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Beyond Chinese flatbreads, Da Niu Bake Pie’s new shop also offers ‘mala’ flavoured ‘hurry mee’ and handmade ‘mui choy’ pork ‘onigiri’

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — This was a shop unlike any other. The eatery doesn’t serve French croissants, Portuguese egg tarts or Hokkaido milk buns — all popular breakfast and teatime items these days.

Instead the shop, which is called Da Niu Bake Pie, sells freshly made "baked pies” known as guokui. Considered a staple of Shaanxi cuisine, guokui is a kind of Chinese flatbread dating back 1,000 years.

Its name literally means "pot helmet” in Mandarin, a nod to how the flour-based pancake is traditionally cooked over charcoal inside a clay oven.

The "Da Niu” in Da Niu Bake Pie’s name refers to founder Daniel Lim, 51. Formerly employed as a quantity surveyor in Shanghai, he relocated to Malaysia in 2018 due to company restructuring before the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak.

While others might see this as a setback, Lim — who had always loved cooking — saw this as an opportunity to indulge his long-time hobby.

He says, "It has always been my passion to see my family relishing the meals I prepare. Therefore, I dedicated my time cooking for my family throughout the pandemic. During this period, a particular item took centrestage — mui choy baked pie, my wife’s favourite snack in China.”

Every baked pie or 'guokui' is made by hand and to order.
Every baked pie or 'guokui' is made by hand and to order.

Every baked pie or 'guokui' is made by hand and to order.

Given he didn’t have a recipe for the guokui, Lim had to figure out how to make the baked pies on his own.

He recalls, "Fuelled by my wife’s cravings, I conducted numerous experiments and refined recipes until I crafted a version that won her approval. Word spread, and soon, not just my wife, but my extended family and friends found themselves captivated by the pies I made.”

Encouraged by the burgeoning demand, Lim launched Da Niu Bake Pie in 2020. He first sold the baked pies at various pop-ups and flea markets in the Klang Valley such as the Sunny Side Up Market, MURFEST, City Roar Festival, Southern Gate Music Festival, Padi Music Festival, The Japan Club and GSSKL (German Speaking Society Kuala Lumpur) Charity Bazaar.

In time, the idea of having a more permanent shop germinated and Lim started hunting for a suitable location. He says, "The selection of Bandar Menjalara next to Kepong was strategic, given its predominantly Chinese demographic and reputation as a renowned food hub.”

Da Niu Bake Pie’s new shop in Bandar Menjalara, KL.
Da Niu Bake Pie’s new shop in Bandar Menjalara, KL.

Da Niu Bake Pie’s new shop in Bandar Menjalara, KL.

There were also certain push factors that made Lim look into a brick-and-mortar approach. He explains, "The nature of our baked pies, means they are best enjoyed when hot which makes online business less practical.”

Short-term, temporary events weren’t feasible in the long run either. Lim says, "The pop-up model requires additional equipment and poses challenges in maintaining product freshness, making it a less viable option from a technical standpoint.”

Having a physical presence means it is easier for regular customers to find them. A shop also allows Lim to indulge in his culinary passions and conjure up new dishes.

While Da Niu Bake Pie’s menu showcases crowd favourites such as mui choy pork and spicy lamb baked pies, he has also introduced new flavours such as red bean and butter caramel. For purists, there is always the classic scallion oil baked pie or for the truly minimalist, the kosong pie.

The popular mui choy pork and spicy lamb also make an appearance as fillings in Da Niu Bake Pie’s handmade onigiri or Japanese rice balls.

Other new offerings include their wittily named Hurry Mee cup noodles.
Other new offerings include their wittily named Hurry Mee cup noodles.

Other new offerings include their wittily named Hurry Mee cup noodles.

Lim adds, "Our other new offerings include our Hurry Mee cup noodles as well as rainbow coloured dumplings. Our cup noodles have two flavours: mala and spring onion. Best enjoyed with our home-made chilli oil.”

For refreshments, Da Niu Bake Pie offers something truly heartfelt: their signature drink, Jelly Oolong Tea, which was created in honour of Lim’s late mother-in-law.

He recalls, "She had been a staunch supporter of my business ventures. Despite battling critical illness, she tirelessly cooked herbal jelly, commonly known as guilinggao for us. While I was crafting oolong tea beverages, she recommended incorporating herbal jelly into the oolong tea blend.”

Jelly Oolong Tea (left). Rainbow hued dumplings (right).
Jelly Oolong Tea (left). Rainbow hued dumplings (right).

Jelly Oolong Tea (left). Rainbow hued dumplings (right).

Visibly moved, Lim continued: "Every sip of our Jelly Oolong Tea is a tribute to her enduring influence, a testament to the strength of family bonds, and a comforting reminder that her legacy lives on in the very essence of our business, Da Niu Bake Pie.”

Family bonds and influence extend to even the design of the shop and its packaging. Sharp-eyed customers would have observed the comic illustrations of the little girl eating the baked pies and cute onigiri labels.

Lim shares, "These illustrations are the handiwork of my second daughter, Esther, who is currently studying at an art school.”

There is a story behind the artwork too.

Lim’s daughter Esther illustrated the designs for the shop and product packaging.
Lim’s daughter Esther illustrated the designs for the shop and product packaging.

Lim’s daughter Esther illustrated the designs for the shop and product packaging.

Lim explains, "As our pies need to be baked order to order, customers need to wait for a period of time. So we crafted a narrative involving a mischievous little girl attempting to sneak away the pies. This encourages customers to savour their hot pies promptly to avoid ‘theft’ by the adorable character.”

This imaginative touch adds an engaging dimension to the customer experience, another way to set it apart from other eateries in the neighbourhood.

That experience might soon arrive at a location close to you, if you don’t happen to live in Kepong. Lim says, "Our sights are set on expanding our presence by opening more outlets and kiosks, ensuring that the delectable offerings of Da Niu Bake Pie reach even more people. Stay tuned!”

Da Niu Bake Pie 大牛烧饼

19, Jalan 11/62A, Bandar Menjalara, KL (located in Menara Perniagaan Menjalara)

Open daily (except Mon closed) 10:30am-9:30pm

Phone: 011-2607 2866

IG: https://www.instagram.com/daniu_bakepie/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/DaNiuBakePie/

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