Entrepreneur shares Bintulu Belacan with international market
By Patricia Hului
What can you buy with RM50 these days?
Perhaps three tickets to the latest Marvel movie or three grande-sized Frappuccinos?
For entrepreneur Razuna Kiprawi, 46, from Kampung Assyakirin in Bintulu, she turned RM50 into a successful belacan business.
Belacan or shrimp paste is a common ingredient in Malaysian cuisine.
It is made of tiny shrimp – bubuk as the local Malay call it or udang geragau as it is known in Peninsular Malaysia – mixed with salt and fermented.
Usually, the mixture is later ground into a smoother paste, dried under the sun and shaped into blocks.
Each belacan maker has their own style of making this famous shrimp paste base.
Many claim their own recipes as the best but none can beat the popularity of Bintulu belacan.
Furthermore, most Bintulu residents would make Belacan for their own household consumption but only few have attempted to make their products for the market.
Razuna, who hails from Kampung Assyakirin, one of the earlier settlements in that coastal town started to commercialise her belacan 15 years ago.
On March 17, Razuna talked and briefly demonstrated to a group of journalists from Kembara Media 2016 organised by Information Department how she made her belacan.
“I started with RM50 to buy my ingredients,” she said.
Then Razuna started to join courses and began to receive help from various government agencies.
Agriculture Department handed her a grant worth RM15,000 to purchase packaging machines for faster and easier work.
In addition to that, Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM) and Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) helped her to further her business by providing large barrels and steel tables.
Her company, Monanie Family Enterprise, finally started to bloom in 2009.
But what makes Razuna’s belacan stand out from the rest?
According to her, she used only tiny shrimp caught offshore from Bintulu.
“I have seen other belacan makers mix their shrimp with fish. But I use only bubuk.”
Razuna first lets the shrimp cure overnight and dries them in the sun first thing in the morning.
To crush the bubuk for the paste, she prefers to use pestle and mortar instead of grinding them with a machine.
She then dries them in front of her house with a net covering the shrimp paste.
“Maybe other people have different ways to do it, but for me I let mine dry till the fifth day.”
Razuna pointed out she went for training under Mardi (Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute) to learn how to process it in a hygienic way.
Using the recipe she inherited from her mother-in-law, she believes belacan is better when it is kept longer.
She highlighted that the longer the belacan is kept, the darker the colour gets.
Each belacan block is weighed to an exact 140g each before being carefully packaged.
Razuma uses two types of packaging for her belacan; plastic and the traditional way using a type of leaf called ‘daun palas’.
“The product that sells the most in Singapore and Johor is the belacan wrapped with daun palas.”
In a month, she can produce up to 100kg and sell it for RM70 per kg.
So far, her products have entered Kuching, Lawas, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore and Johor markets.
Not wanting to be left behind in this digital era, Razuna shared that she uses the Internet and Facebook to promote her products.
Besides that, she always takes the initiative to join exhibitions and road shows in and outside Bintulu.
As an entrepreneur, Razuna tries her best to diversify her products such as salted fish, crafts and seafood products.
Her latest product innovation is ‘Belacan Kiub Bintulu’.
These cubes are suitable to make sambal belacan, fried belacan and stir fried vegetables.
She stated, “Thanks to all the prayers and the support from my family, Alhamdulillah my business is going well so far.”
With the help of LKIM, Razuna said she is hoping to venture into the Japanese market soon.
For more information, contact Monanie Family Enterprise at 014-685 4958 or email her at [email protected].