JOHOR BARU: A slow learner from the Puteri Wangsa community-based rehabilitation centre here has found her calling — making acar buah or pickled fruits from scratch.
Hamidah Jabar, 48, who has learning difficulties, immediately fell in love with cooking after her teacher, Juliana Mohd Nasir, taught her the recipe in February.
Under the guidance of Juliana and the centre’s teaching staff, Hamidah slowly learned the ropes including preparing the ingredients such as washing, peeling and chopping the onions, ginger, chillies and a variety of dried pickled fruits used in the recipe.
Fellow trainee Fuziah Hassan, 35, usually helps Hamidah by passing her the chopped ingredients to be cooked in a large wok over slow fire in the centre’s kitchen.
According to centre supervisor S. Bavahny, Hamidah enjoyed being in the kitchen and would take the initiative to help out with house chores at home.
“When we started the fruit pickle project about six months ago, Hamidah showed interest and potential, so we decided to team her up with Fuziah to make the pickle in a standard wok over the kitchen stove.
“The product received good reviews from parents who then spread the word to their friends and we gradually moved to a larger wok to cater to the increase in orders, ” Bavahny said during an interview at the centre in Taman Mount Austin.
She said each batch produced about 80 jars of pickled fruit and they could make up to three batches a week, depending on orders.
“Each batch takes up to five hours to prepare and cook, before it is left to cool overnight to be filled into jars the next day, ” she explained.
She said the product had attracted customers from all over Johor and even reached Melaka, Seremban and Putrajaya.
She added that Juliana would constantly monitor and guide the trainees while making the pickle and they were required to wear an apron and face mask for hygiene purposes.
Bavahny said the centre’s other adult trainees, who suffer from various learning disabilities, were tasked with filling the jars with pickle, placing the product stickers and packing the orders.
The centre’s chairman, Noor Shahimah Satuhat said she would assist in improving the product packaging and marketing through e-commerce platforms.
“With proper sealing and packaging, we can then fulfil more orders through courier services without having to worry about spillage.
“For now, the teachers take it upon themselves to deliver the orders or customers can choose to pick up their orders at the centre, ” she said, adding that she was advising the centre to work towards getting the products certified as well.