Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hi Valentina



JOHOR BARU: Her birthday is on Valentine's Day but every year Valentina Kim, who turns 28 this Saturday (Feb 14), will be busy at her florist shop, as usual.
  Kim, a creative director at Kim's Florist, set up at Jalan Sungai Chat here 35 years ago, is one of the oldest florist shops in Johor Baru.
  The youngest among three sisters, Kim said she grew up among flowers.
  "For the longest time that I can remember, my birthdays have all been in the shop.
  "I've been helping my mother (who founded Kim's Florist) since young.  February 14 is one of the busiest days of a florist's life so sometimes we get so busy, no one has time to celebrate my birthday.
  "Last year, it was the double celebration because Valentine's Day happened to coincide with the Chinese "Yuan Xiao Jie" (the last day of Chinese New Year and fondly known as the Chinese version of Valentine's Day).
  "This year, there were more "pick-up" orders than deliveries.  The reason being that Valentine's Day fell on a weekend, so many couples have opted to go away for a holiday.
  "We have couples residing in Johor, or coming from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, but most of them would just order a bouquet and bring it along to some holiday destination," she said.
  This year, there were also two wedding receptions on Valentine's Day which had ordered flowers from Kim's Florist.
  "So, I am going to have a busy Valentine's Day," she said.


  Kim said sales of "chocolate bouquets" priced at RM150 each comprising 12 stalks of chocolates, were much sought-after by her customers.
  "You can have your flowers and eat them as well when you order the chocolate bouquet," she said.
  As for the price of roses this year, Kim said she is maintaining the price as of last year.
  "The classic red roses are still the most popular among my customers.  We have bouquets ranging in price from RM100 to RM1,000 (for a bouquet of 99 red roses).
  All the roses at Kim's Florist were imported from China, India, Kenya and Ecuador.





Monday, February 2, 2015

Sweet and Sticky

年糕 Nian Gao, also known as Kuih Bakul, is a traditional steamed sweet cake that people enjoy during Chinese New Year because it's name symbolizes 年高 "nian gao" which means growing abundance or higher achievement.




At Jalan Bakawali 52 in Taman Johor Jaya, Johor Bahru is a nian gao making factory run by Dato B. Balamurali, 46.

The Malacca-born Balamurali started working in a nian gao factory run by a Singaporean Chinese in 1989. After the factory closed down in 1997,  Balamurali set up his own factory here the following year.

Balamurali's business, into its 17th year now, operates for only one month before the Chinese New Year. It has 40 workers who churn out more than 2,000 kuih per day. It takes 9 hours to steam the kuih in a giant steamer.  

About 70% of the nian gao produced at the NYCC Enterprise is for the Singapore market. 


And what happens after the Chinese New Year...? Balamurali will shift his focus back to his real estate agency.


This year the price of the nian gao is a bit higher as the prices of flour, banana leaves and gas as well as the workers' salaries have all gone up.

But Balamurali's business, like the product that he churns out, looks set to soar higher each year. I say this because the kuih is really sweet and sticky (but not too sweet) and truly deserving of a thumbs up.

The challenges of this business ---- the banana leaves are hard to get and all the old tales and taboos associated with the nian gao is true, says Balamurali.


Gong Xi Fa Cai.

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