Experimenting with decorative tops on Mas Paan

One reason I’m more of a recipe writer than a cook is that the experimenting is the most fun for me; this is what I was playing with on Thursday. I was curious whether I could do mas paan with a more decorative top than is typical. Answer — sort of kind of.

(The first two photos are mine — the four pretty ones that follow are inspiration images found online.)

Our standard curry filling is robust and moist enough that if you try to do the thing where you slice the buns on top to create a cross or star pattern, and actually slice through, it’ll have a very good chance of basically just bursting open at the cuts. Still tastes delicious, not so pretty. If you wanted that, I think you’d need to make more of a paste, like what I assume they used for the red bean filling buns (photo 3). So I wouldn’t recommend that.

If you’re very careful, you can slice just lightly enough to create a cross or star pattern of indentations, but that is a *lot* of finicky work for many little buns. Honestly, I would have to love you a whole lot to go to that much trouble, esp. since I’d expect some wastage along the way. (Some people are more skilled with delicate knife work than me, so they should feel free to go for it, though. The results are lovely, as in photo 4. Be sure to sprinkle seeds first, then slice, to get that effect.)

MAYBE I’d do scoring for a wedding or similar major occasion — I could make a triple batch, and plan to freeze the ones where I accidentally sliced through, and then eat those for my own snacks (happily) in months to come. But I wouldn’t really recommend the slicing approach either for our curry buns, unless you are quite persnickety. (If you watch the Great British Bake Show, you may remember the episodes where some contestants came to grief attempting their “artistically scored decorative loaves”…).

If you abandon scoring, though, you still have the option of sprinkling seeds. I don’t think that’s typical for mas paan in Sri Lanka — I googled, and only found one image with seeds sprinkled on top, and I don’t remember seeing it when visiting. But it works great.

After filling the bun, turning it over so the seam is on the bottom, and brushing with beaten egg (skip that last if allergic, but otherwise, it adds nice color and sheen to the bun), just sprinkle the seeds of your choice.

This was particular useful to me as I had three different kinds of buns, and I wanted to be sure I could tell them apart easily. (In Sri Lanka, fish buns are typically triangular, but I think most of the other buns I’ve seen are round?)

I ended up with:

– beef curry buns topped with black chia seeds
– spicy caramelized onion buns (seeni sambol) topped with sesame seeds
– jackfruit and chickpea curry topped with organic hemp seeds

The seeds add a lovely crunch element too, so unless I have someone seed-allergic at the table, I think I’ll be making all my curry buns topped with seeds from now on.

Rose bun photo added for inspiration — I may try that someday! And isn’t that last one, perfectly scored and seeded, just gorgeous? Mmm…

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