Ham Chim Peng in Cantonese means “salted deep-fried bread”. This soft and fluffy bread is eaten for breakfast or as a snack in Singapore and Malaysia. The traditional plain one is flavoured with spices and sesame seeds, while the other version has a filling of red bean paste or glutinous rice. The recipe for the former is included here.
The flavour of this bread is reminiscent of Mangalore buns, but the method of making it is something completely different.
½ cup/120g white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dry baker’s yeast
½ cup/100g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups/350g all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the work surface
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (see Note)
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
Make the starter
Pour ¾ cup/190ml warm water into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes, or until the yeast is bubbly. Stir in the flour, cover and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours, or until the batter has doubled in volume.
Make the dough
Stir in the butter, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the starter. Gradually work in the flour, ¼ cup/65ml at a time, to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, working in more flour if necessary. At the end of kneading, the dough should be smooth, elastic and slightly sticky.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a plastic wrap. Set aside for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature, or until the dough is two-and-half to three times its original volume. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Knead for about a minute.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Place the five-spice powder in a bowl. Add 1½ teaspoons water and mix to make a paste. Evenly apply the paste over the rolled-out dough. Roll the dough from one end to the other lengthways. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand for about 20 minutes.
Cut the dough into 1-inch thick pieces. Roll out each piece of dough, placing the cut-surface facing down, into a disc of about 4-inch/10-cm diameter. For each rolled-out disc, apply a little water on its surface and sprinkle some sesame seeds. Deep-fry the rolled-out discs, turning over frequently to enhance its puffiness, until golden brown. Serve immediately.
Note: To make the Chinese five-spice powder at home, roast 1-inch/2.5-cm piece of cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, 1 star-anise, 6 cloves and 1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper until fragrant, and then grind until smooth. You may vary the quantities of the spices to suit your taste.