Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Sister's Food Business - All Along The Family Line

I always believe that any community, wherever they're from, try their best to maintain whatever heritage or culture that they brought along. The Chinese and Indians came and settled in Malaysia, and they brought along their rich culture, as well as their food culture. Even the different communities of the Malays, such as the Minangkabau, Javanese and Achinese brought their eating culture which in turn, enriches the world of food in Malaysia.

The Al-Jafrees were one of the earliest families of Syeds to settle in Kedah, followed by the Jamalullail of Hadhramaut, Yaman. The Barakbah came much later, in three waves. The first settled in Kubang Rotan (near Kuala Kedah). The former Menteri Besar of Kedah, Datuk Syed Razak bin Syed Zain is from this line. The second group settled in Langkawi, and I was told that the Adabi group is owned by them. Among the last were the Barakbahs who settled in Kampung Perak, specifically, behind the Masjid Zahir of Alor Setar.

Although I never had any formal training on cooking, I must say that my family came from a line that is rich in food culture. My father is from the Barakbah family of Kampung Perak, while my mother is from the Al-Idrus family from Kelantan. My paternal grandmother is from a Shahab family of Aceh. The blend of all these created a plathora of flavors in our house. I always feel that my mom is the best cook ever, and I am sure that everybody will feel that their mother is always the best cook, ultimate!

I have an elder brother, who is a photographer. In contrast to me, he is quiet and very artistic in his photography (You can check out his work in the links on the right). Despite all that, he is always the best at making steaks and stews. The last time we ate his cooking was lamb stew, eaten with country bread, and that was mind-blowing.

As for me, like I said, I never had any formal training, but I spent hours in the kitchen at home watching my mom cook. When I was studying in Hawaii, I emulated her cooking, and to my surprise, they actually worked. As I always loved cooking, I kept on experimenting and expanding on my cooking. I always remember making Salmon Fish Head Curry in Hawaii and called my friends over for dinner.

My sister, Sharifah Rohaizan, I can safely say that she is the heir to the culinary art in the family. Although she originally graduated with a degree in fashion design, she concentrates a lot in f&b with flair. I remember when she started learning on how to bake cakes, I will be the first one to taste, especially her exquisitely moist and rich Banana Cake, hot from the oven. Her speciality includes cakes, western/mediterranean dishes and the traditional Syed/Sharifah traditional dishes. Also, her chicken chop, to me, is always an event by itself. I still order my favorite cheesecake and pasta from her from time to time. Yes, I don't buy from bakeries that much with her around.

When I started selling kuih during the Ramadhan about 5 years ago, all of the dishes that I sell now were made by her. Her bengkang susu was more exquisite, the godam was more immaculate, and even she was surprised when her dishes were totally sold out in less than 1 hour. She also produces frozen food such as currypuffs and other things. Back then, I used to sell 4 types of currypuffs: black pepper beef, black pepper chicken, regular beef and regular chicken fillings. There was one time that I remember somebody ordering from her a godam, made in the traditional way, complete with banana leaves.

About 2 years later, her schedule began to tighten up when her customers started ordering different dishes and cakes, and even kuih raya during the Ramadhan season, to which my wife took over the making of bengkang susu and I took over godam and baked macaroni with cheese. However, we maintained a steady supply of currypuff from her as it was, and still is, high in demand. It seems that as many people buy frozen curry puffs from her, the ready fried black-pepper beef curry-puff which were sold by me is always sold out as well. There are times I used to envy at how easy she made it look, and I still can't figure out how she made the pastry smell buttery even when she used no butter. Well, that should teach me a lesson: I am such a lazy crust when it comes to pastry.

There could've been more dishes to be sold this year, but Rohaizan's assistant has been on maternity leave since end of July 2011. However, it must be noted that, unlike me, her business is daily for the whole year. She still takes order, although had to be selective as she is running the operations alone at the moment. The frozen curry puffs are still available, and chocolate cake is available as well during Ramadhan.

I feel that, for those who are interested, it is best to call and inquire directly from her on what is available. She can be contacted at her business line at 017-5606800.

She has 4 daughters, and I believe that, in time, they will inherit her skills and continue this small family heritage. Even as now, I believe that her skills are still expanding.

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