In picture: Eirwan Merican, one of the founder of Oh Apong.
Oh Apong, a hidden gem, can be found in the heart of Malaysia amidst the bustling streets. A local eatery has taken on the noble task of introducing the world to the delights of Gula Apong, offering a range of distinctive items such as Gula Apong ice cream, Gula Apong Latte, and Gula Apong Nasi Lemak.
"The Accidental Journey" - A Tale of Unexpected Adventures
Credits : OhApong
The tale of Oh Apong began with a serendipitous voyage to Kuching in the early months of 2019. Eirwan Merican and his sister were intrigued by the ubiquity of Gula Apong in the nearby stores. Intrigued by the recommendation of a passionate mee kolok hawker, they decided to indulge in a serving of gula apong ice cream. The experience proved to be truly remarkable, boasting a distinctive and delightful flavour. Intrigued by their curiosity, the individuals embarked on a journey to a nearby market to uncover the secrets of a mysterious ingredient. It was there that they encountered the Gula Apong vendors, who graciously directed them to the reputable suppliers located in Kota Samarahan, Sarawak.
With the backing of FAMA Sarawak and a deepened understanding of the product, Eirwan set out on a mission to introduce Gula Apong to Semenanjung. With a keen eye for untapped potential, he made it his mission to promote a sugar alternative while also providing support to local farmers who possessed the necessary resources but lacked the marketing expertise. With renewed confidence, Eirwan made his way back to Sarawak, where he established connections with Gula Apong suppliers, partnered with ice cream manufacturers, conceptualised business strategies, and enlisted the help of friends to conduct research and development.
The Unique Flavour and Nutritional Benefits of Gula Apong
What distinguishes Gula Apong from other sweeteners? To begin with, it touts a lower glycemic index compared to white sugar, rendering it a viable option for individuals with diabetes. Moreover, Gula Apong presents an exceptional taste that transcends the usual sugary flavour. Natural, unprocessed, and free of chemicals, it retains its authentic essence and promotes good health. Gula Apong, with its multifaceted applications and adaptable properties, emerges as a captivating and advantageous ingredient.
Farmers Encounter Challenges in the Sourcing Process
The quest for Gula Apong entails a perilous expedition. Gula Apong, a sweetener, is derived from the Nipah palm, a plant that flourishes in wet, marshy regions. Farmers encounter perilous obstacles, including navigating through swamps and encountering crocodiles, in their quest for this valuable treasure. The preservation of Gula Apong is heavily influenced by the tides, as submerging the fruit can result in spoilage. Notwithstanding these obstacles, the perseverance of the indigenous agriculturists guarantees the perpetuation of this customary unhurried culinary technique.
Preserving Tradition and Supporting the Local Community: A Vital Mission
Eirwan Merican has identified the undervalued status of Gula Apong and its potential to be elevated to a national treasure. Oh Apong functions as a platform for enlightenment, with the objective of educating individuals about this extraordinary ingredient. Oh Apong, a local supporter and establishment, is embracing the principles of the slow food movement by innovating the uses of Gula Apong in culinary. This approach supports local makers and collectors, ensuring that the treasure of Sarawak will gain more exposure to the public eyes. Eirwan has a vision for Gula Apong to achieve the same level of prominence as the Chinese delicacy, Bird's Nest.
Design and Decor: A Tribute to Regional Culture.
Upon entering OhApong, visitors are immediately enveloped in a captivating ambiance that exudes the essence of Malaysian culture. The café boasts white tiles that harken back to school canteens, evoking a sense of nostalgia for recess breaks. The walls are adorned with stunning murals that depict the Nipah tree, paying homage to the source of Gula Apong. The Gula Apong fruit is adorned with exquisite artwork, evoking an ambiance that fully captures the essence of this exceptional ingredient, providing visitors with an immersive experience.
A Multicultural Gastronomic Adventure
OhApong, the humble establishment, presents a delectable selection of pastries and treats, all made with the exquisite gula apong ingredient, in addition to their well-known ice cream. The cafe's culinary offerings are both imaginative and experimental, with Gula Apong being incorporated into a variety of dishes and beverages. At Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), patrons can indulge in their Nasi Lemak Gula Apong, a delectable variation of a beloved Malaysian delicacy. One of the standout dishes is the Ayam Balut Gula Apong, which consists of chicken enveloped in pandan leaves and served with a unique Gula Apong dipping sauce.
Challenges Conquered and Aspirations for the Future
The inception of OhApong was not without its obstacles, especially given Eirwan Merican's lack of background in the food and beverage sector. The team underwent a learning curve, participating in seminars and workshops to acquire knowledge and skills. Through unwavering perseverance and unyielding determination, they triumphed over these challenges, experiencing personal growth throughout their journey.
OhApong, the Malaysian establishment, has set its sights on an ambitious expansion plan. The goal is to launch 50 new outlets by the year 2025. As they navigate the complexities of franchising, these plans are currently on hold. However, their primary objective is to expand the reach of Gula Apong to a broader market in Semenanjung.
OhApong's expedition is a tribute to the marvels of Gula Apong, propelled by an ardent desire to disseminate its unique taste and health advantages across the globe. Indulging in a scoop of Gula Apong ice cream or savouring a gula apong-infused delicacy is a gastronomic journey that pays homage to tradition, uplifts local communities, and revels in the multifarious tastes of Malaysia.