Platform to promote local food treasures

How Jia Jin, 26, exhibiting the Baik Selangor New Village food products.

POPULAR food products made in Chinese new villages have the ability to promote an area and attract tourists.

Small businesses relying on their individual strengths, over the years, have managed to build quite a following but remain within confined reach of popularity.

Take Heritaste pounded peanut candy from Jenjarom as an example.

The 37-year-old company, now manned by second generation owners, has gained popularity among locals and tourists.

Tat Lian Confectionery Sdn Bhd director Jennifer Tan said the candies were a hit among visitors who bought them as souvenirs.

“It all started when my father Tan Hock Heeng learned the skills of making biscuits in Singapore.

“In 1984, he decided to return home and start a confectionery business here in his hometown in Kampung Baru Sungai Jarom.

“He made a lot of biscuits but surprisingly, pounded peanut candy became popular among customers,” Jennifer told StarMetro.

Tat Lian Confectionery carries the Heritaste brand and pounded peanut candy is its signature product.

In 2015, Jennifer and her siblings moved the business to a shop in Jalan Intan 2, Taman Yayasan in Jenjarom, Selangor, when the company celebrated its 30th anniversary.

“At the retail shop, we can share the history and identity of the new village.

“We hope people will come to know about the new village through our pounded peanut candy,” she added.

Heritaste pounded peanut candy is also one of the new village’s products featured during the Baik Selangor programme (2021-2022) held at Jalan 15, Batu 11 in Cheras.

Baik Selangor is an educational programme aimed at stimulating the economy of Chinese new villages, assist the transformation of traditional businesses and help new businesses start up.

It also included a competition with two categories — Startup and Veteran — for local food companies and entrepreneurs last year.

A total of 35 shortlisted finalists went through a series of training in marketing, management and packaging to enhance their food products before the judging process.

Winners of the competition will have their products certified as a “Good New Village Product” and have the opportunity to be selected as souvenirs that the state government can rely on in future.

Although the competition was concluded last year, the prize presentation and product showcase were held this year after the lockdown was lifted.

The top three winners in both categories were rewarded with RM10,000, RM8,000 and RM5,000, respectively.

In this competition, Heritaste’s pounded peanut candy was named Baik Selangor 2021-2022 Veteran category champion. Tourism potential Selangor government has plans to incorporate the Baik Selangor programme, by capitalising on local food products, to promote tourism in Chinese new villages.

Selangor local government, public transport and new village development committee chairman Ng Sze Han said the state was working with Tourism Selangor to market new villages as tourist destinations.

“Many people got to know the name of the new villages through these local delicacies.

“I believe more people will get to know new villages better through the Baik Selangor programme.

“For example, only a handful of people have heard of Bagan Sungai Janggut, which is known for its jellyfish paste.

“Through this programme, the fishing village’s jellyfish paste will become known to others as it won the gold medal in the Start-up category,” he added.

Ng said that while efforts were ongoing to promote new villages, not all new villages could be promoted as tourism products.

“We do not have to make all 77 new villages in Selangor tourist attractions as some of them have different supporting roles to play.

“However, we have identified a few potential new villages in Jenjarom, Tanjung Sepat and Sungai Lima in Pulau Ketam for tourism.

“Many people are unaware that next to Pulau Ketam, there is a hidden fishing village called Bagan Sungai Lima that has attractions of its own.”

He said Selangor was in talks with Tourism Selangor, Klang Municipal Council as well as representatives from Bagan Sungai Lima to promote the fishing village.

“As for Kampung Baru Sungai Pelek, the Selangor hop-on-hop-off bus is expected to start this year, ferrying visitors to its local attractions,” he added.

Visitors to Bagan Sungai Lima can check out shrimp drying, fish farms and savour the day’s sea bounty at seafood restaurants.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses were affected but through this programme, traditional businesses in new villages have learned to repackage and market their products,” said Ng.

“Tourism is an equally important aspect of the programme because if we can attract tourists, we can boost the villages’ economy,” he said.

He added that Selangor would have a second edition, this year, following the success of the Baik Selangor programme.

A needed boost

Friends Cass Chen, Lee Kim Hua and Soon Kah Weng were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic when they had to take pay cuts at work.

To overcome their hardship, they decided to start a dessert-making business.

“We started our company, Wei Tian Fang, in Kampung Baru Serdang last year.

“The thing about desserts is that everyone has different sweetness tolerance,” said Chen.

The company’s peach gum paste went on to win the silver medal in the Start-up category of Baik Selangor.

“We were very happy with our product and the competition definitely gave us a boost in market and positioning.

“And since Kampung Baru Serdang does not have a signature product, we hope our peach gum paste can be part of the new village’s identity,’’ Chen added.

Telling a story

Putting Bagan Sungai Janggut on the map has always been Lee Sew Fa’s dream.

Lee is the founder of Nv Wang homemade jellyfish paste.

Back in the 1980s, jellyfish fishing was common for new village residents and fishermen would dry them on the boat before selling them to villagers.

However, jellyfish fishing slowed down due to its drop in value.

Sew Fa was deeply attracted to the charming and laid-back fishing village when she first visited it eight years ago.

‘’I came to know that fishermen here used to catch a lot of jellyfish when I spoke to them and I learned that it was a popular activity here.

“This is something unique and part of the new village’s identity,” she said, adding that jellyfish should remain a signature product of the village.

Sew Fa started experimenting using jellyfish to make a paste and after several trials, she got the desired result.

Her jellyfish paste bagged the gold medal in Baik Selangor’s Start-up category.

She said the competition helped expedite the process of marketing and selling the product.

‘‘Bagan Sungai Janggut is an interesting fishing village and people go about their daily routine quietly.

“I hope that through the product, I can tell people about the history of the fishing village,” she said.

Meanwhile, at Kampung Baru Sungai Pelek, hand-roasted Liberica coffee by Chop Guan Kee Sdn Bhd is well-known to locals for three generations.

Chop Guan Kee director Teo Shao Hui said the company aspired for Chop Guan Kee Liberica coffee to be associated with the new village like how Kluang coffee was popular in the Johor town.

“Initially, my father Teo Choon Fung was against us inheriting the business because it was physically demanding but we persuaded him to let us run it.

“By 2017, my sisters and I were fully involved in the business.

“Now, we are focused on branding and positioning, which is in line with my father’s wishes.

“The competition has helped us understand our brand even further and how to incorporate the brand with Sungai Pelek,” said Shao Hui, adding that the family has been in business for about 79 years since her father started it.

Chop Guan Kee’s Liberica coffee won the silver medal in Baik Selangor’s Veteran category.

Shao Hui said she and her siblings had expanded the business by opening a cafe beside the coffee-roasting factory.

“A lot of tourists who visit Sungai Pelek also want a place to relax and have coffee, so we hope our cafe can cater to this demand,” she said.

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