SEREMBAN: Regardless of how a food item becomes readily available everywhere such as at your local kopitiam or bakery, there’s something special about returning to the very place where it all started.
If you’re familiar with the flaky pork buns called siew pau, you might be surprised to learn that they originated not too far from Kuala Lumpur, in Seremban.
Even more remarkable, the original recipe for siew pau is still used today at Asia Catering & Confectionery, or Siew Pow Master.
Established in 1988, Siew Pow Master, a corner shoplot has become a magnet for both locals and visitors seeking a delicious array of baked treats, with their siew pau being the undisputed stars.
In fact, on weekends, the line of eager patrons often stretches all the way to the main road!
The owner of Siew Pow Master, Teh Yoke Keng, 62, the supposed creator of the original siew pau, shared her story with FMT Lifestyle.
It all began with two women – a mother and daughter – who loved getting their hands in the dough.
During the 1970s, Teh’s mother, Loke Mei Ying, operated her own confectionery shop near the old Seremban market. As a child, Teh would join her mother every day after school to bake and sell various treats like egg tarts and kaya puffs.
However, things took a bad turn when the market relocated, causing her mother’s business to plummet. In her early 20s, Teh decided to take action.
“I thought it would be a shame to see my mother’s business disappear entirely, so I got creative.”
Teh, an enthusiastic cook, looked to one of her mother’s creations, the chan pau – a bun with pork filling known for its fluffy, bread-like texture, quite distinct from the flaky and firm crust of the siew pau today.
“I began experimenting and I had this idea to take my mother’s pork filling recipe from the chan pau but this time add it to a pastry dough.”
And this, according to Teh, is the moment that the nation’s famous siew pau was created.
“Everything we have today is because of my mother,” shared Teh with a smile. “Once we started selling this, the business took off again.”
In fact, Teh met her future husband all thanks to these siew pau, as he was one of many who would line up for these savoury delights.
Teh then opened her own shop in 1988, gradually expanding her offerings each year, including treats like kuih bahulu, and pineapple tarts. Her business flourished, and even her siblings joined due to its popularity.
However, over time, they went their separate ways, establishing Kee Mei Siew Pow and Empayar Seremban Siew Pow.
Interestingly, Teh’s Siew Pow Master remains the smallest of them all, with roughly 15 workers, including family members. And, despite the competition, the size of the daily crowd suggests otherwise.
“We don’t want this to become very large-scaled and machine made. The flavour, texture, everything will be different if it’s not handmade.”
In fact, while you’re at the counter purchasing the pau, buns and puffs, you can observe the entire process right behind you: the meticulous brushing of egg wash on the pau, the filling of tarts with the egg custard, the items going into the oven, and even the packing.
So, even if you hadn’t initially planned on making a purchase, the irresistible aroma wafting from the baking is likely to draw you in.
Just as Teh started her journey by assisting her mother in the kitchen, her children now carry on the tradition. Her daughter, Mun Yee Loke, has become the true siew pau master.
“For the past 20 years or more, I’ve been making these siew pau,” she proudly shared. Observing her, you’d notice that each siew pau looks nearly identical.
“I’m doing this mainly because I love cooking too, just like my mother,” she shared.
On the other hand, Teh’s youngest son, Jun Loke, manages the financial aspects of the business.
With these baked treats firmly ingrained in Seremban’s culinary history, a visit is a must!
Siew Pow Master [NON-HALAL]
368, Jalan Seng Meng Lee,
Taman Unian, 70200 Seremban,
Business hours: 8am-5.30pm (closed on Mondays)
Contact: 012-620 1127