A golden cylinder with circular coil-shaped curves similar to a helical spring, “spring bread” is thus nicknamed. After cutting into ½inch-thick slices, its fluffy white texture is revealed, along with mouthwatering aroma. The mouthfeel of “spring bread” is cotton-soft, delicious just on its own or paired with fillings such as butter and kaya, eggs, ice-cream, or even made into hamburgers.
Located at Jalan Pudu in Kuala Lumpur, Southern Bakery is established for over 60 years, the only long-standing bakery in Pudu area, containing many locals’ unforgettable memories linked to childhood favourite foods. While baking, the bread aroma flows throughout the shop, attracting the attention of passer-bys. Regular customers would linger around the shop in advance, so that they could purchase the bread freshly out of the oven. As “spring bread” is rarely seen nowadays, most customers forgotten about its existence. Some customers come across it by chance and bought a few due to indulging in reminiscence.
The unique appearance of “spring bread” brought upon various nicknames: pillow bread, lantern bread, or bamboo-shaped bread, thanks to the customized cast-iron tins. The tins were purchased during the British colonization era by the founder Mr Han Chok Toon, extremely durable considering their daily usage for decades. The shaped bread dough is inserted into the two-cavity bread tin, then covered and bolted to bake. After that, the tin is unbolted and gently tapped on the workbench to release the bread. The handful of such tins in Southern Bakery are rare and precious, bearing witness to the past while continuing the legacy of “spring bread”.
The current second-generation owner Auntie Han Jee Nee is born into a family of bakers. Her grandfather ran a bakery in Singapore, and her parents used to help in the family business until mid-1950’s, when they moved to Pudu and founded Southern Bakery at Jalan Pasar together with two partners. Apart from “spring bread” made in cast-iron tins, the bakery also offers down-to-earth Hainanese bread, fist-sized plain buns, and French baguette etc. Their widely popular signature coconut bun is filled with freshly desiccated coconut, without any trace of palm sugar, a secret recipe passed on by Auntie Han’s mother.
In the earlier days, due to the bakery’s close proximity to Star cinema, Metropole cinema, and Majestic cinema, when movie showtimes are over, the bakery was crowded by people buying bread for their next day’s breakfast. At its prime during the 1960’s-70’s, there were 12 staff rotating through morning and night shifts to produce freshly made bread, which were not only sold in the bakery, but also through food trucks and hawkers, and supply to hotels and restaurants. In 1993, Auntie Han and her husband Uncle Law Hong Cheng took over the reins from her ageing father, who passed away the following year.
As more chain bakeries entered the scene in Kuala Lumpur, customers are attracted by fancy gimmicks, packaging and designs. Even so, Auntie Han and Uncle Law did not choose to take a radical approach. Instead, they focus on maintaining the quality of their breads, persisting in producing true authentic flavours. Initially the bakery only offers a few types of bread, until the addition of red bean buns, butter buns, chicken floss buns, and peanut buns in recent years due to customer demands. Currently they work on a small scale, only baking once per day, therefore the quantity of bread produced is very limited, especially “spring bread”.
Auntie Han and Uncle Law took scrupulous care of Southern Bakery for decades, although their business model is getting outdated, they remain calm despite the challenges. Business expansion is not easy, requiring experience, labour, and sufficient capital. Taking things easy, they keep their selling prices low and affordable, hence customers in the neighbourhood continually support them. When they relocated from Jalan Pasar to Jalan Pudu in 2015 due to rental issues, regular customers have no trouble tracing their whereabouts.
Nestled in a busy city, fast-paced lifestyle and immense social pressure did not cause negative impact to Southern Bakery. Auntie Han and Uncle Law tranquilly enjoy a slow-paced lifestyle, and keep on producing simple handmade traditional breads. Focus on the good, and stay happy.
No. 393, Jalan Pudu, 55200 Kuala Lumpur
Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen
有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Video Editor : Evon Pang
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Atmospheric Inspiring Piano
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