Million dollar man: Sopian (left) holding up his famous putu bambu – the golden ticket in his incredible rags to riches story. With him are the staff of his Putu Bambu Special Juriah stall along Jalan Kluang in Ayer Hitam.
AYER HITAM (Johor): Sopian Mahmon set aside the tools of being a labourer 18 years ago to take up a culinary route that has now made him a millionaire.
Visitors coming to this town that is famous for its bazaars can see the 69-year-old Sopian at one of his stalls preparing his trademark putu bambu, a traditional delicacy made from rice flour and cooked with gula melaka (palm sugar), pandan leaf and desiccated coconut, steamed in bamboo pipes.
Recapping his rags-to-riches journey, he said when he was a young boy he used to enjoy putu bambu prepared by his grandmother.
Later, in his teens, he started learning the art of preparing the delicacy from his mother.
Until 18 years ago, however, he said he worked as a labourer earning a meagre income.
“Initially, I was hesitant to leave my job to sell putu bambu.
“But looking at my wife and children, I knew I had to do it if I wanted a better life for them.
“I mustered up the courage and set up a small stall to sell the delicacy based on the recipe passed down in my family for generations,” he said when met at the Putu Bambu Special Juriah stall here on Wednesday.
The stall is named after his wife, Juriah Ismail, 64, who he said has been his pillar of strength and source of motivation through good and tough times.
The jovial Sopian said he took about four years to improvise the family recipe to produce his soft and fluffy putu bambu.
“The sweetness has to be just right, too,” he said.
Sopian said he used local ingredients and gula melaka from Indonesia to make the mouth-watering delicacy that draws a huge following, including the Johor royal family, well-known politicians and customers from Singapore and Indonesia.
With a single stall by the roadside giving him daily earnings of about RM200 a day when he first started his trade, he now manages four
stalls near a parking lot along Jalan Kluang here that generate around RM4,500 in sales daily.
During weekends and public holidays, the family’s earnings from
the business can reach up to RM11,000 a day.
Each packet of six pieces of putu bambu is sold at RM3.
“When I first began, I needed four kilos of rice flour a day. These days, I have to use up to 80 kilos of flour daily,” he said, adding that he has thousands of customers every day.
He hopes his two sons, who now help him, will carry on the trade for many more years in the future.