This food item is truly loved by many. I particularly love them. Famously known as “ham cim peng”, it is simple fried bread that has been around for many years. I don’t know what is the history or where it actually came from. It is sold by street vendors or small local market hawkers only during morning hours. It is something needs preserving and more appreciation. Cheap street food doesn’t mean it is junk. Do it the right way and enjoy it moderately.
On a typical Sunday morning, I would find some traditional Chinese ham cim peng fried bread on breakfast table. It is a tradition for us to have these bread for breakfast. The bread are deep-fried and warm, served over a cup of coffee. Families and guests could sit for hours enjoying them. Of course I always suspect it is a week’s worth of hot gossips over other relatives or acquaintances that make them eat these bread so slowly. But I do love them. The bread is soft with a lot of holes in the middle. The flavor of sesame seeds and five spice powder blend nicely. It is warm. It is simple. It is familiar. It smells like home. It is love.
When I came across this recipe and was shown how to do it, I was over the moon. Although my family (and people whom I talked to) thought I have gone mad for making these at home, since it is very, very cheap to buy, I truly enjoy making them. It is very easy to make, despite the fact that you might need liters of oil to fry. The steps are pretty straight forward.
The key to getting nice and fluffy fried ham cim peng is good quality wok (as thick a bottom as possible) and hot cooking oil. For those who are familiar with the bread, you might see that your bread would be lighter color. That is because you are using fresh cooking oil. The hawker sellers are using oil that has been used many times, that gives the nice dark brown color. I did try to fry them longer to get the dark brown color, but they turned out to be burnt. So do fry them just long enough. Golden brown is nice.
This can be made without mixer. For the amount of the recipe I am making, people usually knead by hands. I just love using the mixer so much. In a bowl, combine sugar, yeast, baking soda, salt and water. Whisk till sugar dissolves.
Add flour and distribute evenly with rubber spatula.
Knead using hook attachment, slow speed, about 4 minutes. Kneading by hands would be folding technique, lightly, about 8 minutes. Covered and leave in bowl for 15 minutes.
The dough would be on the very sticky side (one of the reason why I choose to use my trusty Kitchen Aid for mixing it). Sprinkle a bit of flour on top to make handling easier.
Form dough into a ball and leave on kitchen counter for about an hour, covered. The longest it could go would be up to 4 hours.
Roll dough to 1,5 cm thickness square. Or as squarish as possible.
Sprinkle five spice powder on top. Go easy on it. Too strong a flavor is not always a good thing.
Roll dough into a log. Leave on for 10 minutes.
Cut long into 2.5 cm pieces. You would end up with 7-8 pieces.
Lightly shape the pieces into flattened round disk. Try to place the spice round mark right in the middle. Wet the surface facing up with a bit of water by a brush or just your finger. Apply some sesame and then sprinkle some flour on top of it. Roll the dough flat, about 1,5 cm. The flour applied on top of dough will keep the dough from sticking onto the roll. Do this to the rest of the dough. Leave on for 30 minutes.
Heat cooking oil in a wok. Roll the dough again to thinner and wider disk, about 1 cm right before frying.
Fry ham cim piang in medium hot oil. The dough will sink to the bottom of the wok.
When the bread finally float to the surface, it is time to flip.
Frequent flipping is the key to getting nice golden colored bread.
My wok is too small, so I can only fry one at a time. Total frying time would be around 3-4 minutes each.
Serve your ham cim peng warm with coffee, and a lot of love.
Chinese Fried Bread, Ham Chim Peng
160 g ice water
75 g sugar
5 g instant yeast
5 g bicarbonate soda
7 g salt
250 g all purpose flour, low gluten
1 tbsp five spice powder
2 tbsp sesame seed, un-toasted
Oil for deep-frying
Combine all ingredients, except flour, in a bowl. Lightly fold the ingredients together to get an evenly distributed dough. Use a rubber spatula, if possible. Mix for about 30 seconds.
Cover the bowl and let stand for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle some flour on top of sticky dough and try to form it into a ball. Use a plastic dough cutter to help handling dough.
Leave on kitchen counter for 30 minutes, covered with plastic.
Roll dough into a rectangle, about 1,5 cm thickness.
Sprinkle five spice powder on top.
Roll dough into a log and let stand for 10 minutes.
Using a dough scraper, cut dough into 2 cm pieces.
Lightly shape it into a round disk and brush a bit of water on one side.
Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Sprinkle some flour on top of sesame seeds.
Roll the dough into thinner disk, 1,5 cm thick.
Leave on for 30 minutes, uncovered.
Heat cooking oil in a deep wok or deep-fryer.
Flatten bread dough to 1 cm thickness and drop into hot oil. Do this one at a time.
The dough will drop to the bottom of the wok. When it floats right back up, flip over.
Continue flipping three or four more times to get even golden color, about 4 minutes.
Remove from wok and let drain on paper towel. Continue with the rest of the dough.