Saturday, September 29, 2007

Kom Piang and the making of a fortune

It is round, it has a hole in the middle, it is hard ,crusty but easy to chew and the more you bite the more you will like it! It can roll on the floor, and you can string several together and eat them through out the day!

What is it??? It is the super bun or "piang" of the Foochows - Kom Piang. For several hundred years we Foochows have been enjoying this and the taste has been reported to have not changed. Its simplicity is its forte. However if you don't have the secret recipe, you can't make it.

You can get this in Sitiawan in Perak, West Malaysia and in Sibu, Sarawak.

These "flying saucer shaped" buns or piang had saved an area of Fujian from invading enemy troops many centuries ago. A Foochow general thought of a way to save his army and his people from these invaders . According to the legend, he invented the bun which was multi functional, versatile, easy to carry so that his army could carry and eat them easily.

The local population also benefitted from this newly invented bun. When the enemies attacked them, they were ready with their rations and no cooking was necessary for many days.

The bun was considered "indestructible" and whole region was saved from the barbarians coming in from the North. Ultimately the enemy was defeated.

The Foochows brought them to Sibu and Sitiawan in Perak when they settled in this part of the world in the early 1900's.

In our modern time, this flatted bun is stuffed with pork fillings and comes in many versions ; with sesame seeds, with hole and without and is best taken fresh from the oven . As befitting its awesome reputation it can be stored in a freezer for ages and reheated weeks/months later ( but strictly no microwave please). It can be strung with raffia or vegetative strings and hung over your shoulders and this will definetely make you look like an ancient warrior !

It must be properly stored or else it becomes rock hard and it has been known to kill a dog even.

Our family's best loved story related to kom piang is as follows:

Our old uncle Lau Nai Huat was a well known frugal rubber tapper. Each trip he made to Sibu to sell his rubber sheets and scraps, he would but 10 cents worth of kompiang and eat them (like potato chips) in the cinema where he would enjoyed a 60's movie,probably starring Lin Dai or Yu Ming. Every visit to the town then for him was a very frugal outing. He saved all his money for his sons and grand children.
In this way, he was able to save enough to invest in the timber industry later. And in no time he was a millionaire.

He was already a legend before he died. Indeed he lived a long and healthy life. He was also known to have very good dental health as he had a lot of chewing exercises with kompiang.

In later days, when we were young, we were told to be frugal like him and eat a lot of kompiang.

But nevertheless, kompiang is to the foochows what pizzas are to the Italians.

addtional note:

In 1562, the Japanese invaders infringed upon Fukien distinctly, Qi Jiguang received order to go into Fujian to destroy the enemy, got to complete victory greatly. Before the Qi's soldiers go in south, in order to made march quickly, they made into a round flat cake with the flour, dogged one bore in the center, the string hanged in the warriors' body, which were taken as the marched dry ration food. People of Fuzhou make copy competitively in order to be in honor of Qi's a signal feat, call it as the Guangbing, become a habit, become the favorite food of people of Fuzhou. When make the Guangbing use fried pot firstly, later change into the Tie stove, make the Guangbing be joss-stick, loose and delicious. The Hongshanqiao is a land-and-water transportation main route of Fuzhou, the friendly intercourse of persons are many, the price of Guangbing is low and it can bear hungry, so people who buy it are too many, supply falls short of demand every day, they make and sell at the same time, feel hot when hand over it, it is more welcome by buyers. So it spreads fame the far and near.

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