Monday, 18 August 2014
Johor Kaki Address to Rotary Club of Puteri Lagoon (Johor Bahru) - Johor Kaki Vision
Dear President, Rotarians and guests,
Thank you for the privilege to share with you about Johor Kaki. Thank you President (Elect) Ling Ping for your invitation.
I got into Johor Kaki pretty much by accident, stumbling into it.
When I retired three years ago, I suddenly found myself with plenty of time, still have some energy left but little money.
With resources in that descending order, I wanted to do something that would let me do the most good, for the most number of people.
I went into blogging about the hawkers of Johor.
Soon I found myself with little time, energy expended and still not much money. But, I am glad that I did manage to achieve some of my goals with Johor Kaki blog.
Johor Kaki is a fees free community service. There are five objectives I hope to achieve through Johor Kaki blog.
First, I hope to tell the story of Johor's old hawkers. Their personal stories and the untold stories behind their food.
Many of our hawkers served the community for 30 to 50 years, day in, day out, rain or shine, until retirement. Yet, many of their lifelong contribution is not recorded anywhere. Neither in traditional media, nor social media.
I thought I could record their stories in a blog. A blog costs very little money to set up. It just takes a lot of time and energy. The thing that keeps me going is because I am convinced that this is a worthy task.
Many of the hawkers feel it is a form of recognition of their hard work, which is otherwise taken for granted. The smiles on their faces alone, make it all worthwhile for me.
My greatest regret is that some of the best hawkers have retired before Johor Kaki reached them. So, I need to work faster and need more people to join in this task, to have less regrets.
Secondly, I want to support Johor's young hawkers and young people who just started out in F and B (food and beverage) business.
The future of Johor food is in their hands. It's not an easy business. The hours are long, the work is hard, and profitability, indeed survivability is not guaranteed. It takes either guts or foolishness to get into the water :P
In the old days when cost of doing business was not as high as today, our parents can just let word of mouth slowly help build their reputation and business.
In the past, hawkers could take 5 to 10 years to make a name for themselves, and it would still be alright. Today, businesses need to get a firm footing and customer support much sooner.
I can use Johor Kaki blog to tell the story of these young hawkers and help them stand up their business quicker than just relying on traditional word of mouth. Blogs, Facebook and Instagram are the modern word of mouth. Social media is instant and can reach thousands with a press of the button.
Social media is really a marvel of technology that opens up opportunities for small players.
Thirdly, I want to give people looking for food in Johor, a comprehensive and easy to use multimedia guide. I am happy that people from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have found Johor Kaki a good reference. Actually, many Johoreans also told me that they use Johor Kaki to find food in Johor :D
Johoreans living faraway from home like in the USA and Australia, wrote to me to tell me how they connect with their homeland through Johor Kaki.
Many Johoreans miss Johor food.
I am just glad that Johor Kaki is helpful for different people.
At the moment, Johor Kaki is a web based site (which can also be accessed on handphone). When resources are available, I would like Johor Kaki to also be more mobile friendly.
Fourthly, I want to build communities on social media discussing and chatting about the food of Johor.
The currency of social media or any community, real or virtual, is actually conversations. A shared common topic binds people together and food is one of the best social glue.
For this, I have created Johor Kaki Facebook page with over 45,000 followers now. I have created Johor Yummy Facebook group, now with over 6,000 members sharing their food experiences in Johor. I also have a Facebook group dedicated to Halal food, which now has over 27,000 members.
The next step would be face-to-face meetings for members of our virtual community.
Last but not least, I hope that Johor food will become a recognised brand.
When we ask people to name famous Malaysian food brands. Penang food, Malacca, K.L. and Ipoh food are the usual suspects in the limelight. In my opinion, Johor food is just as deserving as any, as a brand.
There are several traditional dishes that are uniquely Johor, created in Johor that can be highlighted.
One example I can think of is Laksa Johor. Where else in the world can one find laksa spices and herbs, and minced fish paired with spaghetti? Yes, spaghetti, the Italian pasta. Only in Johor.
Legend has it that Sultan Abu Baker was in Italy in the late 1800s, and fell in love with spaghetti. So when he was back in Johor, he asked the palace chef to prepare laksa with spaghetti. And, hence, the unique Laksa Johor was born.
Another unique Johor food is San Lou fried bee hoon. Ordinary bee hoon is skilfully fried using a special technique invented in Johor Bahru that caramelises the outer layer of bee hoon while the inside remains juicy with savoury seafood broth. Where else but in Johor, it's birthplace, can you find the best San Lou style bee hoon.
And, San Lou 三楼 refers to the old three storey flats still standing in Stulang Laut where this unique style of fried bee hoon originated, years ago in the 1970s.
Other unique dishes like chunky Muar style otak otak, Mee Bandung Muar and Pontian wanton mee can all be put together and make up a solid Johor food brand.
The unique Johor food is already there, and it's ready to be famous.
I hope you will join me to help make Johor a famous food paradise.
18 Aug 2014