Malaysian graduate cooks up a storm with nasi lemak

Electronic engineering graduate Siti Hajjar Ahmad (right) started selling her Nasi Lemak Anak Dara (Virgin Nasi Lemak) two months ago at the roadside in Selangor. She is waiting for her trader's licence to be approved by the Shah Alam Municipal Counc
Electronic engineering graduate Siti Hajjar Ahmad (right) started selling her Nasi Lemak Anak Dara (Virgin Nasi Lemak) two months ago at the roadside in Selangor. She is waiting for her trader's licence to be approved by the Shah Alam Municipal Council.PHOTO: NASI LEMAK ANAK DARA/FACEBOOK

Street vendor praised for entrepreneurial spirit in Malaysian PM Najib's Budget speech

SHAH ALAM • An electronic engineering graduate who sells nasi lemak (coconut rice) at the roadside in Selangor, Malaysia, sold a record of nearly 1,000 packets of her street food on Saturday, a day after Prime Minister Najib Razak mentioned her as an exemplary entrepreneur in his Budget speech.

Ms Siti Hajjar Ahmad, 24, started selling her Nasi Lemak Anak Dara (Virgin Nasi Lemak) two months ago. The controversial name made her an Internet and media sensation in conservative Malaysia, with long lines of people queueing to buy from her, previous media reports say.

Like most Malaysian street food vendors, she placed the food that she sells - including fried chicken, boiled eggs and sambal (a spicy condiment made from chillies) - on a small table by the roadside near her block of flats.

She was fined RM300 (S$100) last month after Selangor authorities found out that she did not have a trader's licence. She is now waiting for the licence to be approved by the Shah Alam Municipal Council.

Ms Siti Hajjar said she is flattered that the Premier mentioned her. "I was really surprised that our nation's leader would bring up my business in such an important speech where millions were watching," she told Free Malaysia Today (FMT) news site yesterday, adding that the Facebook account of Nasi Lemak Anak Dara has been flooded with comments.

"Today (Saturday) I recorded the highest number of sales. On Thursday, I sold 300 packets of nasi lemak. On Friday, I sold another 600 and today, I sold close to 1,000 packets. I'm really grateful," she told FMT.

In his speech, Mr Najib praised her entrepreneurial spirit and said the government wants to encourage individuals, especially graduates, to become entrepreneurs.

Ms Siti Hajjar, who graduated from Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia in Johor, said she started her small business after realising that her mother has a sambal for nasi lemak that people would love. Mr Najib in his speech also mentioned the famous Indian food restaurant in Ipoh city, Vanggey Nasi Kandar, for its affordable fare.

The restaurant in the capital of Perak was swamped with customers on Saturday.

"We are overwhelmed (by) his continued support. We usually have lots of customers queuing up for our delicacy, but the line is even longer today," one of the restaurant's owners, Mohamed Nihmathullah Syed Mustafa, 53, told The Malay Mail Online news.

Mr Najib during his Budget speech used a new device to bring up topics: introducing people who would benefit from his policies and proposals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Graduate cooks up a storm with nasi lemak'. Print Edition | Subscribe