They keep coming back, even after 20 years

Syazwani Hj Rosli

One of the nation’s favourite food items is nasi katok, a simple dish featuring plain rice combined with fried chicken and sambal that can range from sweet to savoury at all levels of spiciness.

A longtime favourite is Nasi Katok Lambak Kiri. Many years ago, people would queue up at the staircase of a house at STKRJ Kampong Lambak Kiri and literally knock on its door to buy nasi katok. That is how it all started – the act of knocking which means ‘katok’ in Malay.

Nasi Katok Lambak Kiri was founded in 1993 by Hajah Aisah binti Haji Md Yussof, a mother of eight. Her son, Azizulillah bin Haji Uthman (Azizul), now handles the business as she is getting older.

“I believe that we are among the very few family businesses selling nasi katok for long,” he said.

“However, we were not aware of it then that our nasi bungkus was actually called Nasi Katok by our regular customers because of the fact that they had to knock on our door or gate to buy them. That is how it all started for us.”

Remembering the old days, when his mother started selling nasi bungkus and Malay kueh in 1978 with the support and encouragement from his father, Haji Uthman bin Haji Awang Damit, Azizul shared that his mother, a housewife, launched the business to earn an extra income and to provide for the family while the father was in the military.

ABOVE & BELOW: Nasi katok of Nasi Katok Lambak Kiri; and Azizulillah bin Haji Uthman preparing a nasi katok

“During that time we were residing in Tutong Camp because my father was working with the military. Then we moved to Berakas Camp and later, after my father retired and bought a house in Kampong Ayer, my mother continued selling from home and also sold her food to a school nearby,” he said.

In 1992, they permanently moved to their current home in STKRJ Lambak Kiri and later in 1993, Nasi Katok Lambak Kiri was established.

“That time there was no social media or any other technologies, unlike today. We were only dependent on word of mouth of our customers. However, the turnout was overwhelming.

We often had customers who would queue and wait patiently for their turn to buy our nasi katok at the staircase outside our house,” he said.

Azizul said that customers often praised their sambal and ever since then, his mother tried her very best to maintain its taste.

“The sambal was the most sought after by our customers. Many times customers would request for extra sambal so my mother had to constantly cook. The sambal had to be constantly monitored because according to my mom it takes 12 hours for it to be cooked to perfection. The kitchen was always hectic but my mom kept things organised and simplified every single process of the business.”

After his father passed away in 2009, his mother became the breadwinner of the family.

Finances became quite unstable but Azizul saw his mother’s determination and sacrifice for the family.

After years of hard work by his mother, Azizul and his siblings have decided to take over their mother’s business so that she can rest and enjoy herself. Although some of them have day jobs, they spend their free time after work to be part of the business team.

He shared that he and his siblings now have their own food and beverage businesses.

“We have not hired any workers. We wanted to maintain that our business is family-oriented.

We want everyone to be involved. We are glad that my mother has taught us the family’s recipe and each of us tried to further expand our businesses. Now, apart from selling nasi katok, we have expanded our menus to burgers, drinks, desserts and many others. Insya Allah we will strive towards success and the rest, we leave our rezeki to Allah the Almighty,” said Azizul.

All the siblings are grateful that their business are growing through many ups and downs that they have faced while growing up in maintaining their mother’s legacy.

Even after more than 20 years into the business, they still have their regular customers. When asked how they kept their customers after all these years, he responded that he stuck to his mother’s recipe so that the taste would be maintained and carry out business while conducting sedekah (donations) once in a while to the customers.

“My mother has taught us so many different things while we were growing up. But, apart from how to become a good cook, the biggest lesson she has imparted to us is her work ethic. She taught us that one can achieve anything one wants if you set your mind to it and is dedicated to the work.”

“I think there is so much of our mother in us because one of the many things I witnessed while growing up was her determination in keeping the business alive for our sake,” he continued. “We respect her hard work and her perseverance inspires us. We will continue and strive to keep her business alive and well. We will continue her legacy, Insya Allah,” he said.

“We would like to thank our mother for giving us so much love and support all these years.

Thank you for working so hard to give us all a good life and being the greatest role model to look up to.”