Nourishing a family legacy


Restoran Kak Nah in Pekan serves Indian dishes as well as east coast specialities.

FOR decades, Rosnah Mohd Amin sold breakfast fare in Pekan, Pahang, initially to supplement the family income and, after her divorce, to raise her seven children.

Back then, Rosnah or Kak Nah, as she is better known, would often help single mothers and ensure their families did not go hungry.

Now her son, Mohd Akram Frijand Ali has taken it a step further by opening a restaurant so that his 72-year-old mother can continue to help those in need.

He said the impetus for his decision was the local council’s move to rebuild the food court where his mother had been operating at since the late 1970s.

“In 2019, the food court was set to be demolished,” he said.

“The traders were offered space at a nearby carpark until the rebuild was completed.

“When I heard that, I immediately said ‘No’ as my mother was already in her late 60s.”

Mohd Akram asked his mother to retire, but she wanted to continue helping others through her food business.

Rashila making roti tempayan.Rashila making roti tempayan.

Then came the idea to open a restaurant, and a location was found along the main road into Pekan town from Kuantan.

Mohd Akram purchased the long-vacant building which had previously housed restaurants, and started renovating and outfitting the premises to the tune of some RM200,000.

Restoran Kak Nah opened during the Covid-19 pandemic, but things have thankfully progressed well since then, he said.

The eatery, which serves breakfast and lunch daily, not only employs single mothers but also offers needy children a chance to earn pocket money by doing odd jobs.

“The staff can eat whatever is served every day.

“We ensure that everyone has food and in a year with good income, we will buy clothes for them too,” said Mohd Akram.

For Rosnah, the food business is her life.

She enjoys making people happy with her food.

“I love my nasi lemak, chapati and fishball noodles,” she said.

“In my restaurant you’ll see mostly women making roti canai, naan, chapati and even thosai on top of the usual east coast dishes.

“My late ex-husband was Pakistani, so he and his sisters taught me how to cook their type of food.

“I wish someone could teach me how to cook Chinese food but at my age, I can hardly remember things anymore,” she said.

Rosnah (front) with her children, Mohd Akram and Nazira Frijand Ali on holiday in London.Rosnah (front) with her children, Mohd Akram and Nazira Frijand Ali on holiday in London.

Rosnah does, however, recall helping her father sell satay and nasi lemak when she was in school.

“We had to wake up very early in the morning to prepare the nasi lemak.

“My brothers would sell the food by the roadside before going to school.”

She was fortunate to be offered a food court kiosk by the local council where she became the first woman in Pekan town to sell chapati.

“It wasn’t easy to get locals to try strange food but after some time, it became a hit,” she said.

Her menu at Restoran Kak Nah offers east coast breakfast favourites like nasi minyak, nasi dagang, lontong, soto and pulut kuning.

From the dough corner there are roti canai, roti sarang burung and roti tempayan.

Lunch at Restoran Kak Nah’s include ikan patin tempoyak and dishes like udang galah and ayam kampung – depending on her mood and what she can source at the market.

With her mobility issues, Rosnah doesn’t do much of the cooking and kitchen preparation anymore, which starts as early as 4am.

Ikan patin tempoyak is one of the dishes served in the restaurant.Ikan patin tempoyak is one of the dishes served in the restaurant.

That’s where her daughter Rashila Frijand Ali and adopted daughter Napisah Din come in, alongside her employees, three single mothers and five staff who are orphans or children of single parents.

Rosnah estimates that she has employed more than 20 single mothers and 30 youngsters in need over the decades.

Most become part of her adopted family.

“Helping them feels natural to me as I am one of them.

“I still feel the struggle of raising children single-handedly.

“God willing, I help where I can with the assistance of my children.

“I teach many of my employees how to cook and run a kedai makan (eatery) so that if they need to operate one themselves, they can do it.

“I have a few of them running restaurants now.

“Seeing them able to be independent gives me great pleasure,” said Rosnah.

She also lets needy children do odd jobs like cleaning, food service and dish-washing during weekends and school holidays so that they can earn some pocket money.

They are planning to celebrate Hari Raya Aidiladha by donating food to an orphanage and single mothers, and organising a cooking session.

The restaurant hires single mothers and the needy.The restaurant hires single mothers and the needy.

Mohd Akram sees setting up the restaurant as a way to repay his mother’s sacrifices.

“We grew up poor, and we felt the lack of money during occasions like the start of the school year,” he said.

When he had the chance to further his education in the UK, his mother borrowed money for his personal expenses.

Prices at the restaurant are kept low thanks to his other businesses nearby, including a farm which supplies chicken and vegetables.

Mohd Akram hopes to turn the eatery into a farm-to-restaurant business, and develop the surrounding area with landscaped gardens for the benefit of the community.

“Come by in two years and hopefully you can see Restoran Kak Nah with a lush Bali-inspired garden,” he said.

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Pekan , eatery , food

   

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