But when travelling on a itinerant trip, you may discover undiscovered gems along the way and this time it was a small home industry making the famous tapai pulut Malay dessert that Masjid Tanah used to be famous for, but is now difficult to find even in the town’s market. Its no wonder as the tapai has gone commercial, and now is supplied more to restaurants though they do accept retail purchases from the factory. In this case this was the Tapai Pulut Sarimah, who claims amongst others the Le Cucur chain of upscale Malay Cafes as their customer. Supported by the Agriculture Ministry to industrialise the making of tapai pulut or sweet fermented glutinous rice similar to sake rice in form, Sarimah has been featured in articles and obtained sufficient certification to run a modern operations. This extends to packing her product in a clean room environment and refrigerating her end products.
She has also diversified her products to various packaging, in 10 and 25 pieces packs and 100 pieces carton and also expanded the flavours from the natural sweet taste to Pandan and rose amongst others, with customisation possible. Sarimah says that this multiflavoured tapai is usually prepared for her party or events packs, where the servings would be of different flavours. I don’t know about the flavouring of tapai, but I guess there is a market for it or otherwise Sarimah would not offer the choice. The way her tapai is packaged does give a nice appearance that should be commercially acceptable. However when asked why she does not wrap her tapai in the traditional banana leaves as she uses wax paper instead, she responded that even to meet with a thousand unit order she would have had denuded the banana plantations around her to get sufficient banana leaves. In this case the tapai is first wrapped in plastic before enclosed in the wax paper, giving a more hygienic and tidier packaging compared to being wrapped in a banana leave. And the tapai should last longer this way as the paper warapping will not wilt. As you can see, for forty cents you do get a good portion of tapai, similar to more homemade portions being sold at the night market at the same price. Pity though that she only sells her tapai at that price for a piece as it costs one ringgit at Le Cucur, as otherwise her margin would be greater. Nonetheless it is heartening to see such traditional food being transformed to meet the demands of modern day market, though I still love the idea of some of these still being made the kampong or village way like the dodol that I managed to buy in Masjid Tanah later, but that is a story that has already been told.