Last weekend I had a pleasure of having for the first time in my marriage life to spend the whole family of my younger brother and my sister in one room. It was a last minute plan as I was getting last minute on the chalet confirmation, last minute on the friday asking my sister and my sister in laws to join. Satuday was a half day, we were here already, my sister came later in the evening after her husband came back from work. My brother was not yet confirm. But I really hoped that they would come, because that saturday was a history of my life. Last minute after 7.30pm he arrived here. Non of us had never come here before. We had bbq that night after so many sms exchanges between me and my sister. The kids were running around that night. One word that perfectly described my feeling was happy.
My sister brought with her agar-agar kering, because I have some ordering here. Apparently she had been introducing that in her facebook and received a favourable response on it. She sells RM30 per kilo including the postage.
Our parent make the agar-agar kering. They never stop selling and making things since I was young. I paid my SPM fee using the money selling nasi lemak. Anything that they have and can do they will always sell it. Being nasi lemak, pulut inti, ketupat pulut during hari raya, catering, buah jambu air and belimbing, binka, jemput-jemput durian, and agar-agar kering.
My dad told me once that, after my maternal grandfather passed away, my maternal grandmother said to him, that when arwah yan passed away he had some money given by the company as a token. She said she would like to go with my parent for hajj with the money. But that amount was only a few thousand, that was not sufficient for the whole trip.
So since then, my dad has been thinking hard on how to finance the three of them for the hajj. We were not coming from a well to do family. My dad was a pensioner. The only alternative for it was to do business. Living in Alor Setar, you kind of have a limited alternative. My parents started with making bingka - bingka susu and bingka ubi and distribute it around the local stall that sell kueh for the morning. He would wake up around 5am in the morning to prepare the stuff. After subuh, he would drive his car distributing the kueh, after that my mom would prepare the kueh like jemput-jemput jagung, pisang for the afternoon. So after dhozor, my that would go another round, collecting the money, the left over, my dad would just give to the seller, and distribute the afternoon kueh. His kueh, the seller would sell for 20cent. My dad would give some commission to the seller. How much really they had in keeping. The cost of hajj was way too far than a few cents per person. And he had to consider for three.
They were working like mad around the clock, and at that time I wonder why my parents had to work so hard selling all those kueh. They are supposed to enjoy the retirement. All four of us are independent already. With the pension money, it was more than sufficient for both of them. I did not know yet at that time.
But the kueh business, went so well, after a while, the regular customer came early and wait for my dad for the bingka especially. When my dad did not come, they went back home empty handed. When my dad would like to go away for a few days, they had to inform the sellers, so that the regular customers did not wait for the bingka. The bingka had once being order by the hotel at our place.
During ramadhan time, my parents focused on one type of kueh, bingka - bingka ubi specifically. During durian season, my dad would get a free supply of durian leftover from durian seller, because he knows my dad sold kueh. Jemput-jemput was sold at the price of 10cent each. I looked at my dad and asked him, why?
Banyak manalah pak dapat balik duit. Mana ada orang jual kueh satu 10sen.
He said to me, biar untung tuu sedikit tapi berkat.
I was quite and still not comfortable with his answer.
But knowing my parents, they would sell what they cook and eat. There was no cut thing short. My dad was very meticulous, that he would use a ruler to cut his bingka. Nobody can touch it. He monitored the whole process. Everything had to to measured accurately up to a gram. Once they were so used to it, they even weighted their food - like bihun or ikan.
Bingka ubi was their specialisation. He got a special machine to grind the ubi. The supplier of ubi kayu at the market would already allocated for him, 8-10kg of ubi for every time he got the new supply.
After 3 years of working around the clock, when they surprisingly have enough money from selling the 20 sen kueh, they went to my maktok. And asking her about the trip.
My grandma after so many years saying that she had already forgotten about that, she did not really expect to go away especially for so long from home. She however, would like to go for umrah.
So they apparently used the money for umrah instead. The three of them went without using the saving from my grandmom money.
That was my parents determination. Agar-agar business was growing steady. One thing about this business, they will use a lot of sugar. It was normal to use 100 kg of sugar. Thing will be critical during the festivals time. Their agar-agar comes in various colours and a hint of various flavour. Once thing about this agar-agar, it does not have preservatives or chemical. At a time when we had issues on sugar that was short in supply, they had already secured a supply of 300kg of sugar at home.
They do not only sell it during raya time, but also all year round, because there was a continuous demand and order for the wedding token.
Agar-agar kering was one of the traditional kueh melayu that has been forgotten. Not many youngsters know about this anymore. It is soft in the centre but crystal crisp on the outer layer due to the process of crystal sugar.