For as long as I can remember, I grew up eating “pa-ong” as a kid. (Maybe that’s why I’m like a ‘pa-ong’ now! Hahaha) … My grandma and my eldest aunt (ma-yee) used to make it on regular basis. We’d hardly buy any bread. And we’ll always have a fermented tub of yeast ready in the fridge ready to be used at anytime.
When I was away in Australia studying, to keep her busy and to “earn my pocket money” (in her own words), my mom decided to make pa-ong to sell. She adapted her pa-ong recipe from my grandma’s and perfected it. She did it so well that she became a household name. She would also get orders from friends who’d order 20-30 plates when they travel to visit families or friends overseas. So her pa-ong had travelled to places she has never been to before, like US and the UK.
So what makes ‘pa-ong’ different from the store-baked sweet rolls?
For one, It’s HANDMADE – the texture is different from those machine made. Trust me, we’ve tried as my mom used to sell ‘paong’ in KTrg (in fact she made quite a name for herself in the late 1990s/ early 2000s). There’s just no easy way out.
Secondly, it’s baked in the enamel-coated tray. Those aluminum baking tray just doesn’t make give it the same texture because ‘paong’ needs to have a nice crunchy crust at the bottom. That’s the best part of the bun!
Third, because of the shape of the enamel tray, you’d associate ‘paong’ with that round shape – in 18-21 pieces. Today, when you visit KTrg town, you can see it being sold in many other sizes and ‘shapes’ such as rectangle (probably baked in bread loaf tray) – and in my personal opinion, it’s just not it.
And lastly, during my grandma’s days, the paong is baked using charcoal. According to my aunt, that would give it an even more softer texture. But I reckoned temperature control would be even more difficult.
So depending on the flour, the heat of the oven, it seems that you may get different texture of the bread. What my mom made in KTrg, using the flour there and her own oven at home, she can’t seems to replicate it here in my home in Spore using my oven, or maybe it’s just not her home!
Paong is also a very “flexible” food – it can be eaten plain, with extra butter, with kaya, with peanut butter, with jam, dunked in milo or coffee or tea. It can be made plain without any filling, or you can filled it with butter (most common and most well-liked), with “inti” (syrup shredded coconut), with ‘sambal ikan” (same as that you find in pulut lepa). And if your paong dough doesn’t rise, you can turn it into ‘paong chien” … fried paong!!! And believe me, this is even more yummy!
Pa-ong: Terengganu Sweet Breadroll (Source: Grandma’s recipe and perfected by mom)
200g plain flour
100ml water (room temp – NOT hot/ warm water)
1/8 tsp dried instant yeast
Dissolve sugar in water. Add in yeast and egg. (Dont have to beat the egg). Just cracked it and stir it in with your fingers till well mixed. Leave it for about ½ hour for it to ‘bubble’. Slowly add flour and knead till the dough is soft and that the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers. Leave the dough for a few hours, covered with a cloth.
Divide into 18-21 pieces and knead into small pieces. Knead using your fingertips till you see a “glossy” skin.
(When you want to knead individually, you should grease your finger lightly with butter/ margarine – helps so that dough doesn’t stick stick to the fingers). Wrap a small knob of frozen butter in the dough and close the end of the bun (almost like how you’d make ‘pao’ but upside down).
Generously grease the enamel–coated tray* with margarine/ butter and arrange the dough in circles in the round baking tray. Leave the dough to rise. Once the dough rises (about 6-8hrs later) bake in high heat (about 200-210C) for about 15 mins or till the bun is golden brown.
Note 1: Make sure you twist it tight before you turn it down and place it on the tray, or else the butter will leak out when baking. And also, do not push the butter too far deep into the center. When you overturn it, if it’s too near the top and the dough is too thin, the dough will break during baking and again leaking the butter out from the top.
Note 2: * this is prob one of the reason that gives ‘paong’ that tasty crunch!
Note 3: To ensure bottom of bun is also ‘brown’, I’d usually bake it on the bottom lowest (or 2nd lowest) rack in the oven and at the last 1-2 min, I’ll bring it up to the top most rack to allow the surface of the bun to brown
Today, grandma (my mom) to make it for my 2 girls whenever they ask for it. Although I’ve tried making this a few times under my mom’s guidance, it is still not as “perfect” as hers…. Will keep on trying!