Pian.
This corner-lot shop is located in a small lane among the shop houses in the middle of the town, along Jalan Tok Perdana, just behind Wisma Ganda. The popularity of this biscuit is not in doubt, as there were already people lining up to grab the hot and crispy biscuit fresh from the heated oven or tandoor when we walked towards the shop.
It is an age-old family business, run by two brothers who took over from their granduncle more than ten years ago.
Those are not gong pians, but some other kind of biscuits sold in the shop.
They also sell red-wine used in cooking the red-wine mee sua, and also the all-time favourite Kampung Kok chilly sauce.

When I took out my camera to snap a few pictures of the shop, one of the guy called me over to have a closer look at the process of making the gong pians. My friend told me that they were not really comfortable with people taking pictures of their shop in the past, but it is a totally different thing nowadays. Today, they are more than happy for people to promote their biscuits in the form of food review in blogs.
That is like a free advertisement, and who will reject that kind of advance.
I was standing outside the shop, until he asked me to go inside.
The biscuits are made from wheat flour, yeast, salt and lard. The dough is kneaded carefully by hand before it is put into a machine to be rolled. It is later flattened and rolled into smaller pieces, stuffed with the fillings and deftly rolled again with a rolling pin into a parcel. There are two types of fillings, either chopped onions or char siew (pork lard). Once done, they are pasted into the inner walls of the heated oven (tandoor) where they are baked for a few minutes until they are hard and crispy.
The baker has to lay the flat dough in neat rows in the sweltering heat of the oven, then sprinkle some water over the biscuits to make sure they don't get burnt, and heat them up evenly before flipping them over to hear up the other side. It is indeed not an easy process.
This is how neat they arrange the biscuits inside the oven.
Interestingly, the gong pians will cling on the walls and not fall off the oven, just like naan. Each oven can only accommodate 50 pieces of gong pian and there are only two ovens in operation at any one time. On average, they made about 1,000 biscuits in a day, and the first batch is ready for sale by ten in the morning. Three batches are made and every single biscuit is snapped up even before the shop closes for the day in the evening.
The baked gong pians are later removed and placed on the table top to be cooled by a table fan.
Gong pians, gong pians in the oven, where are you?
Okay, here you are.

The timing was just perfect when we were there, because the first batch was almost done and after waiting for a while, we got to eat freshly baked gong pians. It is best to eat it while it is still hot and crispy, as the biscuit will get tough and chewy. I bought back some for my family at home, although they would not taste the same anymore.
The onion-filled biscuits cost 60 sen each while the char siew ones cost 90 sen each.
Hot and crispy Gong pians.
They may not look like something that taste great to the naked eye. However, taking a bite into one piece of gong pian immediately after it is taken out out the clay oven and you taste bud will convince you otherwise. It is extremely addictive as well, because we continued eating one piece after another of the biscuit on our way to the beach after that, that I had to stop myself from finishing the remaining ones meant for my family. Just one reminder though; the biscuit is heaty and it is better to take more water after eating the biscuits, especially if it is a hot day.
I didn't care much, because I ate three pieces of gong pians in one shot on that day.


ns29 said...

maybe can try making this for next kosensai?

Anonymous said...

Opss...Something from my hometown... Cant wait to go back there next year.. Thanks for the update... Cheers mate..

Tau Sar Phneah said...

great intro...although i havent try it myself...i rememberd it was featured in one of the food programme in one of the tv show in msia..

Endoru said...

There, finally. :D
Damn, I miss "Gong pian"s.
The other cookies are called "Gu sok", which literally means "cow rope".
It is a favorite in Sitiawan.

Ah, Perak.
Kampong Koh Cili Sauce, my relative's business it seems. :D
Goes good with anything but especially with "Loh Mai Kai" and "Siew Mai"s.
"Gong pian, gu sok and ang jiu".

specialhuman said...

I tasted some in my trailblazer trip too however it became hard already. Anyway the one in Kuching was small and cute (I posted it in my kuching post too.)

Well, gonna grab some fresh from oven kom piah in Sibu next time :)

kh said...

that ayer tawar picture and sitiawan pic looks the same

calvin said...

@ ns29:
no, it seems unlikely. we won't be able to get the huge oven to bake the biscuits.

calvin said...

@ anonymous:
i'm sure it makes you feel like going home, right? ;)

calvin said...

@ tau sar phneah:
it was my first time trying it as well. apparently, it is quite famous that there are tv programs that made reviews on this biscuits before :)

calvin said...

@ endoru:
just like what i've promised :)

on that biscuit called gu sok, are they the ones seen in the third and forth picture?

you know what? i brought back one bottle of kampong koh chili sauce to japan the other day. can't wait to have them =)

calvin said...

@ specialhuman:
the hot and crispy ones are easily ten times nicer than the hard ones. it is just different and you should try them when they are just taken out of the oven ;)

by the way, i had another look on your kuching post and it seems that the gong pian that you had there is shaped like a doughnut with a hole in the middle.

calvin said...

@ kh:
this is not a spot-the-difference game lah. anyway, there are still different. the picture in sitiawan has a malaysian flag xD

Endoru said...

Yeah, the ones in pic 3 & 4.
That chili sauce goes with anything.
Enjoy it !

MichelleG said...


Bik Ee said...

gongpian?haha..look different wif the one i hav in Sibu!but...sitiawan got many foochow rite?foochow food a lot..

calvin said...

@ endoru:
shoot, i should have got some of the cow's string that day. never mind, i will make sure i get them the next time i visit the place :)

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
we visit sitiawan one day, okay? =)

calvin said...

@ bik ee:
i would like to try sibu's version of gong pian if i got the chance. yes, sitiawan is a foo chow area and everyone there speaks the dialect. too bad i could hardly understand them >.<

Shamanti J. said...

Wei that gong pias looks sedap kan
..but kat Sitiawan?..hmm....macam malas jer wanna go all the way there. u think can get in KL ka?

calvin said...

@ shamanti j.:
yes, it is really good. unfortunately, i doubt you will find it in kl. this is the fascinating thing about traveling because you can only get a certain stuff at that particular place and that makes the trip extra special :)

Horlic said...

I miss Gong Pian

calvin said...

@ horlic:
this post almost four years ago reminds me of gong pian too xD