Heading back up to Ipoh in March this year, I acquired another batch of heong peah to attempt another battle. It’s been six years since the first.
The contestants in this round are Sin Eng Hoe, Sin Eng Heong, Lam Fong and Ching Han Guan. Are Eng Hoe and Eng Heong related? Who knows? We’re just going to go on taste here.
The only repeat from the previous lot (unplanned) is the sample from Sin Eng Heong. But even that has a different packet and the biscuit looks slightly different.
Every packet is filled with 10 biscuits. While Ching Han Guan’s has the most commercialised packaging – printed label, heat sealed packet – Lam Fong is the only one that comes individually wrapped.
I prefer the biscuits to come individually wrapped as repeated packet openings tend to let in too much air. Even then, I store all biscuits into an air tight container anyway.
Let me state just how I admire the old fashioned way of rubber banding packets. I have never acquired the skill to tie a rubber band so tight that it seals in the air.
So let’s first look at how pretty they are.
Visually I think Sin Eng Heong takes the prize. It has a generous amount of sesame seed topping. They are juicy sizeable sesame seeds. Each seed seems to have a more even colour. It has a signature twist on the top, and is glazed, like gelled hair.
Every single Sin Eng Hoe biscuit has a leaky top. So either they never mastered the art of sealing their biscuits properly, or this is just the way they like it. The crust is smooth to the touch, with tiny sesame seeds. It is less shiny than Eng Heong.
Sporting a matte look, is Lam Fong and Ching Han Guan. Both of these tend to be paler, less finished looking with Lam Fong looking like it spent more time in the oven, or maybe at a higher temperature. Both of these have a less even colouring than the other two.
The sesame seeds on Lam Fong and Ching Han Guan are large, but flat, pale, sparse and messily sprinkled. Both tend to look more flakey than the other two with Ching Han Guan breaking apart upon touch. Visually you can see how Ching Han Guan’s crust is flaking away. With both these biscuits, you can appreciate just how the crust has been folded over and over leading to the thin layering.
Next, let’s check out their bottoms.
Quite a variation of colour here, with most of the biscuits getting burnt a tad. The only one that has good colour, as well as a deep darker colouring without getting charred is Sin Eng Hoe. However, does charring add to the flavour?
The picture after the first bite reveals quite a bit. And as you read on below about how the textures are, visually you can see how the cookie crumbles, so to speak. So please come back to these photos.
Sin Eng Hoe, of all the four biscuits, seems the lightest. I didn’t actually weigh the biscuit, but it felt and looked like it was smaller than the rest. It also lacked a good bite, coming across as soft.
If you look at the first bite photo, you see how the biscuit is flaky, but there is a certain softness that falls in. Note how the flakes collapse into the hollow. This gives a feel of it being softer than the rest.
The glazing at the top gives a nice even colour, but I found it sweet and that it interfered with the taste. The filling was not particularly outstanding and has a tendency to disappear into the crust. It has large fried onion bits that get stuck in the teeth.
My impression of Sin Eng Heong in one word is: sawdust-y. And you can see in the first bite photo how the flakes collapse into brittle sandy bits.
I found two bits of foil still stuck to the bottom of the biscuit.
Overall, the filling is mostly just sweet. But the toasted sesame seeds gives it a nice dark flavour.
As for Lam Fong, it has a nice bite, with a good crisp on the outside with a good flakiness. The filling has a robust onion flavour and has a tendency to get stuck on the teeth. The charred bits in this case, gaie the biscuit a good extra flavour.
Ching Han Guan or CHG, is sweeter than Lam Fong and also saltier. Overall, it has a stronger taste that isn’t necessarily better than Lam Fong’s. You can see from the first bite photo, that it is flaky and crusty.
Tearing things apart, the insides support the overall first bite impressions.
The insides of Sin Eng Hoe reveal larger chunks of onions than the others. On second taste, again, the bits of onion got stuck in the molars. The taste was unmemorable and was more chewy than Lam Fong.
Now look at Sin Eng Heong. See how the crust has a tendency to break into small sandy bits? As for the filling it is the least oily, leading to a matte look. Note how the filling actually looks rough. This may contribute to the overall sawdust impression. On second taste, filling lacked any real flavour, with, a bitter aftertaste.
Lam Fong’s filling didn’t have any flow. It’s shiny. On second taste, I found it the sweetest among the lot with a chewy filling that isn’t as chewy as that of Sin Eng Hoe’s.
Ching Han Guan as the oiliest of the lot, has a slight flow and more bits of onion. Overall, it’s just both sweet and salty at the same time, with little else.
I confess that I was a little disappointed with this test. None of the biscuits stood out in particular. All of them were kind of middling for me. I least liked Sin Eng Heong, and I most liked Lam Fong. Ching Han Guan lagged behind Lam Fong.
Most of the time, I find that individually these biscuits are okay. If I didn’t pit them against each other, I could re-buy some of them. But in this case, I think Sin Eng Heong is actually quite bad. Pity for such a pretty biscuit.