Tanjung Malim is a sleepy township on the border of 2 of Malaysia's most populous states (Perak and Selangor), about 70km or an hour's drive from KL. The town's claim-to-fame (foodwise or otherwise) is, of course, the "Tanjung Malim Pau" - steamed Chinese buns or "bao" (包), but with Malay-style curried beef or chicken filling. The Malay word, "pau", was derived from the Chinese "bao".
Owned by the Hainanese-Chinese Kok family since 1926, the eatery is "halal" and 90% of its customers are Malay-Muslims, mostly inter-state travellers, who flocked here for the delicious buns. I remembered my first taste of the buns as far back as 1975, when a family friend from KL flew down to Singapore with a fresh batch of the buns - he'd just driven from Ipoh to KL the previous day and had stopped by in Tanjung Malim to grab some of these buns. It was an epiphaniy for me back then as we'd *never* come across Chinese buns with curried filling, and it made an indelible mark on my childhood food memory - learning that, yes, it's possible to cross culinary borders and make Malay-Muslim "pau", something which we rather take for granted today.
Back to yesterday, my first taste of the famous "Tanjung Malim pau" after a nearly 40-year hiatus. The shop opens daily at 9am, so it's best to arrive here around that time. Orders will be taken by the all-Indonesian service crew, trained by the owners to brew the thickest, traditional Hainanese coffee around. At around 9.15am, the freshly-steamed "paus" will be served. At first glance, the fillings in the buns looked positively miserly - the Chinese are used to having thin dough covering generous, substantial fillings for their "bao". But this *is* Malay-style "pau" and the dough was incredibly soft & fluffy, a trademark of Yik Mun's signature buns, which more than made up for the lack of filling.
I liked the minced, spiced beef version more than the minced curried chicken version. The fillings were dry-ish, so it's best to have them steaming hot, straight off the steamer. They do taste wonderful - so now I know why they had been there for nearly 9 decades. Coffee, tea or hot chocolate beverages are served in traditional turn-of-the-century-design cups.
To find this place, go to Tanjung Malim's New Town section (the Old Town is on the other side of the Malayan railway tracks) and look out for Thandayuthapani Hindu temple, a prominent landmark near the restaurant. It opens till late, 9pm or so at night.
3 Jalan Besar
35900 Perak, Malaysia
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