JB Buy: Hiap Joo Bakery (协裕面包) Banana Cakes @ Jalan Tan Hiok Nee
When it comes to getting local products from Johor Bahru, many people, including locals, will recommend Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory’s (协裕面包) banana cakes and coconut buns. The traditional bakery is located in Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk, near to the archway and opposite Kopitiam Kin Hua (锦华茶餐室).
I wanted to try the popular banana cake for myself too, so I chose a Tuesday to cross the Singapore-Johor border and visit the bakery. Another reason for going on a Tuesday was because, apart from banana cakes, butter cakes and coffee cakes are also available — yup, I want to try all the cakes.
I reached Hiap Joo Bakery at 9:20am. All the cakes and buns that were put on sales at 7:30am were already sold out. It was a weekday right after the June school holidays and yet the cakes were sold like hot cakes.
A short queue of about 4 persons was already formed but the next batch was scheduled for 10:30am. Seeing that it was about an hour away, I decided to get some breakfast before coming back to queue for the hot cakes, literally.
At 10:05am, I returned to find less than 30 people in the queue. “Not so bad” or so I thought. I joined the queue under a freaking hot sun. Oh, umbrellas were provided rain or shine — how thoughtful!
In fact, the roll-out time for the banana cakes made in the bakery itself was 12pm, and every half-hourly thereafter. The batch of cakes that were scheduled for 10:30am and 11:30am were made in another place and delivered to the Tan Hiok Nee outlet to “relieve” the queue.
After the 10:30am batch of still-hot banana cakes arrived, the queue started moving… and stopped when it was near my turn! The banana cakes were sold out again. Three other persons were in front of me in the queue.
The next batch was scheduled at 11:30am. A check on my phone showed that it was 10:55am, I decided to wait. Fortunately, I was out of the sun this time.
For half an hour, I chatted with others in the queue and also to an elder man who helped to maintain order outside the bakery. I received a lot of information from him (which I included in this post). I also observed the ladies making coconut buns in the shop and trays of doughs going in and out of the large wood-fired oven in the centre of the bakery.
After the 11:30am batch of banana cakes arrived, the queue started to move again. The lady at the front of the queue walked away with at least 6 sets of hot banana cakes! That was how the cakes got sold out fast even-though the queue seemed short.
There was one difference this time: coconut buns were ready and would be available for sales. As banana cakes tend to be sold out faster than coconut buns, once the cakes were all sold, the staff would go down the queue to ask if anyone was getting just the coconut buns. So for those who were buying coconut buns only, they would still need to queue.
Unable to get a butter cake and a coffee cake as planned, I bought 3 sets of the banana cakes (10pcs each, RM12) and a pack of coconut buns (4pcs, RM5) to try. I had to keep the banana cakes' containers and the buns' plastic bag opened to prevent condensation that could make the cakes and buns soggy, but it was pretty hard to achieve that as the carriers still trapped the warm air within when hand-carrying them.
The banana cakes were cut into 10 pieces while still hot and sold — a result of demands for freshly-baked hot cakes. This could make the cakes shrunk more while cooling down. It would be better if the cakes were allowed to cool off before being cut in order to maintain most of its shape but that would require 6 hours after baking.
Nevertheless, the banana cakes still looked moist and fluffy after 8 hours. It had a nice banana aroma and not too sweet. I was glad to have queued for 1.5 hours to get them. The banana cakes had to be refrigerated after 24 hours and best to finish within 2 days as no preservatives were used. To taste the cake with its softness and sponginess retained, it would be better to consume them before being refrigerated.
The coconut buns were not too sweet either and carried the aroma of burning woods that were used to fire the oven. No wonder these buns were highly recommended by the bakery and very popular too.
In summary, to eat Hiap Joo Bakery's banana cakes and coconut buns, one will have to queue patiently for it, no reservations on the ground. Or go as early as 7:30am in the morning (except Monday) to buy. Alternatively, go after 3pm — the queue may be shorter — to buy the cakes and return without having to carry them and roam around Johor Bahru. The last batch is at 4:30pm.
The price list and schedule of the cakes and buns is as shown below. Notice that both the butter cakes (RM15) and coffee cakes (RM15) are available on Tuesday morning only.
Both the coffee cake and butter cake are also very soft with coffee or light buttery aromas. Unlike banana cake, coffee cake and butter cake are not supposed to be moist. It is a great experience to try all three different cakes at one go — on Tuesday only.
Note that Hiap Joo Bakery is not baking anything on Sunday but banana cakes can be purchased from the bakery (if it is opened) or from Kopitiam Kin Wah opposite the bakery from 7:30am — while stock lasts.
The good thing about Sunday's banana cakes is that they are not hot and easier to carry around. However, it will be best to finish them by Monday if not refrigerated on Sunday night — to retain their softness — as the cakes are baked on Saturday.
Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory (协裕面包)
13, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
7:30am to 4:30pm | Closed on Sunday