JOHOR BAHRU: Almost the entire meals carts alongside Meldrum Walk meals road have been padlocked and shunted to the facet.
The alley, positioned a mere 500m from the immigration advanced linked to the Woodlands Causeway, was beforehand teeming with guests from Singapore yearning for a style of reasonably priced, delectable Malaysian Chinese road meals.
However, with the pandemic implementing border closures over the past yr, solely a handful of stalls have been left working.
In a nondescript nook of the lane, the scorching sound from a big pan at a stall named JB Fried Oyster broke the silence on a drizzly Wednesday afternoon.
An aged couple – Fong Ah Seng and Go E Cheng – and their son Richard Fong have been cramped in a small house of round 5 sq m behind the meals cart.
Fong ready the components and stir-fried the omelette on a piping sizzling fuel pan, Go packed the meals into cardboard packaging whereas Richard helmed the register and dealt with orders on his telephone.
In a metropolis that has been beleaguered by the financial results of COVID-19, this stall’s capacity to not solely survive, however thrive, has made it a success story in these troubled occasions.
The key to this success is its fluffy fried oyster omelette, which has locals from throughout the state coming again for extra.
Fried oyster omelette, extra generally identified by its colloquial Teochew time period “orh luak”, is a beloved hawker dish bought in many eateries throughout Malaysia and Singapore.
But what makes this stall’s dish excellent, in accordance with lots of its followers online, is its wok hei. Wok hei is a Cantonese time period referring to the smoky aroma imparted to meals that has been tossed and seared at excessive warmth.
Fong mentioned that the all-important char comes from understanding the best way to fry and deal with the omelette on the proper temperature.
“Practice makes it perfect. I’ve been doing this for more than 50 years,” he mentioned.
DECADES OF EXPERIENCE
The 72-year-old first learnt the best way to make orh luak as an 18-year-old junior chef working at a restaurant in JB that specialised in Chinese delicacies.
The restaurant’s proprietor, a Chinese nationwide, taught him the recipe. Just a few years later, Fong left the job and opened his personal stall in downtown Johor Bahru.
Fong’s strategy of frying every batch of omelette is a murals.
He first ladles milky white slurry batter onto the new pan, and because it units barely, he pours in greater than two dozen eggs. With his trusty spatula, Mr Fong breaks the yolks and stirs the combination gracefully, in small concentric circles.
Dipping the spatula into a big bowl of lard close by, Fong deftly flicks some lard into the pan from time to time. At the precise juncture, he provides chives, garlic or additional seasoning based mostly on the orders.
Once the omelette is set and golden brown, Fong throws in contemporary oysters the scale of fifty cent cash, that are imported contemporary from Thailand that very same morning.
He then parts and serves the thick, fluffy omelette in packs of brown greaseproof paper inside small cardboard packing containers, accompanied by a small container of fish sambal.
“People eat it as a snack, or part of a main meal. That’s the beauty about this dish,” mentioned Fong.
Go, 63, has been married to Fong for round 40 years and she or he has been his helper all through their marriage. Yet, not as soon as has she held the spatula and made the omelette.
“He is the only one that knows how to fry them perfectly, so it’s best I do not spoil the quality for our customers,” she added.
Richard, their son who give up his profession as an IT programmer to assist additional the household enterprise, echoed comparable sentiments.
“My father is the best at frying. He has taught me how to do it, but he’s still the best at it. One day I will take over, but as long as he is strong enough to do it, I will let him be,” mentioned Richard.
TAKING ORDERS ONLINE
The trio works 4 days per week, and on day, sells 100 to 200 packs of oyster omelette at RM12 (US$2.90) every.
COVID-19 has curtailed tourism from Singapore and decreased native foot visitors alongside the alley.
However, Richard has helped pivot the stall to take orders online, and this has allowed it to proceed to function by this pandemic.
“We have become popular through word of mouth so we then decided to open a Facebook page (JB Fried Oyster) to update our customers on our operating hours, and also how to take orders,” mentioned Richard.
The Facebook web page has greater than 13,000 followers, each locals and Singaporeans.
“Since COVID, we’ve been getting a lot of orders in bulk. People will buy in huge boxes, 30 to 40 packs and take them to their hometowns in Kulai, Batu Pahat or wherever and resell them,” mentioned Richard.
“With the pandemic, people don’t like to go out of their homes to buy food. So this kind of delivery service appeals to many families,” he added.
He mentioned that when COVID-19 first closed borders in March 2020, his household retailer misplaced about 20 per cent of enterprise, largely from Singaporean clients.
However, their new enterprise technique to go online and give attention to the native market has borne dividends, and the shop is doing even higher than in 2019, pre-pandemic.
“We’re happy that we are able to still survive and make money now. Along this lane, only one other chicken wing stall is open. The other stalls, especially those who offer dining in options like lok lok or yong tau foo cannot survive,” he added.
Richard defined that after the motion management order was applied in March final yr, many of those stalls promoting Chinese road meals have been pressured to shut, and nearly all of them have but to reopen.
Luckily for Richard, his household’s stall continued to obtain orders resulting from its recognition by phrase of mouth and social media.
The stall has additionally garnered fame online after a video of Fong in motion, printed by Singapore-based foodie YouTube channel DancingBacons in November 2019, went viral.
The video has chalked up 11 million views and attracted many feedback, together with these from netizens all around the world. Many lauded Fong for his frying expertise and for working laborious to make a masterpiece.
Fong was shocked to see the social media interactions the clip had, and mentioned he felt “touched” by most of the responses.
“One day when the border reopens, I hope many of these people will come down to our stall so they can try the omelette,” mentioned Fong.
“It tastes as good as it looks,” he added.