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The Troublebaker And The Accidental Lemang-Preneur – Surviving The Lockdown With Their Food Business

This 9th June will mark 84 days since Malaysians braved the lockdown in its attempt to fight the Covid19 pandemic. The stay-at-home orders have created a huge range of challenges for businesses of all sizes. But it is crucial to remember that just as there are hindrances and setbacks, there are also fantastic opportunities.

TROUBLEBAKER CAKES had its humble beginning in a tiny kitchen back in 2012 where the owner and self-proclaimed ‘troublebaker’, Putri Samihah Mohsin, poured her heart into making tasty morsels and various types of other bad-ass buttery goodness. Initially called “Butterfly.Kek”, Putri renamed her business TROUBLEBAKER in 2018 – not just by deciding to commit to it full-time but also breathing new life into her venture by incorporating her vivacious personality into its image. 

When the lockdown was announced back in March, her thriving business was suddenly confronted with various obstacles. “I don’t think anyone was ready for what’s coming. With fewer orders for birthday cakes and treats for other events, I personally thought that the Troublebaker was really ‘in trouble’. Bigger cakes were also downgraded to smaller sizes. And because people are staying home and have more time on their hands, they are experimenting and baking their own cakes. There was once a situation when I was finding it hard to find baking ingredients because the normal public was buying them in large quantities too” said Putri.

THE TROUBLEBAKER AND THE ACCIDENTAL LEMANG-PRENEUR - SURVIVING THE LOCKDOWN WITH THEIR FOOD BUSINESS

Believing that eating cakes is a religious experience, TROUBLEBAKER dedicates itself to finding the winning combination of tastes and textures in its cakes, with extra attention to aesthetic details. Putri places great importance and takes no compromise on good quality, premium ingredients. This has resulted in the creation of TROUBLEBAKER’s signature pieces such as ‘The Pecan Pie’, ‘La En Vie En Rose’ Apple Pie, and ‘Lemon Butter Cake’; all of which are heavenly in the mouth and extremely pleasing to the eyes.

THE TROUBLEBAKER AND THE ACCIDENTAL LEMANG-PRENEUR - SURVIVING THE LOCKDOWN WITH THEIR FOOD BUSINESS

Putri added, “I have to be extra creative in my approach. To respond to the current situation, I have introduced loaf cakes that are smaller in size making them more affordable. Another exciting addition to the menu is ‘CommuniCake’. This special creation allows my customer to send special messages to their loved ones during this trying times but in the form of surprising thoughtful cakes. It’s now one of our bestsellers”. 

Besides signature creations, TROUBLEBAKER also offers bespoke cakes stylized in various unique designs. One of the most memorable was the first Swarovski-crystals encrusted birthday cake in Malaysia, designed and baked to perfection for the country’s most influential hostess, fashion icon and entrepreneur, Neelofa. The daughter of a skilled seamstress, Putri is an avid fan of vintage with an edge and confessed to being heavily influenced by the bold quirkiness of Katherine Sabbath 

THE TROUBLEBAKER AND THE ACCIDENTAL LEMANG-PRENEUR - SURVIVING THE LOCKDOWN WITH THEIR FOOD BUSINESS

LOMANG PILAHDELPHIA (or ‘lemang’ for non-Negeri Sembilan native) is a business that was founded during MCO by Jiman Casablancas, a PR practitioner based in Kuala Lumpur. Referring to himself as ‘the accidental lemang-preneur’, Jiman was hit with the idea when back in his kampong in Kuala Pilah to attend to his cattle farm business. 

“It was two days before Ramadan when I received an approval letter for my interstate travel application in food management and distribution. Normally, during this time, the road leading towards Kuala Pilah would be filled with lemang sellers but due to the lockdown, there were none. To celebrate the arrival of the fasting month, I asked my uncle whom I call Pak Abu, to burn our own lemang for the family’s consumption.  Being the social media guy that I am, it was natural for me to post up photos of this process with the intention of highlighting the authentic way of preparing lemang. The next thing I know, I was receiving orders. It was a classic light bulb moment. I took the opportunity and ran with it”. 

Thinking that the new venture needed a cool name, Jiman decided to call it LOMANG PILAHDELPHIA.  Assisted by his good friend, Faizul, they sourced all the materials for the preparation of the lemang from the Orang Asli settlement in Jelebu. A makeshift tent was then set up under a tree on the compound of their family’s kampong house to build the ‘langai’ – a term which refers to the burning area. In the first week alone, LOMANG PILAHDELPHIA was already selling 500 sticks of their rich in flavour lemangs to KL dwellers who were missing the taste of their hometown. 

lemang

“The problem is logistics. I am the only one with a letter that allows interstate travels and there’s only so much lemang that I can carry in my vehicle. Although I have a proper team in Kuala Pilah, I am on my own managing the packing and delivery of the orders to customers all over the Klang Valley. With lemang having a short shelf life (especially if you are not used to the proper way of storing it), I have to ensure that it gets to everyone as fast as I can” says Jiman who’s totally overwhelmed by the positive response he has received. Admitting that he was learning the ropes as he goes, Jiman was also grateful for the exploit as he gets to provide extra income to his family and hometown kids. The experience has also allowed him to really appreciate the traditional way of preparing lemang. Describing it as an art that deserves better recognition, Jiman plans to properly document the whole process including the many ‘pantangs’ attached to the task for the reference of future generations. 

“There’s enough romance and mystery behind the preparation of this dish that adds charm to it. You could have 20 years of experience of preparing and ‘bakar lemang’, but one slip of judgment, you could end up with a non-satisfactory product. However, if you manage to somehow orchestrate all of the elements in a great symphony, the lemang would end up soft, moist, smoky, ‘berlemak’, in short – perfect. And at Lomang  Pilahdelphia, that’s what we strive for”. 

lemang

To know more about TROUBLEBAKER and to place your orders, follow @troublebakermy on IG

To know more about LOMANG PILAHDELPHIA and to place your orders, follow @jimancasablancas on IG

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