We love Rojak, but we don’t like the pungent taste of shrimp paste/hae ko, and here we are today.
We come from a non F&B background.
The first impression as young generation does little help to be convincing at the initial stage that we are more than capable in creating the finest Rojak, as some may argue that age->experience->skill->expertise.
While experience is an important prerequisite to become an expert, it does not necessarily metamorphose someone into an expert.
We believe that it is when the desire to keep improving any product/service, coupled with the ability to execute together with experience and then someone may become an expert in his/her field.
Most people would know what Rojak is especially for people who live in South East Asia. It’s one of the popular dishes in South East Asia.
We’ll just touch on real quick to introduce what Rojak is, and reintroduce Rojak for all in the rest of this article.
Rojak is a word from Malay, which means motley/medley/mixture/variety.
In food context, Rojak is a dish with mixture of fruits, you tiao (dough fritter) and tau pok (bean curd) together with Rojak sauce and sprinkle with peanuts grits.
Defining the Finest Rojak
Anyone in the market can proclaim its product/service is the ‘finest’, and hope that consumer will project the image of ‘finest’ for their product/service, but anything without solid ground to support its claim is just like a sky villa built without a solid foundation.
If we were only ‘marketing’ the finest Rojak concept without delivering it, we would have lost a huge chunk of repeated customers. We do not believe finest marketing can retain customers and protect the goodwill reputation in the long run, but do believe that only the finest product/service is able to do so. And we believe that we have delivered what we promised, that is, defining and creating the finest Rojak.
We believe that paying attention to every details, and the ability to execute it are the keys of creating the Finest Rojak.
The majority of the rest of the paragraph are to manifest how we walk the talk.
Rojak sauce- The soul of Rojak
Rojak sauce is considered as the most important litmus test on the tastiness of a Rojak. Or simply put, Rojak sauce dictates if the Rojak is worth mentioning for.
And when mentioning about Rojak sauce, perhaps many people will still think about shrimp paste/hae ko. We are hesitant to discuss about this issue in the first place, but it is like an elephant in the room that we think it is appropriate to discuss about.
It’s important to note that the article is not out for disparaging or smearing whatsoever.
Many people syncretize the concept where a good Rojak sauce is equivalent to having a good shrimp paste, and mentioned it interchangeably.
It’s a nuance concept similar with the greatest villain actor must carry a big scar on his face, or else he just can’t be the greatest villain.
It may be true in 50-80s, sci-fi or cartoon movie, but it is not the case anymore.
And things get dicey when there are two types of shrimp paste in the market that carry the similar name.
The one that is commonly used in traditional Rojak across South East Asia is called shrimp paste (black color)/hae ko/petis/otak udang/xia gao, while shrimp sauce/xia jiang (pinkish color) is the one commonly used in shrimp paste chicken/prawn paste chicken/har jeong gai. It can be confusing for many people, as the taste of this two shrimp paste are different, but it still carry the same name for the dish itself.
The traditional Rojak incorporates shrimp paste/hae ko/petis/otak udang/xia gao, with abundance of white sugar and peanut, some tamarind/assam, ginger flower and lime. The amount of sugar being used in the dish is compounded by the fact that there are already considerable amount of sugar added in the shrimp paste itself.
In our opinion, the pungent taste of shrimp paste/hae ko/petis/otak udang/xia gao is the key pain point that needs to be dealt with, and the above ingredients will be only able to cover about half of the pungent taste of shrimp paste.
We believe that ingredient like ginger flower and peanut should add to the goodness of the taste, instead of helping to reduce the pungent taste of a dish.
We eschew shrimp paste due to its strong pungent smell. We choose to create our own secret recipe to expel the pungent taste of shrimp paste while retaining the unique flavor of the Rojak.
And because of the Rojak sauce does not contain shrimp paste/hae ko, it is suitable to Vegan and Vegetarian consumer as well.
Authenticity of Rojak
Would a Rojak without shrimp paste/hae ko taste good?
To us, the real question should be: Would a Rojak with shrimp paste/hae ko taste good?
The ohm factor of an excellent Rojak is not derived from the shrimp paste itself, but the overall absolute tastiness combination of Rojak when the exceptionally well-crafted Rojak sauce combined with the ingredients.
The taste of ROJAK LINE’s Rojak sauce, together with chilled fruit, crispy dough fritter and bean curd, aromatic peanuts grits, is simply amazing.
Essentially, the real authentic Rojak is the one that will make you feel loved when you tasted one.
Formulating Rojak sauce – The importance of asking the right and larger question
How to make the Rojak taste good with shrimp paste?
Larger question: How to make Rojak taste good?
The difference is similar with:
How to make an object fly with flapping wings?
Larger question: How to make an object fly?
It’s the latter that creates aero plane, and it’s the latter that creates the real amazing Rojak/light bulb/smart phone (or any product/services).
Asking the right and larger question often time means about challenging the status quo, trying to find out how could be better, or pull down what is believed to be right and pursue the truth.
Many times it involves sunken cost and the mettle to change what historically was a successful product, and we are not hesitant to ask the right and larger question even so.
It poses great risk for us on the one hand when we first started ROJAK LINE stall that sells Rojak without shrimp paste, and worse, without at least the option of having a Rojak with shrimp paste.
On the other hand, it is advantageous to us due to we do not have any ‘historical baggage’ that carry upon us, for which Rojak must use shrimp paste. It allows us to select the ingredient without boundary when crafting Rojak sauce with the sole purpose of creating a really tasty Rojak sauce.
We are fortunate about this.
Keeping the fruits & vege fresh – Chilling Fruit & Vege
During the initial opening of ROJAK LINE stall, all the fruits are exposed at room temperature, and we’ll put it back to refrigerator once the crowd was over.
We were worried that the fruits will become not fresh, or not fresh enough back then.
We sourced out refrigerator supplier, and invested in the chiller to keep the fruits fresh and cool.
As the first Rojak stall to use chiller, we are glad that chilled fruits in Rojak will taste better and fresher compared to expose it in the room temperature.
Homemade Chili – Retaining the fresh aroma of chili
All the chili used in ROJAK LINE are homemade, instead of getting it from supplier.
We purchased chili with the supplier in the initial stage of operating, however we decided to get our hands dirty by making the chili on our own.
It took hours to prepare the chili, at similar cost if compared with getting it from supplier. The cost will be in the contrary higher than the supplied chili if factored in the logistic and manpower cost.
We would not go to this extra miles if not because of the taste is much better.
Homemade chili retained the fresh aroma from chili itself, and it is not adulterated by any food addictive. It is fresher and blends well with ROJAK LINE’s series Rojak for those who loves to have spiciness in Rojak.
Toasted dough fritter (You Tiao) and bean curd (Tau Pok)
We believe that hygiene practice should be the first barrier to cross for any given food stall/restaurant, before entering the topic of discussing about the tastiness of the food.
Hence, it is utmost important to handle the food in the most hygienic way.
It is part of the DNA in ROJAK LINE culture.
Being first class – Quality, price, and value
It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.
Generally, ROJAK LINE price is higher than the rest of the Rojak outlet in the market.
It is this higher price margin that allows ROJAK LINE to serve the customers on the quality of ingredients, and thereby producing the finest Rojak to you.
It is our principle of producing wonderful food at a fair price, rather than a fair food at a wonderful price.
It is worth mentioning that food is something that is consumed in the body. In many ways, food industry is similar with pharmaceutical industry. It’s the efficacy (tastiness) of medicine (food) that matters.
It is not in any way that we agree that the price can be charged exorbitantly due to this factor, it is just a way to advocate more to judge the value of the food quality vis-à-vis price.
Great food is just like any great music or movie. It will just make your day when you encounter one.
We are always in pursuit of creating exceptionally tasty Rojak in particular.
If you are looking at the best Rojak, this is everything that you wanted.
This is the apotheosis of Rojak