Kak Semah’s halal mooncakes a hot seller

By Goh Pei Pei – September 6, 2019 @ 8:01am

Noor Asmah Mohamed Moktar (left) baking halal mooncakes in a variety of flavours. - NSTP/Goh Pei Pei
Noor Asmah Mohamed Moktar (left) baking halal mooncakes in a variety of flavours. – NSTP/Goh Pei Pei

KUCHING: Noor Asmah Mohamed Moktar loved munching mooncakes ever since she was a teen.

She recalled spending between RM20 and RM25 for just one piece of the traditional Chinese cake from a renowned hotel here more than 20 years ago.

This was when it had yet to be commercialised, so it was difficult to find, more so when it came to halal mooncakes.YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

The mooncake is usually filled with red bean or lotus seed paste, but it is not unusual to find other varieties of flavour too.

It was exclusively made by the Chinese community, either in their homes or at traditional biscuit shops for the Mid-Autumn festival.

“I remember cutting it into small pieces and savouring slowly because it was quite expensive.”

Asmah’s love for mooncake took a sweeter turn when she got married.

“My late mother-in-law was a Chinese Muslim convert.

“She created a recipe for halal mooncakes by replacing the pork lard (contained in the traditional mooncake) with halal ingredients.

“Since then, I got to enjoy mooncakes without having to burn a hole in my pocket.

“Although she explained to me the art of baking mooncakes, I didn’t try it myself until she died.”

Speaking to the New Straits Times at her home in Petra Jaya, near here recently, Asmah, who is more well-known as Kak Semah, said the halal mooncake recipe was taught to her without the exact measurements by her late mother-in-law.

It took her two years to figure out the exact measurement of each ingredient needed for the delicacy.

Over the years, she kept on improving, fine-tuning it and creating more mooncake flavours.

Initially the 43-year-old began baking mooncakes in the two original flavours, red bean and lotus paste, for her family and friends in 2007.

Having received positive feedback, it encouraged her to venture out further.

“In 2009, I decided to bake on a small scale and sold it at a food court nearby. I sold some 300 pieces.

“My intention was to introduce and share the delicious traditional Chinese cake among Muslims.

“Initially, some (Muslims) were sceptical as they viewed it as kuih Cina and assumed it was non-halal.”

After explaining and assuring that her mooncake was in fact halal, Kak Semah said her Muslim customers overcame their fear.

As news began to spread on how good her halal mooncakes were, so did the demand.

Orders this year are expected to touch the 10,000 mark.

Now, her seasonal business has not only become a family affair, but has also seen the involvement of her three closest friends.

Together, they are able to produce between 400 and 500 pieces of mooncakes daily.

With each mooncake weighing 150g each, Kak Semah now produces 20 flavours.

This includes lotus yolk, tiramisu, green tea, sweet corn, coffee and mixed nuts, among others.

Her top sellers are plain red bean, Oreo and durian paste.

The mother-of-three has sought to maintain the price of the delicacy between RM15 and RM28 despite the rising price of ingredients.

Today, her mooncakes are a big hit with Malaysians in Sarawak and have also found connoisseurship in Sabah, the peninsula, Brunei and Singapore.

Kek Semah hopes halal mooncakes could go towards contributing and strengthening unity among the country’s multiracial society.

“I always believe good food will bring people closer together and what better way to prove this than through halal mooncakes, which was uniquely a traditional Chinese delicacy and festival.

“It allows us to understand the festival, culture and beliefs of other races and religions.”

The mooncake festival or Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated around the world on the 15th of the eighth month in the Chinese Lunar calendar, which falls on Sept 13 this year.

Shared from NST – Kak Semah’s halal mooncakes a hot seller