Finding success with ‘Kueh Jala’

Syazwani Hj Rosli

Since 2007, Siti Rahimah binti Abdullah has been an enterprising woman making Kueh Jala, one of Brunei’s traditional delicacies named after its pattern that looks like a net and is still a trend among all ages.

As the founder of Kueh Jala Hijrah, Siti Rahimah’s business represents RPN Kampong Mentiri Village Consultative Council (MPK) for the One Village One Product (1K1P) initiative under the Brunei-Muara District Office.

She first started as a home business and had her products recommended by former Village Head Pengiran Haji Ibrahim bin Pengiran Haji Hidup to the Brunei-Muara District Office to represent MPK RPN Kampong Mentiri in 1K1P. Soon after, she was provided a proper place at the Kampong Mentiri Community Hall to carry out her business towards the end of 2012.

Meeting the middle-aged woman at the Kampong Mentiri Community Hall recently, the Bulletin saw Siti Rahimah and her team of two busy making Kueh Jala. Making this traditional delicacy is an interesting and fun process, but demands certain skills and patience to prepare.

The rice flour batter is ladled into an empty coconut shell with numerous small holes and held over hot oil while slowly moving in a circular motion. The thin batter will drip into the oil and form a plate-like layer as it fries and when the sizzling stops, sticks are used to fold the kueh into any shape before it turns to a solid crisp. The kueh is later put in a basket to drain off the excess oil.

Preparing Kueh Jala. PHOTOS: MUIZ MATDANI
Siti Rahimah’s team prepares Kueh Jala

Siti Rahimah shared that her skills and experience in making Kueh Jala was part of her family’s tradition. The preparation methods were passed on through generations, she said. Her mother used to make Kueh Jala when she was young and this had an influence on Siti Rahimah.

“There’s just nothing more comforting than a house filled with the aroma of your mom’s cooking and baked goods. I’ve been into it for as long as I remember but I never thought of myself as anything more than just an average home cook or baker. That was until I started my own home business,” she said. “I just love making Kueh Jala and making a business out of it. Alhamdulillah, I’ve gone far from where I started.”

Being under the 1K1P initiative, Siti Rahimah is grateful that they participated in expos and exhibitions to further market their products beyond their usual reach.

She is thankful that through the expos and the use of social media, her products have grown positively and have flown overseas to China, United Kingdom and others. She shared that the response from locals and foreigners, particularly Singapore, has been overwhelming.

Locally, Siti Rahimah said although their premises seemed quiet, they still produce hundreds of Kueh Jala daily to cater to orders for wedding souvenirs, birthday parties and others. She shared that she also supplies Kueh Jala to several shopping complexes and tuck shops across the district.

“The start of my business was a tough experience. I did everything by myself from mixing the batter, frying it and packaging. When there were too many orders, I would stay up all night just to make sure that all orders were completed,” she shared.

“Now with my team, I’ve shared my skills and knowledge with them, we are able to cater bulk orders. We will carry out our duties in rotation.”

In her effort to offer different flavours for her Kueh Jala, “We are planning to come up with something new – a chocolate-flavoured Kueh Jala.

“We are still in the research and development phase. We still need to consider pricing as well. Insya Allah, we will see. May Allah the Almighty ease our business,” she said.

Siti Rahimah thanked her husband, who supports and encourages her and has been there whenever she needs a helping hand with her business, especially in managing finances, logistics and attending to clients.

“I hope that the younger generation would come and learn more about our traditional delicacies and become the ‘pelapis bangsa’ in the future,” she said. “Some traditional delicacies are at risk of disappearing.

“If it’s gone, so is part of our tradition. We need to educate them that these delicacies we’ve eaten growing up should remain close to our hearts and our heritage.”