Heng Hwa Bun
Have you ever heard this joke: Majority of the world population is made up of Indians and Chinese, so eventually everyone will marry someone of Indian and/or Chinese blood, and then our general skin colour will just be brown?
Well, in Singapore, majority of the Chinese are Hokkien, and my theory is that everyone will eventually end up marrying a Hokkien person. Alvin is Hokkien, but there is a slight distinction, as illustrated by this bun.
The Heng Hwa 生煎包 from Food Republic, VivoCity
It may look just like any other white-skinned bun, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s fried on one side (hence the “生煎”), and there’s a saucer of dipping sauce. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Heng Hwa （兴华）bun.
It contains a surprise in every bite. It’s neither a veggie bun nor a meat bun – there’s a bit of everything inside it, even vermicelli and mushrooms. Dip the bun into the concoction of chopped garlic, vinegar and green onion before savouring it – the skin will melt in your mouth.
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Alvin’s paternal grandpapa is Pu Tien Heng Hwa （莆田兴华）, a minority Hokkien dialect group. The part of China where they live, people are poor and can’t afford to eat meat all the time. They are an agrarian society that lives near a river and make do with whatever they can glean from their land. Resulting in a clever cuisine that uses a combination of simple ingredients to produce complex tastes. Very different from Singaporean Hokkien fare.
Apparently I don’t know very much about the geography, history of Alvin’s people, so I shall stop here now to avoid embarrassing myself. Maybe I will do some more research when we next eat more Pu Tien fare. If you are familiar with the Channel 8 news anchor 黄秀玲，you may be interested to know that she shares Alvin’s dialect. You can read about her cooking Pu Tien bee hoon, a Chinese New Year staple, here.
So now you know Alvin’s not just any Hokkien. 🙂