In the spirit of Ramadan, several senior citizens are putting their culinary skills to good use while earning a profitable income. Some retirees have set up food stalls at the Ramadan bazaar at Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
Satay seller Ellyus Usman, 70, says the business keeps him busy while providing him with an avenue to earn extra cash. “The money comes in handy during the fasting month. It helps to pay for essentials, new curtains, clothes and festive ornaments to spruce up the home in conjunction with Hari Raya,” says the retired land surveyor who has been trading for four years at the bazaar.
Ellyus is no stranger to the business, having dabbled in a small-scale satay business in 1990. After retirement, the grandfather of two ventured into the business full-time, selling the traditional grilled meat at different night markets in Sg Buloh, Subang and Damansara Damai, all in Selangor.
To meet greater customer demand during the fasting period, Ellyus has doubled orders for lamb, beef and chicken meat from his supplier, with daily purchases amounting to 50kg of chicken and 10kg of lamb and beef each. He has also roped in his three children and relatives to help out with the brisk business at the Ramadan bazaar and night market.
“At 9am, we start to prepare the satay and condiments such as peanut sauce and nasi impit. All items are made from scratch to ensure the quality of food and freshness. To tenderise the meat, it is important to marinade the satay for at least 12 hours in the chiller. This gives it its sweet and succulent taste,” says Ellyus, who charges 80 sen per satay stick.
Ellyus, who learnt to make satay from his father, says it can be tiring to operate at different locations, but he has no complaints. “It is important to maintain quality and ensure customer satisfaction. It helps that my children are dedicated and enthusiastic about the family business,” adds Ellyus, who manages the stall at the bazaar with his wife, Misri Abu Salim.
Another stallholder, Khatimah Salleh, 58, has been interested in cooking since her youth. So venturing into a food-related home business came naturally to her. At the month-long Ramadan bazaar at Taman Tun Dr Ismail, the food seller from Pengkalan Chepa, Kota Baru offers a wide range of Kelantanese delights such as nasi kerabu and nasi dagang, with an assortment of condiments such as solok lada (fish fillet and stuffed chilli), grilled beef, fish curry and traditional dessert kuih akok.
“Kelantanese food is a hot favourite as it tastes delicious. Among the popular items are solok lada, nasi kerabu and spicy curry,” says the grandmother of 10 who also runs a food stall at Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.
To ensure ingredients are fresh, Khatimah and husband, Zulkafly Mahmud, 63, drive to the Selayang wholesale market in KL in the wee hours of the morning, to pick up cheap and fresh vegetables, meat and seafood. After sahur, the former canteen operator starts to prepare a wide spread of dishes. The hours may be long but Khatimah enjoys every minute of it.
“It is important for senior citizens to keep busy during the fasting month. It is good to keep active and keep the mind alert. Running a business requires a lot of planning and we learn to manage our expenses. While it may be a challenge to prepare the dishes while fasting, running the stall keeps me busy and focused as we embrace Ramadan, which is essentially about training the body and mind to be righteous Muslims,” says Khatimah.
Food traders Siti Salmah Mat Isa, 63, and husband Mohd Salleh Mohd Din, 66, are also living proof that age isn't an issue when it comes to running a small business. For the past five years, the couple have been selling apam balik at the bazaar to supplement their income.
“I enjoy the business as it keeps me physically active and mentally alert. With my children are all grown up, we have time to manage a small business to earn extra cash for the festive season,” says Siti Salmah, who sells between 150 and 200 pieces of apam balik daily during the fasting month.