Tear open the white packaging with red printing of a horse standing amid the glow, nibble on the soft vanilla cream bun, it brings back sweet childhood memories. Golden Horse Bakery in Semenyih has been producing handmade traditional breads and buns since 1981, feeding generations of the local population. The most popular item is cream bun, followed by coconut bun and oven-dried bread (roti kok). The breads are not only sold in the bakery itself, but also supplied to nearby grocery stores and traditional coffee shops, a familiar favourite of those born and bred in Semenyih.
40 years flew by, Semenyih has developed from agricultural plantations into a township, yet Golden Horse Bakery retained its original facade. Upon opening the cream-colored folding shutters, breads and buns filled the wooden racks and shelves in sight. In the other part of the shop sits a large wooden workbench, on which countless bread were made and decorated. A shared space for both production and retail was the idea of the founders, who made the wooden furniture with their own hands. The original packaging and recipes are also passed down, including how to make the cream bun fillings and coconut bun fillings.
The current proprietor of Golden Horse Bakery, Lee Boon Kit, is born into a family of bakers. His grandfather ran a bakery in Tampin, Negeri Sembilan, and most of their relatives are also bakers. In 1980, his aunt got married in Semenyih and invited her brothers (Lee’s parents and uncle) to establish a joint venture, hence Golden Horse Bakery came into being. As Lee’s uncle and aunt pulled out of the business, his parents considered closing for good. Having just graduated from high school, Lee decided to take over the business. With his sisters lend a helping hand every now and then, the family managed to keep the bakery in operation.
Since childhood, Lee Boon Kit observed his family members at work, and fully understood the onerous nature of producing handmade bread. Daily working hours range from 12 to 15 hours, with meagre earnings and very little free time. The family members work as a team, sharing the workload from measuring ingredients, mixing and rolling the dough, bread shaping, moulding and fermenting, to baking. For Lee, getting his face flushed red upon removing bread from the hot oven is just another ordinary aspect of his work. There are no hired workers, the family are quite happy to do everything themselves despite the tedium.
In earlier years, Golden Horse Bakery offered certain types of classic bread, recently increased to over a dozen varieties due to market demand. Apart from serving long-term regular customers, tourists, and foodies looking for traditional taste, they also supply Hainanese bread loaves to coffee shops. As all the bread are made by hand, Lee keeps a tight constraint on each day’s production quantities to avoid compromising the food quality. If necessary, he liaises with the customer to complete large orders in two days instead of one.
Rapid urbanization caused a shift from traditional handmade food to mass production for increased efficiency and output volume, as well as the usage of food additives to extend shelf life and taste enhancement. As a youngster, Lee Boon Kit keeps up the practice of handmaking breads and is strongly against food additives, maintaining the rustic texture and the simple yet familiar taste.
有你 UNI Production
Producer : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang / Michael Lerk
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Evon Pang
Copywriter : Pua Hui Wen
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