Kompia or Kwang Ping is a kind of plain unleaven bun (made only by the Foochows)which is round in shape with a hole in the middle. Fresh from the oven the crust is usually crunchy and covered with sesame. A little saltish in taste it is chewy nonetheless. Actually the more you chew the more you will like the bun.
It is one of the most popular snacks of the Foochows and is found in almost every place the Foochows have settled in. In Malaysia the kompia and some its variations is found in Sitiawan and Sibu especially where the Foochows first settled in the 1900's. Today the kompia is spreading far and wide where there is Foochow enterprise. And if you see Kompia you are assured that there is a Foochow Settlement nearby.
This little shop in Rejang Park in Sibu is operated by three young people who are energetic and systematic. Two of the bakers will roll and prepare the buns and the third young person is the front man who sells the kompia and collects the money. He is also the man who picks up the baked buns from the hot oven located right in the front of the shop. This threesome makes a very effective team. In no time the morning's business is over and a profit is made. The operation is completely done only in a ten by ten square feet of business space!
The photo shows the huge dough ready to be divided into small balls. Each ball is to be made into one little kompia. The green enamel bowl is a common bowl used by the Foochows for soup and even for measurement.
Here the small balls are ready for further kneading and flattening.
This is the Foochow rolling pin with a bigger part(to press the kompia into a round flat dough) and a small part (to make the small hole )
the young lady is skillfully flattening the dough. In a few minutes she can make many kompia. The quickness of the hand in making the kompia is always the most important part of the production line. If the kneading is too slow the dough will not be spongy enough.
These are the kompia ready for the oven.
This young man forms the other assembly line in the making of kompia. He is ever cheerful. I suppose he can make as many kompia as the girl with his eyes closed!! (This is the Foochow expression meaning a person is very good at his work.)
This is always the moment we are waiting for - the kompia is hot from the oven!! Chu Lu Loh!
A very modern shop sign. It means Fragrance for All Seasons. ( Reminds me of A Man for All Seasons.)
As I watched the threesome produce their kompia and took in the fragrance of dough baking mixed with the tantalising sweetness of fresh burning charcoal in the open oven I was reminded of my Grandfather Tiong Kung Ping who was always very careful with his money and very humble in his outlook . He would pick the rather maimed or distorted but cheaper kompia when he was a young father with many young children. In that way he could buy more for his money. The bakers in those days would always sell the "deformed ones" at a lower price. In fact when I was a kid walking to school I would stop by Wan Hin (No 1 Island Road) owned by the Toh family and I would too ask for the "ngaew ngaew" ones which were actually placed in a side basket. This meant that for ten cents I could get one or two more . Grandpa used to say - "the amount of flour (content) is the same - looks do not matter. It is important to be able to fill the stomach."
But to me even in those days that kind of bargain was a good one. So with such discounts we got more to eat!! We learned not to be choosy and difficult. He passed on a lot of wisdom to us especially about humility and frugality. At all times we must always stretch our dollar/ringgit to its limit and be careful with our spending. And always remember drive a good bargain.
Later in life I would give a home to some of the ugliest and unwanted dogs in the kennel and leave the good looking ones to someone else. These dogs turned out to be loyal and faithful guard dogs. This could be one of his influences.
Naturally today I still do not mind the badly formed kompia. There is something special in them. Just give me more!
(To my aunts and uncles and cousins please correct me/scold me if I am wrong...)