Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Legendary Biscuits from Pearl of the Orient

It was a tough time deciding what to write next following my seem-to-be-endless easter show posts. There are in fact many many many food I would love to share with you all, most of which are food I had eaten in the past few months or even from the past year! Sorry guys, not much adventure for the months of April and May here though. We were so busy that we hardly appreciate the food we eat. Now this is bad thing for a foodlover to say, don't you reckon?

Penang Tau Sar Pneah
♥ Gorgeous Looking Pastry
So where was I again? Oh, right, that I didn't know what to write about. So what I did was started looking through my photo album. There I noticed I had these gorgeous looking pastry photo sitting in my 2005 January album.

♥ tabeshimashita @ pinkcocoa's kitchen on some time in Jan
Top of TSP
Tau Sar Pneah
For those of you who are from Malaysia, you probably know by now that the two cute little pastries are the ever-famous pastry from Penang - Tau Sar Pneah (pronouced tao sa pia). When the name of Penang (also known as Pearl of the Orient) is mentioned, one would immediately thought of Penang Assam Laksa and Tau Sar Pneah, these are the two food you definitely couldn't have missed out on if you were visiting Penang.

I believe the term tau sar pneah is in Hokkien, meaning bean paste (tau sar) biscuit/cake(pneah). These slightly savoury biscuits are a type of traditional pastry originated from the province of Fujian, China.

Where did these yummy little pastry came from, you ask. If my memory served me right (doesn't this phase sound familiar, hehehe), I did mention a long while ago in January that ShinChan had a 2 weeks holiday in Malaysia (yes, without me! grrrr) and to compensate for my lost (?), he came back from Malaysia with my favourite pastry: Penang Tau Sar Pneah.

Ghee Hiang Tau Sar Pneah
Ghee Hiang Tau Sar Pneah
ShinChan was staying with a family of his Penang friend and the cute Dad of his friend brought him to Ghee Hiang, a Malaysian brandname built over a long history of 150years, and ShinChan was told that the tau sar pneah here are the best of the best on the island.

What we got here on the left are a box of normal sized tau sar pneah (RM$10 for 8 packs of 3 biscuits in each pack) and on the right a box of mini tau sar pneah (RM$9 for 8 packs of 4 mini biscuits in each pack). We all think it's a great bargain for the price and quantities. Look at the colouful drawings on the box, don't you think it's just lovely and adds to a touch of nolstagia?

The Penang biscuits have won our hearts over its distance relatives from Taiwan which can easily cost us more than double the price of these yummy little biscuits.

Inside of Big TSP
Tau Sar Pneah
Of course, it's not only the price that had won our hearts over. It's the combination of the sweetness of tau sar (bean paste) together with the savoury of lard and fried shallots that makes the little Penang biscuits so toothsome! Not to forget the fluffy and flaky pastry on the outside too.

I could barely remember the first time I had Penang tau sar pneah. I was probably still a tiny little primary school girl who has a thing for anything that is not main meal. It was only in high school that I fall in love with these sweet-savoury biscuits. An ex-student from Penang had given the college's overseas-student coordinator a big box of tau sar pneah and I was lucky enough to sneak one or two biscuits down! Ever since then, I could not forget the unique "bang" that got me so hooked.

The last time I had a Penang tau sar pneah was about 4 years ago when my best friend urged (or more like nudge/nag) her sister to bring her boxes of Malaysian mooncakes on her trip to Sydney. The sister brought her one large box and the few lucky ones were each given a piece of tau sar pneah and not more even if you asked for it. So you can tell how good these little Penang tau sar pneah are - so good that it won precedence over friendship!

Inside of Small TSP
♥ Mini Tau Sar Pneah
The mini tau sar pneah are made for people, particularly the ladies with a smaller appetite or those who prefer a smaller bite size. It's just perfect for me not because I prefer smaller bite size nor was it for my small appetite but because the fact that I feel like I get to eat more with the the smaller size. :p

The little black bits in the fillings are fried shallots. The fried shallots are hardly visible in the normal size version and I did find the mini version has a more distinct shallots flavour than its bigger brother.

Tar Sau Pneah in different sizes
♥ Penang Tau Sar Pneah
Even though tau sar are usually taken to mean red bean paste, the Penang biscuits are made with green bean (mung bean) paste together with sugar, a pinch of salt, lard and fried shallots. There are also tau sar pneah made using white bean paste. To cater for vegetarian, vegetable oil is used in place of lard. Apparently there is also a halal version.

And yes, the tau sar pneah from Ghee Hiang are made with green bean filling and lard, which is what gives the biscuits a very unique fragrant and flavour. The pastry skins are light, fluffy, flaky and very very delicate. I had to handle the biscuits with extra care when cutting the biscuits in half. I, er, actually damaged quite a few tau sar pneah before getting to the neat cut-edges you see in the picture. *Oops*

And you do need to eat the biscuit with a piece of serviette or a tiny plate underneath because the pastry is just so flaky. Now you don't want to make any of the fluffy flakes to go to waste, do you?

♥ Ghee Hiang
No.95, Lebuh Pantai 10300
Penang, Malaysia
Tel: 604 262 0635 / 4471
Fax: 604 263 5158

216 Jalan Macalister
10400 P.Pinang
Tel: 604 227 2222
Fax: 604 227 2522