Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hui Bah (bundles of fire) and Papa Hemingway


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The biscuits or fried dough or even plait pastry in the photo are called Hui Bah in Foochow (Fuzhou dialect) and according to my grandmother it is called so by the Foochows because it looks like a bundle of fire starter. Whenever the Foochows ,during the pioneering days and even until the 1950's ,needed to light a wood fire they had to twist some twigs or dried grass together to make a fire starter.

To me this biscuit does look like a bundle of twisted twines or twigs.

It is made from a very simple flour and egg dough. The baker would roll out two long pieces of dough and then cut them into smaller pieces. He would then twist two small pieces together and deep fry them . Finally he would roll them in icing sugar or crystalised sugar syrup. The shop made ones last a long time actually because they are fried until very brittle. Home made ones are less hard or brittle especially if butter and more eggs are added to the dough. Today they are packed in small plastic bags and sold at a fairly good price of RM2.00. In olden days our parents would buy them from the shops in big quantities and then keep them in biscuit tins so that they did not become soft.

We bought quite a lot in the olden days and we usually had them when we did our homework at night. Perhaps this was because chewing the hard biscuits helped us to keep awake. On the other hand the sugar coating was sweet and in the days when chocolates and good sweets were not so readily available,these hui bah were the closest to sweets and desserts. It was also a very good exercise in chewing and biting.

Recently I chewed a few bundles of fire when I re-read Hemingway and like in the olden days, I did not fall asleep while reading. Brought back the good old days when we enjoyed doing our homework.

I* was sure on fire for good literature.

A Recipe for Hui Bah or something similar called Plait biscuits (this you can make at home)

Source :

Ingredients for the plaits:

300 gm. plain flour
2 Tbsp. rice flour
50 gm. cornoil
140 gm. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Instant yeast
1/2 tsp. baking powder
20 gm. sesame seeds

Sugar syrup:

120 gm. coarse sugar
85 gm. water
20 gm. plain flour


(1) Mix all the ingredients for the plaits together and rest for 20 mins.
(2) Roll into long rope and then twist it into plaits.
(3) Fry the twisted plaits in oil until golden brown. Dish out and set aside.
(4) Cook the sugar and water till thick and then pour in the fried plaits.
(5) Fry till sugar almost crystalise and then sieve plain flour onto the plaits and fry till sugar crystalised.
(6) Dish up, leave to cool and keep in air tight containers.

Please tell me if it works for you!!

or you can just go down to the nearest supermarket and buy a packet.

3 memories:

James TC Wong said...

Wow! Great recipe sharing!

Bengbeng said...

wow u have lots of quality content especially in yr memories category. i mainly blog rubbish every day stuff. basically mayb bcoz i havent experienced as much as u have

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Dear James,

Great to share something good with others.

Memories are good and they can be shared with those who like them. Good and bad experiences can only enrich our lives. We need to take them out once in a while and look at them with new light. In this way bad memories might even become good memories!!

Cheers to memories.


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