Sweat beading his brow, Mohd Fadillah Hj Abu Bakar withstands the heat of the stove as he works the wok at a small live kitchen counter that he’s set up on the front porch of his terrace house in Spg 185 of the Mengkubau National Housing Scheme.
The 33-year-old portly man, nicknamed Abam, spends the day working as a labourer for the government and his evenings and weekends tending to his stall or catering for events under his budding home-business Kuetiaw Abam Panas Panas.
All just to earn just a little more income for his wife and three children as the sole breadwinner for the family.
“I make less than a thousand (dollars) each month,” says Abam as he takes a few minutes break. “Once the bills and loans are deducted we’re left with just $400 for expenses; so I cook to provide.”
Abam began in 2016 testing the waters at Gerai Ramadhan after his eldest son started school.
Drawing on his experience working in the kitchens of Royal Brunei Catering and his knowledge from taking a cooking course at Youth Development Centre, Abam – a Year 9 drop out – decided to continue the momentum by setting up a small stall in front of their house in Mengkubau, which they received in 2015.
But Kuetiaw Abam went from being the family’s supplemental income to a necessity after Abam’s wife Isma Dillah Ismail gave birth to their third child prematurely – and lost her job soon after.
“It hasn’t been easy. Especially when my wife lost her job (as a clerk for a food distribution company) because she had to care for our newborn daughter at the time,” said Abam.
“Despite our best, our daughter passed away. It was up to me to make sure my family would survive. I am very determined to provide the best life that I can for my children, even if I have to work non-stop to do it.”
Today, Abam’s blue-collar resolve has seen Kuetiaw Abam slowly build a following, but he’s going to need more than the three plastic tables currently set up in front of his cooking station if he continues the momentum.
“I have faith and I believe that God doesn’t give you more than what you can bear,” said Abam. “I’m always grateful for every extra dollar that I earn every month and I’ll keep on doing this until all my children are grown.”
Kuey Teow Abam Panas Panas is located at Jalan Tanjong Selasih, Simpang 185, No. 17 RPN Mengkubau and opens from 6pm to 10pm daily. For the latest updates visit their Instagram and Facebook pages. For orders and inquiries contact +6738199635.