There’s something about Johor food that is familiar yet distinctive, which makes it especially sought after for food lovers in the Klang Valley. For Southerners working here, it is a taste of home.
They do things a little differently down there like using spaghetti for their Laksa Johor and serving fried noodles with rice for Nasi Ambeng. But it works for the Javanese influenced cuisine.
It’s therefore always wonderful to discover another place that sells these deliciously different Southern-style dishes. Jemput Makan, conveniently located in the heart of Bangsar, is one of these tucked-away gems.
For Sherifah – who owns, runs, cooks and does pretty much everything – her entry into the food business was a tumultuous one. It began when her husband lost his job just over a year ago.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never went through with. But then my husband lost his job and that was the push I needed.”
“Start-ups are always challenging and Jemput Makan is no exception. There were a lot of hurdles that I had to overcome, like hiring staff, learning how to manage a business. There were so many things to learn.”
Then came the Covid-19 pandemic and the restaurant had to close when the Movement Control Order was imposed.
“All our perishable inventory had to either be used or thrown away, so we made the decision to cook and operate from home.”
In the beginning, she began delivering her food in the Bangsar area. The challenges included getting the orders delivered on time, managing the delivery people and making sure the food reached the right customer.
“I am grateful for Allah’s guidance, my family and my helpers. As well as my friends and regular customers for their support.”
“One thing I never do is stinge on my ingredients. I also insist on using only natural ingredients. I emphasise on the quality and let my customers judge the quality of my food. I offer restaurant quality food at affordable prices.”
Sherifah also does not use artificial flavouring or colouring for any of her dishes. She even makes her own chilli paste from scratch.
“No cili bo, not even synthetic vinegar used. I use lime, asam jawa or asam gelugor in my dishes. If vinegar is required, I use distilled or apple cider vinegar. The cost is higher and that reduces the profit margin but I’m happy knowing that I do not “harm” my customers’ bellies. Also, whatever I cook for the business, my precious family eats too.”
These days, it’s more manageable for Sherifah. She has fallen into a routine where she wakes up at 4 am and begins prepping and cooking in between her morning prayers.
She then doubles checks her orders for the day and goes marketing if necessary. By late morning she begins packing the food and coordinating the deliveries.
“You learn as you go on. But one needs a lot of patience. Businesses do not always do well at the start so you have to be prepared and to persevere. You also need a lot of support from the family.”
She is grateful that most of her customers have been very kind and supportive. Many of them are from the mosque near her house where she now operates a stall.
“My delivery customer base has doubled since the start of the MCO. It’s probably because many people now prefer the convenience and safety of ordering from home. I like to think it’s also because my food is quite good and unique.”
Among the dishes Sherifah offers are Laksa Johor, Kacang Phool, Soto and Nasi Ambeng from Johor as well as Lontong Kuah, Mee Siam Kuah and Mee Rebus from Singapore. The delivery version sometimes comes with a little bit of dessert if you’re lucky.
So, if you’re looking for a taste from the South from as far as Singapore, look for Sherifah within the compound of Masjid Saidina Abu Bakar Assidiq on Jalan Ara Bangsar and Jemput Makan.