Once poor, Pahang couple now doing well selling laksa

Photo used for illustration purposes only.
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PEKAN – At one time, they were receiving zakat because they were poor (asnaf), but now Pahang laksa sellers, Othman Ibrahim, 60, and Rosnanis Sudin, 49, are chuffed to be paying zakat as their business has taken off.

“Paying zakat on our business for the first time made us very emotional. I never dreamt that life could be better for us after being zakat recipients for so many years. Having enough to pay zakat now makes us proud.

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“My hope is that our zakat will help the asnaf escape poverty and live a good life,” said Othman when Bernama met him at his home in Kampung Permatang Pauh.

He said that a request to his wife by a family member to cook laksa Pahang a.k.a. laksa gebok for a wedding sparked the idea for the business back in 2010 after guests complimented on how nice it tasted.

From then, they started accepting small orders because they lacked the money to buy the main ingredients of wheat flour (to make the noodles), ikan selayang (white-tipped mackerel scad) and santan (for the sauce) in bulk.

Aside from that, the noodle dough requires a lot of elbow grease to knead properly and pass through the brass gebok (noodle maker), while getting the bones out of the cooked fish is time-consuming.

“We only dared to accept orders that required no more than 20kg of flour because the noodles are manually made and we hadn’t a freezer to store the fish and santan (coconut milk),” Othman said, while adding that it meant the laksa had to be freshly prepared.

Othman, his wife and six children (now aged 13 – 27) led a hard life before this as his income from being a house builder was irregular, but the Pahang Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (MUIP) heard about their business in 2013 and contributed a freezer to replace their orange icebox and a kneading machine which enabled them to scale up to 130kg of flour per day.

Since then, the business has been thriving as they’ve been bolder in accepting big orders like kenduri (receptions) and office functions, which in turn enabled them to expand their two-room house to accommodate their growing children.

In fact, there are so many bookings every Syawal – and from as far away as Kuala Lumpur – that they only rest on the third day of Eid.

Rosnanis thinks her laksa has won hearts and stomachs because it has the right ratio of fish, spice, santan and kerisik (toasted coconut paste), while the sauce is the perfect consistency for the noodles.

She also pairs it with ulam-ulaman (fresh vegetables and herbs) like snake beans, bean sprouts, cucumber, daun kaduk (piper lolot leaves) and daun selasih (Thai basil leaves), as well as sambal belacan (shrimp paste pounded with chillies).

Othman confessed that he never expected his father’s gebok – bought in the 70s, but underutilised – to change his family’s luck.

“Who would have thought that cranking this gebok would become my main source of income after many years of being a builder,” he chuckled.

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