Supporting our local brands

When the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) came into effect from May 4 to August 31, I am sure everyone breathed a sigh of relief because the strict conditions under the Movement Control Order (MCO), were slightly relaxed.

My sister, paying for takeaways in Sedap Corner,
their flagship cafe at Jalan Abdul Samad
As the situation in the country consistently improved and the economy was gradually reopened, the CMCO continued with less limitations from June 10 in the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO).

While keeping a close watch on reliable news reports from both local and foreign sources, I was probably on a news-overload mode but I needed to stay informed about the Covid19 pandemic, an unseen enemy that was a threat to everyone, everywhere.

As we stayed at home to stay safe, it was a tremendous relieve that the use of modern technology was keeping family and friends connected during the lockdowns.

I was particularly pleased with the WhatsApp video calls with multiple participants – a maximum of four – that provided real-time chats and kept senior family members connected with others who were concerned for their health and wellbeing.

Logo for Heritage cafe on their namecard
From social media pages, I observed how local merchants were rallied to get their businesses online for wider exposure because there was then, no option for dine-in.

While I enjoyed looking at their attractive menus and promotions, I refrained from ordering online but waited till it was safe to pick-up takeaways. I usually made a brief stopover to collect food on my way back from grocery shopping.

After eating only homecooked food since mid-March, it was indeed a pleasant change and a well justified treat to indulge in items like baked tarts and layered cake.

During the CMCO, I also refrained from accepting any event invitations and it was only during the RMCO when I finally gave any consideration to attending anything.

Signature dishes by Heritage [Clockwise] Pine Chicken Rice
(2 portions) Pork Burger (2 portions) and Chicken Roulade
The first invite I accepted was to the reopening of Legoland Malaysia and SEA Life at a media event held in the morning of June 26.

I gave my support to this exciting reopening as I believed these attractions in Johor Baru were a catalyst that would draw visitors back to Johor for short trips and staycations, and help spur the economy with hotel stays, shopping and of course, restaurant and café businesses.

In the following weeks, I kept my outings to a minimum and only went out for essential grocery shopping.

I also wanted to limit going through the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of providing personal info, temperature recording and hand sanitizing each time before entering.

Finally, on July 4, I agreed to accompany my sister to her lawyers’ offices to complete some paperwork and we had decided to buy takeaway lunch on our way home.

A range of cakes and pastries by Seven Oaks
enjoyed with cups of tea
When she mentioned her desire for a taste of her favourite Pandan Layer Cake, I suggested Sedap Corner, where I was sure she would find her heart’s desire along with a menu of local food for lunch.

She hesitated with the excuse that Sedap Corner was located so far away from where we were then, but I assured her that it was just a drive away. After all, I was doing the driving…

I was right. Inside the chiller placed next to the cashier counter, we spotted boxes of Pandan Layer Cakes, ready and waiting to be savoured!

It was 10 days later when I was faced with the decision on what food to buy for takeaway lunch and dessert on our visit with family friend, Uncle O’Keefe.

Aware that Uncle preferred Western cuisine, I pondered over the choices from nearby cafés and restaurants and flipped through my collection of name-cards for some inspiration.

Mum studying the menu at Village Briyani Cafe
It did not take long for me to zero-in on Heritage, a café with an outlet nearby that offered phone-in orders for self-collect takeaways. The best part was, they have a Non-Halal menu of Western and Local cuisine!

I snapped a photo of this name-card to share with my sisters and asked: “How about this for TP?” [TP = Colloquial phrase for Tah Pau or takeaway, in Chinese dialect.]

On the morning of July 14, I went to the mall to buy some fresh fruits from the grocers to present to Uncle but before leaving, I phoned Heritage to place my takeaway order so that I could conveniently collect it on my way.

Among the takeaway items from Heritage was their signature Pork Burger, made with a generous portion of pork patty, Chicken Roulade and their signature Pine Chicken Rice that comes with smooth steamed chicken and a side of three dip sauces.

Our favourite Starter dish at Village: Gobi 65
The next important item on my list was to get cheesecake for Uncle.

There were choices of bakeries in the mall and after careful deliberation, arrived at the decision to try out the freshly baked pastries and cakes by Seven Oaks.

When Seven Oaks Bakery opened at Jalan Serampang, I heard about the craze for their artisanal breads, the most popular of them all was their salted-egg lava filled croissant.

[No, I did not join the queue lined up daily to grab their share of freshly baked croissants when the craze was at its height!]

So, this leisurely visit with Uncle was a good time to sample a range of Seven Oaks cakes and pastries – must have at least one with cheese – with cups of freshly brewed tea.

It was good to be back at Fika Farmhouse, Horizon Hills
Then last Friday, July 17, my sister mentioned that my brother and his family were planning to visit us in JB again, but I was warned not to say anything to our mother... yet.

That was because we know our mother very well. 

She would be so delighted to see them again that she would not hesitate to cook up a storm to serve her dear son and family. My brother’s birthday had just passed, and it was typical for mum to want to celebrate his special day with a good meal.

We, however, did not want her to be busy in the kitchen but to relax and enjoy the pleasure of their company.

Iberico Spare Ribs with sweet potato fries and
a side of honey mustard dip sauce
On July 13, his birthday, mum mentioned that so many years ago, she was admitted in Hospital Sultanah Aminah for three days – suffering labour pains – before he was finally born on the fourth day, at afternoon tea-time.

In fact, on his birthday, we connected via video call with my brother and family to sing him “Happy Birthday” before he cut his cake, a pan-fried chocolate cookie specialty (to savour with a scoop of ice-cream) made by his daughter.

As he was then on the way back to JB, my sister decided on North Indian cuisine at Village Briyani Café and I made the reservation to ensure that a table was comfortably arranged for us.

The last time we dined here was with members of our extended family during Chinese New Year, but my brother and his family were not present because they joined a family dinner with his in-laws.

Shop, Spend, Buy Local, front page headline
in The Sunday Times of July 19
So, it was timely for them to enjoy the Village specialties again.

In fact, we have been so regular at Village that even the staff were familiar with how we always enjoyed an appetizing Starter dish of Gobi-65!

After five months of restricted movements, it was a heartwarming reunion with my brother and his family, safely back in JB again to savour a meal together.

The next day, our dinner together was a takeaway from Heritage – yes, again – for my brother and his family to savour their signature Pork Burger and other delights.

The very next morning, it was uncanny that the headline on the front page of The New Sunday Times of July 19 read as, Shop, Spend, Buy Local, an urgent call by the government to support local businesses and brands.

This was exactly what we have been doing to support local merchants who are struggling to stay in business during this challenging time.

Mee Rebus Haji Wahid, complete with whole boiled egg,
topped with crispy penggaram and chopped green chilli
While my sister and I were considering where or what to enjoy for Sunday Brunch, our mother – just as we thought – proposed that she cooked something for us!

Bless her dear heart. To stall her from pursuing this proposal, I gently suggested that maybe my brother and family had other meal ideas… so we shall wait and see…

When a decision was made for Sunday Brunch at Fika Farmhouse, I called ahead to arrange a table reservation for our group.

It was good to be back again and to see a new menu plus a separate menu for Tapas items. The best part was the food still tasted as good and the service attentive but unobtrusive.

Late on Sunday night, I received a text message from my sister-in-law that read, “Will TP mee rebus for brunch tomorrow.”

My sister-in-law holding takeaway
packages of Mee Ho Seng Kee 
Her message was crystal clear because Mee Rebus Haji Wahid is our family favourite and a familiar comfort food. I replied to acknowledge her message and asked her to kirim salam to Haji Halim who manned their outlet at Angsana Mall.

The next day, we enjoyed takeaway mee rebus for our brunch. When the gravy was topped onto the noodles, it was still warm and tasted good till the last drop.

Before leaving JB, it is the norm for my brother and his wife to order and collect takeaways of Mee Ho Seng Kee, duck-egg noodles unique to this brand, to savour with family members who live in Kuala Lumpur now and sorely missed this local specialty.

I could just imagine the eager mouth-watering anticipation of those in KL when they saw a shot of my sister-in-law holding the takeaway packages of Mee Ho Seng Kee, being ferried to share with them for dinner that evening.

We clearly do not need much encouragement to Shop, Spend, Buy Local as it is our pleasure and privilege to support local merchants and local brands!

Note: The stories on Heritage Traders, Mee Rebus Haji Wahid and Mee Ho Seng Kee are featured in My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People.

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