Gong Pia: A Taste of Authentic Fujian in Every Bite

You are currently viewing Gong Pia: A Taste of Authentic Fujian in Every Bite

Gong Pia, known by various names such as ‘Kompia’,Kompyang’, or simply ‘Foochow Bagel’, has its roots deeply embedded in the Chinese immigrant community of Sarawak. Brought over by immigrants from the Fujian province of China during the 19th and 20th centuries, Gong Pia was originally a staple food for laborers and farmers due to its simplicity, nutritional value, and ease of storage. Over the years, this humble bread has evolved, becoming a symbol of the fusion of Chinese and local Sarawakian culinary traditions.

The name “Gong Pia” itself is derived from the Fuzhou dialect, where “Gong” means doll and “Pia” means biscuit or cake, reflecting its original use as a festive offering. Over time, Gong Pia has become a symbol of the blending of Chinese and local Sarawakian cultures.

Crafting the Perfect Bite

At its core, Gong Pia is made from simple ingredients: flour, yeast, water, and a pinch of salt. However, its preparation involves a meticulous process that requires skill and patience. The dough is traditionally hand-kneaded and left to ferment, which gives Gong Pia its characteristic texture and flavor. The filling, usually a mixture of minced meat (often pork) seasoned with local spices, is then encased in the dough, forming a small, round biscuit.

What truly sets Gong Pia apart is its cooking method. These biscuits are slapped against the walls of a traditional charcoal-fired clay oven, similar to the way naan is cooked in Indian cuisine. This unique cooking technique imparts a smoky flavor and a crispy yet chewy texture that is highly prized among Gong Pia connoisseurs.

Foochow Bagel
Source: Airasia

More Than Just Food

Gong Pia is more than just a snack; it’s a symbol of Sarawak’s multiculturalism. In Sarawak, where diverse ethnic groups live harmoniously, Gong Pia has transcended its Chinese origins. It’s not uncommon to find Gong Pia being enjoyed by people of various ethnicities, including the indigenous Iban and Bidayuh communities, as well as Malays and Indians. This culinary crossover showcases the inclusive nature of Sarawakian society, where food acts as a unifying force.

Gong Pia
Source: Shashinki

Preserving Tradition in Modern Times

In recent years, Gong Pia has witnessed a resurgence in popularity, with young entrepreneurs and chefs experimenting with new fillings and flavors, while still respecting the traditional cooking method. This new wave of Gong Pia includes variations like cheese, garlic, and even spicy sambal fillings, catering to modern palates while preserving the essence of this traditional snack.

Gong Pia’s Enduring Legacy

Gong Pia’s journey from a humble laborer’s meal to a celebrated delicacy is a story of cultural endurance and culinary innovation. As you bite into a Gong Pia, you’re not just tasting a piece of bread; you’re experiencing a piece of Sarawak’s rich and diverse history. This simple yet delightful food item continues to be a source of pride for Sarawakians and a must-try for any visitor to this beautiful region.

Article curated by Himavee Jayaweera.