Hee Pan or Xi Ban, 喜板, is a childhood snack I loved, growing up in the then famous hakka village in Salak South. Back in the 60s, my mom used to treat us Hee Pan, and they used to taste so good.
Today, all 3 generations, my daughter, mom and I are crazy over Hee Pan. Any morning market outings, be sure we will pack few home for each other.
There is this warm, 溫暖 feeling and it has all to do with the texture, with every bite. It brings a special bond or attachment, yet it doesn’t stick and suffocate. You got it, right? That special feeling.
Hee Pan is generally a must item for Hakka weddings, birthdays and traditional ceremonies. Momsie makes them, especially in pink for such occasions. In less formal setting, she would use just about whatever flour in stock, whatever colour or flavour that fancy her that instance.
Marrying into the chan family, lets me enjoy many hakka cuisines. Some popularly available outside, more interesting are the many dishes, chan-ised or adapted by momsie.
This Hee Pan snack is no exception.
Momsie is not making the regular pink ones. We are making Sweet Potato Hee Pan and she is sharing with us her secret recipe. If you noticed from the regular food blogs and their recipes, it calls for 2 doughs. The long wait for fermentation, some specify 6 hours or ovenight. This process that takes longer is absolutely unnecessary.
Momsie can do it all in 2 hours.
There are recipes that uses just wheat flour or a combination of wheat flour and glutinous rice flour.
Momsie’s secret ingredient ……. a little rice flour
SWEET POTATO HEE PAN
MAIN INGREDIENTS :
200 grams steamed sweet potatoes
500 grams glutinous flour
700 grams wheat flour
200 grams rice flour * (secret recipe)
200 grams sugar
650 ml lukewarm water
2 tbs cooking oil (for dough)
t tablespoon yeast (add with warm water)
2 tbs cooking oil (to mould)
Brightly coloured orange potatoes are favoured, for the adventurous the purple ones are fun too. Momsie is easy. You can choose to steamed them peeled tuber or a faster way is to quickly boil them with some water. If you boiled, recycle the water for kneading dough. Use a small fork to mash the sweet potatoes up, set it aside.
Choose a big kneading pot, ideally with a large enough base and stable. Sieve in all flour ingredients, oil, sugar and slowly pour in the warm water while mixing them together. Gently fold in the yeast mixture and continue kneading. Momsie placed a floor mat at the bottom of the pot to ease my struggle. She truly wanted me to make my hands dirty with this Hee Pan, my maiden dish under her tutelage.
Knead for 20 minutes. Do not worry if they are soft and a little gooey. Dust some flour on your fingers, clean up all the little clumps stuck there. Wrap the pot with a big piece of cloth or close the top. We need to set it aside in a warm corner for an hour, the warmth will help the dough to rise.
While waiting, momsie and I made a visit to her garden to gather some banana leaves. For momsie, the banana leaf is a must. They add aroma when steamed. I understand you can buy them banana leaves from wet markets and supermarkets. If they are unavailable, your option would be parchment paper.
After an hour, the dough has risen. Momsie lend her hand, she says good, strong kneading gives rise to greater texture and bite.
Put the 2 tablespoon of oil into a small bowl, ready and handy to mould the sticky dough into small balls. Put enough water on the steamer wok to boil. Apply enough oil on your fingers and palms, slowly pull out enough dough to form a small ball and gently drop them onto the banana sheets.
Do not worry if there is randomness in size. Practice makes perfect, momsie consoled me. Put the first 20, arrange nicely on a steamer tray. By the time you finished transferring the balls into the sheets, the steamer wok is ready and the first tray has raised and form into beautiful bun shapes. They are ready to be steamed.
Steaming tips. Make sure water is boiling. Each tray takes 15 minutes, do not uncover and close the steamer lid in midst of steaming. Condensation on lid can drip down and spoil your tray of golden treasure. With every tray you steam, make sure to dry the steamer lid of the condensed water trapped.
Despair not if few turned out dimpled and ugly. Momsie said it is a common phenomenon she herself find difficult to explain. Maybe too much oil when mould them balls, our fingers were a little wet or water dripped down from the steamer lid. Baffles me. Another tip that momsie share is, remove all steamed buns to cool down on some old newspapers. They helped remove moisture trapped on the banana leaves, making safe storing possible.
A larger square banana sheet is used to allow for dough to rise and spread. Use a pair of good kitchen scissors to trim the excess leaves around the random shape of these steamed buns.
Hubby get to be my hero, willing to taste my first Swee Potato Hee Pan. Bravo. Eat them fresh. Every bite is so, so nice.