My beloved country Malaysia was recently hit by a major flood that is currently affecting almost every region in the country. Several photos have already went viral in Facebook of Malaysians showing the devastation of the most badly hit region. Affected number of victims are currently at 12,000. Helps are coming their way, however, given the circumstances, some helicopters are having problems to send out supplies and also to help carry the victims from out of the floods. MyBanjir, a community service, has been set up by MaGIC to build a more effective communication for the distribution of emergency supplies and rescue effort of victims that are in life-threatening situation. News and updates are pouring in the website as I wrote this. Therefore, I would appreciate it very much if you give the site a look and help in anyway you can. Some relief supply center are even open for 24 hours.
I had been staying in Cyberjaya for the past few days for a competition that I submitted an application for on 17th November 2014 called SUPERB (Skim Usahawan Permulaan Bumiputera or Startup Scheme for Malaysian Natives). So, this post would be about me living in a completely new environment and I would like to apologize first and foremost about the lack of food blogging in this post. I was so nervous about going to the final that I can barely muster my appetite. I was literally shoving food in my mouth just for energy and good health.
Let us start with the place where all the magic happens, pun intended. The competition takes place at MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation Center). Launched by DS Najib, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia and Barack Obama back in April. I can see it fast becoming the Silicon Valley of Malaysia, housing co-working space and hosting so many events authored for entrepreneurship. I feel like I found the kind of place that I can work in. It was very accommodating and kudos to the SUPERB management team by hosting the competition there. Although the AC could be a bit tad lower in temperature. Sweaters, jackets, and cardigans are recommended before entering the building.
My business idea, “Kitchen-For-Rent” qualifies to the semi final stage and we were offered this 3-day pitching coaching session by SUPERB. Having never actually perfected my pitching skill, I decided to participate in the coaching classes. I did not exactly leave my house on a good note, though. One of my cat, Chelipi (pronounced like Sleepy) had a small incident the previous week and had been limping on and off ever since. I brought her to the vet to get it checked and thankfully it was only a sprain. She was subscribed some med and advised to rest. Something I was worried she might not be getting the whole time I was not at home. I have my sister who can feed her but not the supervision she might need. So, Chelipi was always in the back of my mind the whole time I was at MaGIC, together with my six other cats.
But life must goes on and I had to convince myself that she would do just fine. I am here at MaGIC to win the grant RM500k offered by SUPERB and finally get a kickstart on this business idea.
The total participants that advanced to the semi final round are 97. Some of them are returning participants from the previous 3 quarters of SUPERB. Most of them have all started a company and have a business running. Being one of the young and green participants there was enough to make me want to vomit out of nerves. We were divided into 4 groups, each to a coach. I enrolled myself in Coach Rik’s class with 21 other participants.
I was basically sticking to my roommate, Kak Fizah (we were assigned the same room at the hotel) at the beginning of the class. Kak Fizah’s company, MEDYNA is running a physiotherapy center in Kedah. With the grant she is hoping to grow her business and provide better care for the elders who are her main clients. We were sat on a desk with Kak Aten of Athene Spice Kitchen. I am already planning on getting her Lemon Lime Pepper Salt spice mix retailing at Publika for my salad. I can be quite lazy sometimes to the point that I would just eat tomatoes raw instead of going through measuring my olive oil and vinegar and squeezing the lemon. Yes, foodies are people too, haha.
We first went through introduction session as usual. All of them came from diverse backgrounds, medical, advertising, F&B, architecture, clothing, and so on. Each of their ideas have values and impact to the society provided that they have the grant to execute their ideas. We were also introduced to Coach Sam who are assisting Coach Rik for the class. He had been a participant and finalist for the past Quarter 2 and 3 and it was good to have a second opinion from a former participant’s perspective.
We were then told to attend a separate event that was held at MaGIC. Basically we just have to listen to speeches from several entrepreneurs and one of them is a previous winner of Quarter 1 of SUPERB. Not all of them are great talks though but one in particular was the “best in the world” (again, pun intended). The talk was given by Razif Hashim and in all seriousness, I think the whole crowd in the auditorium would agree with me in unison. I am going to be honest and tell you that I only knew about Razif Hashim several days before that day. Yes, I am that generation who do not watch TV anymore, lol. I found out about him several days ago because I was searching for the TV show, Percutian Bajet (was it?) that I had watched way back when just for the research purpose for this blog.
He captured my attention in the first minute of his talk when he made a reference to Harry Potter. Yeay, Potterheads! He is also an actor and it seems so easy for him to capture the attention of the whole crowd just like that, which is what his talk was all about. Then he asked for some volunteers to come on the stage to help him demonstrate how talking in front of the crowd can be made a whole lot better just with a little tweaks. And guess what? I decided to volunteer myself to the front because I figured what is the worst that could happen. I came here to win RM500k grant. I have got nothing to lose. But that spirit still did not translate into my public speaking and Razif Hashim just swished and flicked his wand and my public speaking skill improved just like how Hermione’s feather flew. He asked the crowd to rate me and some even rated me 8 out of 10!
And the rest of the day just went on like the next 2 days. We all worked on our presentation skills and improving our presentation slides. I would like to apologize to all my fellow classmates and coaches for not mingling as much that I would have liked to. I was so worried about my performance later on that now I regretted not knowing more about all these wonderful people who supported each other throughout the competition. I will definitely keep in touch with each and every one of them in the future.
And the day of the Semi Final presentation came. I was scheduled to present at 2.45 pm. I came for the registration for the morning session anyway and figured I would do better being surrounded by the tension in the air rather than being taken aback by it if I isolated myself in the hotel room until the presentation. Plus, I got my own eye candy in the waiting room. Sambil menyelam minum air, kiki.
I went over all the advises that Coach Rik and Sam had given me over the three days in my head. The wait was nerve wrecking. When it was finally time for me to do it, I figured I would just wing it and hopes that everything that I learned in the past few days would subconsciously be applied by my body and brain. It was quite hard for me to keep in tune with reality when there was so many things to be aware of. I didn’t even know how long I was in the presentation room. I did screwed up on one very important question during the Q&A. But the minute I finished and walked out of that room, I found myself in glee. The struggle I have been having inside my brain was finally over. I can finally have a peace of mind until the result announcement tomorrow.
The next day I walk into MaGIC as quite a different person. I was able to take in more of my surroundings and I get to know about my friends there a little bit better. I tried not to think about the result that will be announced in the evening and have fun at this wonderful place as best as I can. We had a talk by the famous and respectable Dr. Haji Fadzilah Kamsah.
His talk was both inspiring and funny at the same time. Learned a lot just from his talk. A very humble man too. He insisted people to call him Haji instead of Doctor.
I am going to break it to you anyway but I did not get into the next round. I did get my hope high, convinced I did enough to get myself through but seeing all the finalists who went on the stage as their advancement was acknowledged, I realized that the judges made the right call. All of their ideas are amazing and they deserve to be up there. I can only hope that I can achieve half of what what they had accomplished in their lives one day. This also does not mean the end of my dream kitchen. I have learned some of what I need to know in order to realize my idea into the physical world. I hope that my ramblings here will inspire other entrepreneurs out there to achieve their dream and realize that there are so many channels out there that they can go through for free. Stop coming up with excuses and take the first step today. The next Quarter of SUPERB will start next year. Register yourself and do not shy away from asking friends and families for help.
This post is going to be about our day trip to Ben’s Independent Grocer at Publika. I have been there several times before but each time was a discovery experience for me. It was perhaps due to my growing awareness and knowledge about food over the years. The first time was for me to discover Greek Yogurt (this was before they were sold in regular supermarket), the second time was to discover… I forgot, it was a long time ago, lol. The third time today was for us to discover the extensive range of fresh produce offered. And the one that had me gaped at most was this ripe, juicy, red, plump, shiny tomatoes.
I had always complained about how difficult it was to find imported tomatoes in Malaysia. I guess I can stop complaining now and just drive 50 minutes into KL to get these whenever I feel like making pizzas. I can totally see myself doing it. I have been using passata (that I can get from Jaya Grocer or Cold Storage) for the best pizza base until now but there will always be this nagging voice in my head saying, “how do you know passata is the best base for your pizza if you never try these tomatoes?”
I have seen zucchinis before but not roselle, or nectarine, or persimmon, or passion fruit in the supermarket that I have been before. Each discovery made me even more excited to see what was next. I wished that I was just as excited meeting them here as I was meeting the tomatoes. I have yet to taste them or try any recipe with them.
We also stumbled upon this salt that made me laugh today. For a non-Halal product to be named so straightly honest, and being mindful and respectful towards the Muslim shopper at the same time-I don’t know about you but I found it hilarious. I am not saying that that was the purpose they name it that way but I don’t see any other explanation for it!
We left the store with Butterscotch beer and Greek yogurt in my hand. I regret my decision for the beer straightly after I taste them. They didn’t taste any different to an A&W root beer. I did got my hope high thinking it would taste whatever I think Butterbeer would taste like. But at a whopping RM6.95, it was a disappointment in their own taste itself.
Good day to you, ladies and gents. I would like to take some of your time to tell you a story of four green adventurers who traveled to Terengganu and Pahang recently on a very strict budget without any plan overhead.
Our journey started from KL but I would like to start the story from where the adventure actually begin.
We started in Marang where we attended a wedding of one of our coursemate. Getting there was an adventure in itself but we eventually did after false coordinates and unmapped routes in the GPS. None of us could give a decisive suggestion on where to go next since none of us are from around here. I started the engine anyway and proceeded to the main street and highway while we discuss our next destination. Having several experiences travelling Terengganu and Pahang with my family way back when, I suggested some place (mostly food/eateries) that we might be able to visit.
I have only one main goal every time I visit the East Coast which is SATAR.
Satar is a fish-based specialty snacks from Terengganu. It is made from minced fish flesh, chilies, and ginger. All this ingredients are wrapped inside a banana leaf into the shape of a cone or a pyramid. Each cone is grilled on a metal stake over a bed of hot coal. (source: Wikipedia) Did I made you drool?
This snack brings a lot of fond memories of when I was a kid. Maybe that’s the reason I love it so much. It also seemed that I was the only one who do too because most of the Satar we bought was eaten by me. One advice from a satar-lover to another: buy from a hawker that are attending to the Satars at that moment. Do not buy Satars that have been abandoned and left to be slowly heated by the not-so-hot coal. Trust me.
We stopped briefly at a roadside stall to buy some Keropok Lekor, Sauce, and Satar to snack on the road. By now, we were still undecided of where to go next. Since I have satisfied my cravings of Satar, it was Ummu’s turn next. Her cravings is Ikan Celup Tepung. So, we continue our journey to venture into Kuantan where we can easily find them and just be down the road from where we will be staying for the night.
Taking the beach side route to Kuantan, it was very easy to get distracted by the numerous road sign pointing towards nearby beach attractions. We made it a routine to slow down and gaze at the beach that are accessible to tourists. We stopped at one of the beach called, Rantau Abang. There was nobody at the beach so we were free to do whatever we want without people staring. We brought out the snacks we bought before and finished it all up. We took several minutes to enjoy the breeze and isolation. I took the liberty of running in my Baju Kurung along the beach. I got to less than 100 m and I was out of breath.
We got back into the car and decided to find a hotel to restore our energy and also to perform prayers. It was not even nightfall yet, perhaps it was an exhaustion induced decision. So we ventured into the nearest town, Dungun. And again, we got distracted by another roadside sign pointing towards Teluk Lipat. And the usual Instamoments ensues. But it did not went for long because the weather decided to spill quite heavily and abruptly. And so we proceeded to find a hotel in Dungun. We decided to book at Saujana hotel since it was one of the ones that we first saw and the other ones refused to take our call to book. Their loss.
We booked a Deluxe Queen room for a night and went to perform prayers at a nearby Surau before checking in. The room was okay. They fulfilled most of their facilities. They have hot water, air-conditioning, Astro, and free parking. The internet is free but apparently was only accessible at the lobby. I was thirsty and I decided to boil some water with the provided kettle. The cord was too short to reach the outlet so I leveled the kettle on the two mugs. It got the job done so I don’t want to complain much. Overall the room is moderate.
And on to our next food venture. Ikan Celup Tepung. I made some online research myself before and wished that we had planned this way ahead. There are some awesome place in Kuantan that have been approved by JJCM (Jalan-Jalan Cari Makan) that I wished we could have gone to but the places are usually sold out by the time we reached there. Plus, we didn’t feel like making anymore long trip that night. So I settled on a place I found that is very near to our hotel and I am proud to say that I did not regret the decision AT ALL.
Since we are on a very tight budget, we decided to order ala-carte meal for each of us with some side order of Ikan Kembung and Sotong Celup Tepung to share.
<Insert any type of seafood here> Celup Tepung is basically seafoods that had been dipped in a specially prepared batter and fried until golden brown. But nobody in Malaysia (possibly the world) does it better than the East Coasters or Kuala Perlisians. The sotongs (squids) we had were not rubbery at all. Both the sotongs and ikan kembung (mackerel) tasted so fresh but we had to give it to the batter. The batter taste like the sea even on their own. Dip this bad boys in chili and you will get glimpses of heaven.
The only thing I regret about those Celup Tepungs is that I did not put more budget into this trip so that I could eat more of them.
We left for the hotel for bedtime satisfied, knowing that we will forever be tempted by the image of freshly bitten soft squids embedded in our mind. We were all so tired that the queen bed did not feel crowded at all.
For breakfast next day we went to a place just a few metres away from our hotel.
There, each of us had Nasi Dagang. I haven’t taste that much Nasi Dagang but I do like this one. They are quite sweeter than the ones I usually had at a place near my house but that is what East Coast cuisine is all about. This is where they originated from anyway so I am not in any position to say how they should taste like.
Afterwards, we made our way to Kuala Lumpur and made several stops to buy even more Satars, pre-cooked Keropok Lekor, and souvenirs. And of course, we stopped at some beaches to capture some moments that are worth to be remembered by. We took some cool shots at Pantai Kemasik.
Once we reached Kuantan, our stomachs began to growl again. After some research, we made our way to Warung Pok Su Mok Su. This place is so famous, their route is registered in the GPS of our car! They have also been featured in JJCM I think. The place was packed but we managed to share a table with a couple who had just arrived themselves. We had to wait quite a while for our food to arrive since they had to make fresh batches continuously to meet the demands. We had some Ikan Kembung and Udang Harimau (Tiger Prawns) Celup Tepung. They are cooked to perfection, however I found myself preferring the batter that we had last night. Pok Su’s batter is quite mildly spiced. We finished our Celup Tepungs nonetheless.
That marked the end of our adventure. We actually fell in love with the Dungun town. The energy there is so relaxed and yet you can still feed cravings for fast food, they have it all. We also planned our next trip along the way. We are thinking of Perlis in January. Are we going to make it? Well, you’ll have to wait and see.