WHILE many people are still asleep, a family in Kampung Baru Simee prepares to head to the market to set up their kuih stall.
Pe Peng Shun runs his business from 5am to 7.30am, so getting up early to face the day is a norm for him.
A typical day for Pe and his family begins at 1am as they prepare kuih in the wee hours of the morning.
With six people working to prepare the kuih, Pe’s team comprises his wife Foong Yoke Yin, children including his visually-impaired 26-year-old son, and his sister-in-law.
“We emphasise on freshness as our kuih is made with natural ingredients and we do not use artificial colouring.
“People will know the difference once they have a taste,” he told StarMetro.
Unlike many popular food businesses that boast traditional recipes handed down from older generations, Pe said he learnt, improvised and came up with his own recipes more than a decade ago.
“I read up on them and kept trying out the recipes until I got them right,” he said, pointing out that there was no short cut to making good kuih.
Elaborating on his recipes, he said he would personally source for the ingredients to come up with the “perfect blend”.
“I go to the central market to choose the coconuts, for instance. The grated coconut will be too fibrous if the fruit is old, but there will not be much coconut taste if the fruit is young,” he said.
Pe, a former village chief did a variety of odd jobs to support his family prior to his kuih venture.
Pe also used to work as a driver delivering goods, and still does so but infrequently. The kuih business remains his main source of income as the family also accept advance orders.
In fact, food is big business here in Kampung Baru Simee, which was once a barbed wired community set up during the Emergency (1948 to 1960). Today, its bustling wet market and little town square are an indication of how villagers have re-invented themselves over the years while retaining the place’s rustic charm.
Grocery stall owner Chan Chee Hoe, 48, is proud that he and his wife Kong Foong Meng, raised their two children, now 19 and 17, by running a small business soon after they got married. His wife is also from the village.
They operate their stall from 5.45am until noon, he said, adding that the operation hours is extended by an hour or so on weekends.
“We get many customers from the nearby housing estates like Canning Garden and Ipoh Garden on Saturday and Sunday,” he said when StarMetro visited his stall.
His stall is eye-catching with its neat display of goods to Chan’s friendly demeanour as he is always ready to share cooking tips with his customers.
“We must be honest, creative and provide value for money for our customers,” he said, pointing out that many villagers are elderly and lived on a tight budget.
With the rising cost of living and customers getting increasingly discerning, Chan said it was important to keep customers happy or risk losing them.
But the overall business environment is equally important for sustainability especially with keen competition from hypermarkets and modern convenience stores mushrooming all over.
People from nearby housing estates also head to Kampung Baru Simee for breakfast and lunch over the weekend.
Chan recommended several food stalls, from chee cheong fun, fried noodle, soup noodle to egg tart and kaya puff. “They are very popular and have been available at the market for a long time,” he said.
Ipoh is famous for egg tarts and kaya puffs and Kampung Baru Simee’s Choy Kee is known for its egg tarts while QunKee is popular for its kaya puffs.
While both are modern bakeries in the village, it is still business as usual at their stalls in the wet market where the businesses were established.
The village also provides opportunities for people who are not from the village.
One of those who benefitted from this is 33-year-old soya milk and taufu fah seller Chow Kah Lok, who comes to the village to trade his wares from his food truck.
The youth from Kampung Baru Bercham in Ipoh who ventured into the business earlier this year believes that business provides better chances to move forward in life – provided one is willing to work hard, be creative and persevere.
A salaried worker would have to depend on his or her boss, he said, adding that wages are generally low and slow to move up these days.
With many moving out of new villages or even Ipoh in search of greener pastures, there are also many who stay on and have proven that there is also life back home.