Healthy Breakfast @ Yulek Market

I posted a photo on Instagram on Sunday morning (I think) around 7 AM…

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Caption: “My view for the next few hours. Come to Yulek Pasar if u wanna find me 😉 “

I guess it is time for more details…

Well, you see, my parents recently decided to have a go at being hawkers, so they went and got a booth space in the Yulek Pasar some weeks ago.

(For those of you non-KLites/non-Malaysians, Yulek is the name of a residential area in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. Pasar is the Malay word for market, as in morning market. So, Yulek Pasar merely means Yulek area’s morning market.)

Last weekend was my first time going back home since the booth space. So it made sense for me to go with my parents in an attempt to appear like a filial son.

Let me backtrack a little and share with you the life of a newbie hawker, as seen through my own eyes. This is a rough schedule that I observed of my parents’ life these days.

  • 3.30AM – 6.00AM: Wake up and go through final preparations of the food for business, including but not limited to: heating up the food, portioning up the food, garnishing and packing up the food, loading up the food to the van, shower and getting dressed into their “uniform”.
  • 6.00AM – 6.15AM: Drive to curry puff supplier’s place to collect curry puffs, and then drive to the market.
  • 6.15AM – 6.30AM: Arrive at their booth in the market, unload the food from the van to their stall, set up stall and get ready for business.
  • 6.30AM – 11.00AM: Sell food to customers in the market.
  • 11.00AM – 1.00PM: Stock up on ingredients for tomorrow’s menu, have lunch and get home.
  • 1.00PM – 4.00PM: Rest, catch up on sleep.
  • 4.00PM – 6.00PM: (Mom only) Cook dinner for the family. Eat dinner.
  • 6.00PM – 12.00AM: Preparing for tomorrow’s menu, including but not limited to: Setting up the kitchen, washing and cutting and chopping and whatever else needs to be done to the ingredients, cooking the food, washing up after cooking.
  • 12.00AM – 3.30AM: Get some sleep.

The timing might not be 100% accurate and may vary a bit, but close enough…

Can you see how crazy this is? They basically get less than 8 hours of rest/sleep time per day, and the rest is spent working, one way or another. They’re working harder than me it would seem.

Given, they’re new to this, so a lot of those time are probably wasted on inefficiency. Good news is they’re not doing this 7 days a week. They only go at it on weekends and 2-3 days selectively on weekdays. Still, it is a crazy amount of work when they do work. I can only hope that with time, they become more efficient and the work:rest time ratio would be much more balanced.

Okay, enough storytelling…

When I said the view above was going to be my view for the next few hours, I wasn’t lying.

This was my view at 9.50AM

I was seated, and there were more people (obviously, since on weekends, 9.30AM is a more humane time compared to 7AM).

Truth be told, I didn’t do much anyway. I helped with the loading and unloading, and then I was mostly there to chat with my mom, and be her sidekick when there’s customers, doing menial tasks like passing her the plastic spoons and plastic bags, and giving a wide grin when one of her return customers commented: “Wah! Auntie! Your son ahh?? So good ahh come out and help you??”

Usually being the sidekick is my dad’s task, but as I was standing in, he got to wander around the market and beyond, looking and chatting up his old friends. He used to live in Yulek so he has many old friends in the vicinity.

What am I doing? I just deviated from what I really want to write, yet again…

What I really want to do is to tell you guys what my parents sell. Take a look at the menu…

Yeah, it’s all in Chinese, because most people who come here are Chinese

The menu of the day was: 小米麦片粥 Millet and Oats Porridge (RM 3.00), 椰汁麦粥 Sweet Wheat Porridge with Coconut Milk (RM 2.50), 红枣莲子雪耳 Sweet White Fungus Soup with Red Dates and Lotus Seeds (RM 3.00), 咸香沙谷糕 Spiced Sago Cake (RM 2.50).

Notice the menu is actually written on a whiteboard. using marker pens? This is because the menu changes every day, depending on what my mom felt like cooking the day before. But basically it goes along this template: 1 savory porridge + 2 sweet dessert soups + 1 or 2 Chinese pastries.

Clockwise from top: Sweet White Fungus Soup, Millet and Oats Porridge, Sweet Wheat Porridge
Spiced Sago Cake

Hmm, I’m telling you these because, well… if you live near enough and you ever want a healthy breakfast option, you might want to hop over to my parents’ stall and check it out. I don’t need to exaggerate anything about the food. All I need is to tell you the truth.

You know how I sometimes post about the stuff that my mom prepares for me every time I go home? And how some of you claim to really want to try my mom’s food? Well, she prepares the food that she sells the exact same way that she prepares food for us: brown sugar instead of white sugar, organic vegetarian seasoning instead of MSG, brown rice instead of white rice for her savory porridge, that kind of things.

If you want to pay my parents a visit, you just need to know how to get to the Yulek Market. Once there, you will most probably be able to find my parents’ booth. There are 3 separate clusters of food stalls in the market’s food court, but most of them sell the usual crap. And then there’s the one and only stall that sells healthy porridge and dessert, and that’s my parents’ stall.

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You can choose to either dine in or takeaway. Most of our sales were takeaway, which is normal for a morning market business I guess 🙄 .

If you do go and try out my mom’s food, feel free to let her (or me) know what you really think. She is at the moment (since she is still new) very open to feedback. I’m obviously biased, so my feedback is no good. 🙄

Oh! I almost forgot. I think I mentioned about curry puffs somewhere, didn’t I?

There…

It appears that this is rather popular. If you are familiar with the Yulek Market, you may remember a certain auntie who used to walk around the market and peddle her curry puffs out of a basket in hand. But she stopped coming since a long while ago. Well, this auntie happens to be the curry puffs supplier that I mentioned earlier. According to my mom, the first time they put these puffs on display, the old timer patrons immediately recognized them and the puffs were sold out in no time.

I have yet to sample this curry puff to see if it is really that good, because, well… they were sold out. We only get to eat what’s left after business. 🙄


Sigh… I actually finished typing this post an hour ago, and then I have been yoyo-ing between hitting the Publish button or Delete button.

I do want my parents’ food stall to be successful, but writing about it makes me feel like a “bad” son. A part of me can’t help but berate myself for promoting their food stall when I should be worrying about how to be able support their livelihood entirely and get them off any form of work at all, ASAP. 🙁

26 Comments

  1. I think the small scale food business generally involves long hours esp for starters. I wonder if some of ingredients can be prepared in advance.

    Millet porridge is new to me. No doubt I will come across it on the horizon.

    • Of course can be prepared in advance, and the preparing in advance is the task that consumes most time and effort most of the time. 🙄

  2. Wow, that’s so much hard work :(, and makes me feel bad when I complain about my work, when it’s so much easier than that. And I’m young too. :/ I hope they find a better routine soon so it won’t be so taxing. And I hope they’re successful too, so they can decrease the number of days of working per week even more!

    The dessert soups sound reaaaally good. And those curry puffs!

    • I’m not sure about Publika, but I think there’s a couple of pretty decent dessert cafes in One Utama and Uptown that does dessert soups. They might be more easily accessible to you if you wanna try some.

  3. Wah wah wah, all these while those porridge and tong suis that your mom ‘forces’ into you until you are tall, yellow and handsome has made it to the market! If only they are in PJ I would love to try them. As you know, I hardly go to Cheras what more in the mornings.

    Next time you are in KL, do let us know. Maybe you can be our delivery guy 😀

    • Hmm, we’ll see… Actually PJ and Cheras not that far apart also. If we can go to 1U often, you should be able to come to Cheras too if you want. 😛

  4. That sure is a long day of work. I would love to try your mum’s cooking though – especially as I know it’s healthy – I note this for a spare weekend. 🙂

  5. Yulek! a familiar place…my maternal grandma, uncle and aunt stayed there since early 70s…I used to hangout there when I was a kid till they no longer here. Hawker job especially in F&B biz is indeed very taxing, better get a helper to do most of the strenuous tasks, as all those involves lotsa energy which could be taxing to the elderly. Yea, I tink ur parents are jst ‘testing water’ and trying out a different lifestyle, perhaps to kill boredom. Definitely not for a long term job.

    • Well, I wonder if they will do it long term. But if they do, I think I will force them to adopt more efficient ways to prepare food. I’ll be like Gordon Ramsay in Kitchen Nightmares, minus the expletives of course. 🙄

  6. Aiyoh.. now only I know.. if only our parent’s biz is in Ipoh, I surely will pay them a visit every now and then.. you know la, desserts is my favourite!! Got kueh, got tong sui… wahh.. I happy already! Hey, don’t feel bad for telling us, you should have posted this long long ago… now I know why you are now into cooking too! I agree with you, the hours are indeed fully occupied with their work but perhaps this is what they love to do? Anyway, it is good to relax a bit now, work only few days per week.. Thumbs Up!

    • Huh? No, they just started doing this a few weeks ago. This is something new, nothing for me to tell you guys long long ago hehehe… And I don’t think they love to do it, not yet anyway. 🙄

  7. Oh, that’s interesting! What your parents sell is known as “tong sui” right? I like lah. Going by what I read about your mum, her “tong sui” is surely the healthy type and won’t be loaded with too much sugar. I am guessing your parents are doing this because they are bored staying at home? This little venture keeps them occupied and at the same times earns them some pocket money. You are doing a good thing lah, letting us know about their stall. Yulek area is not so familiar to me but if I do find myself in the vicinity, I will sure go check out your parents’ stall.

    • Porridge and tong sui, yes. Well, they have their reasons to do this, not something that I want to elaborate on anyway. But yeah, if you ever find yourself in that area, do drop by. 😉

  8. I can understand how you feel about not wanting your parents to work at this age and to be able to provide for their livelihood entirely. But argghhh, we’re living in a country with rising costs of living! And parents (who love their children) always think they’re a burden and so would want to try to make ends meet on their own without too much support from their children.

    Well, you can only do your part in supporting (and promoting) them (eh, you should have asked your parents to pose for a promo pic (with their thumbs up…haha!). Let them have a go at it for a few months. If the business is good (they can continue) and if it’s too much work (they can stop). But I do agree that healthy breakfasts appeal to only a minority (maybe they may want to incorporate some non-healthy tong sui into their menu?). All the best to your parents little venture.

    • It is a growing minority, but at the moment still a minority. And the pasar is probably not the best place to sell healthy meal options anyway. Folks there are usually old, and their only concern is cheap. 😐

  9. 2-3 days selectively on weekdays, then if the regular customers want to go patronize the stall, they won’t know which day is open and which day is close, they will be disappointed if so happen the day they go, it’s closed…

    • Well, from what I gather, most of the stalls in that market are like that. They will definitely open on weekends, but weekdays are quiet so they will take days off here and there.

  10. Uncle and auntie can take it or not at their age, I feel for them, it is better if they can get enough sleep, maybe they can consider shorten their operating hours.

    But actually the operating hours when they sell to their customers are not very long, it is the preparation that is taking up time.

    Anyway, I wish uncle and auntie all the best in their hawker business.

    • You are right, the operating hour is the easiest part. Rather relaxing actually. It is the prep time that concerns me much more. 🙄

  11. Yes, that’s what I wanted to ask you, why do your parents still feel the need to go and do this since it is so taxing and at their age, getting so little sleep is really no good. If lack of sleep cause them to feel unwell (choi, choi, choi), then the medical bills will be much more than the profit they earn from this venture.

    You should have told us earlier that you are going to man the stall instead of last minute. Maybe some of us will go secretly to buy from you and not let you know that it is us, hehehehe. See whether one weekend I can get my friends to go to yulek market to pong chan your parents and see what food is being sold that day.

    • Apparently they didn’t expect it to be so taxing. The thing is, if you do the normal pasar standards like most do, it is quite easy. Most pasar hawkers have early hours, but then they only spend 1-2 hours cooking, the few hours selling, then 1 hour cleaning up. They mostly don’t slog it out at home like my parents do.

      Well, I think they are just testing the water, so to speak. If it turns out not worth the effort, they’ll probably stop after a few months.

      I don’t think your friends would like the food much, if they have normal Malaysians palate. Not yet anyway. My mom’s food, probably only people like you would enjoy it a lot. Steady growing minority, but still minority. 🙄

    • I agree with Mun. It does sound like your parents are finding their groove to be more efficient hawkers, but maybe each hawker has a different routine.

      Those curry puffs really look nice. Big and fat, must have a lot of goodies inside 🙄

      • Most hawkers have similar routine I guess. It takes time to get up to speed though.

        Yeah, I kinda like the looks of those curry puffs. Too bad I have not tasted it yet. 🙄

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