Written by root. Posted in IN PERSON


Published on November 08, 2016 with No Comments

Dato’ Seri Ibrahim Hj Ahmad Badawi and daughter Nur Fatin speak on Brahim’s 30-year journey of serving authentic and traditional halal ready-to-eat-meals and sauces.



What were your earliest memories about food?
Dato’ Seri Ibrahim (DSI): I was my mother’s kitchen helper. During the ‘60s, boys don’t usually go into the kitchen. I remembered how my mother learned some of the more complicated dishes from my father. My father was born in Mecca and later studied in Arabia where, living alone, he had to learn to cook. He later taught my mother how to cook his favourite dishes and then “awarded” her points like, “this is an eight”. My father enjoyed a well-prepared meal and didn’t believe, for example, in using a grinder to mince meat because he said the meat would lose their natural juice that way. So I would have to mince the meat by hand whenever the dish required it. I naturally became curious about food from this early kitchen experience.

Nur Fatin Ibrahim (NFI): I grew up with my grandmother who stayed with us. She was a great cook and would make everything from scratch, from Malaysian dishes like curry, masak lemak, sambal, asam pedas to Western dishes like beef stew, pizza and spaghetti. And we would all eat our meals together as a family, except during lunch when mom and dad were at work.

My grandmother had a green thumb. Our backyard had banana, coconut, mango, apple custard, rambutan, sugarcane, tapioca and vegetables like kacang botol and herbs like parsley, pandan, daun kesum – everything! She would pick these out fresh and start cooking with them. I remember looking forward to having fresh sugarcane when my grandmother would get it from her backyard garden and cut it up, and I’ll chew on it. It was a great joy to me when I was growing up.


What does Brahim’s mean to you?
DSI: When I was a kid, curry was done traditionally, meaning spices were dry fried and roasted before they were milled by hand on a stone grinder and made into a paste. After that they were sautéed to get the flavour profile.

After that came the next culinary advancement: curry powder. All the spices are pre-blended, so you need not go to all the trouble to prepare the paste. While powdered mix is a major step in simplifying the cooking process, one would still need some cooking sense. You need to know how much powder mix to use, how to saute it right and when to add the meats and so on.

Then the great leap forward came in the form of the Brahim’s pouch. All you need to do is add the meat. In my opinion, you can’t do any better than preparing your meals with Brahim’s cooking sauces and Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MRE).

NFI: I was 10 years old when Brahim’s was launched at 1988. I can remember clearly my family’s excitement when the factory was completed and my father started the business, with all the machines and huge cooking pots with its own automatic stirrers. I remembered I was amazed at the huge pots that were nearly the height of my shoulders!

I fell in love with Brahim’s since day one. My initial favourite was MRE Ayam Masak Merah. I once brought an MRE packet to school with pulut (sticky rice) made by my grandmother for break. There was an incident where I was a bit clumsy opening the pouch, and the gravy splashed all over my uniform! I had to bear with the embarrassment of wearing the stained uniform until the end of school day.


What were some of Brahim’s achievements and milestones you consider important?
DSI: We pioneered the use of retort pouch food processing in the ASEAN region. When we began in the late ‘80s, Brahim’s was third in the world to use this new technology after Japan and USA. For the first 10 years, we supplied mainly to the military. There were so many orders received that it was hard to cope.

Brahim’s was also the only halal retort pack in the world at the time. So the UN would also source from us for halal food for their peacekeeping forces. There was one time when we received an order for 40 containers. We had to split the order to meet the demand. Today, we have still not broken that record! Brunei Darussalam’s military was amongst the earliest to source from Brahim’s for its army. We had nicknamed them the ‘gourmet army’. That was in 1991.

In 1995, Dewina Food the maker of Brahim’s brand was listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. It was a proud moment for us!


What makes Brahim’s special, in your opinion?
DSI: Brahim’s method of preparation remains very traditional and authentic. Every batch is prepared fresh. The preparation and steps to every meal are done the way they would be prepared at home in a 5-litre cooking pot, except that in our factory, it’s cooked in larger volumes in several 500-litre cauldrons! For instance, before the sauces are placed in pouches, they are allowed to simmer to develop the flavour profile. Simmering is a very important but time-consuming process. As the sauces simmer, our QC will check for the salt level, viscosity and when everything is checked, only then do we pump the sauces to the tanks to be filled into the pouches. In short, we use modern production, but the preparation is done the traditional way.

NFI: With all the fresh ingredients and time we use in preparing our meals and sauces, all Brahim’s products are very reasonably priced. Any home cook or chef can tell you any simple Malay dish easily contain more than 10 fresh spices and aromatics. Basically, it is our Brahim’s concept of retailing good quality and award-winning products at a reasonable price. From when I was 10, my father taught me the concept of selling at a reasonable price. From young, I never liked it when people overpriced their products, as I understood the process of our business is sustainability and the continued loyalty of our customers.


This year, Brahim’s celebrates its 30th anniversary. So, moving forward what is next?
DSI: When I started Brahim’s 30 years ago, I have decided it has got to be halal all the way. Today, the halal food market is approximately USD3 trillion and is estimated to grow by 20 per cent annually. Halal is still a huge market yet to be fully tapped into.

From Brahim’s pouch foods, we have moved into F&B operations, industrial and airline catering, manufacturing and bonded warehousing.

Alhamdulillah, on our manufacturing portfolio, I am thankful that I have a great team working for me at Dewina Group of Companies, where creativity and innovation are a daily affair, from the pioneering pouch technology to innovative products never seen in Malaysia before.

NFI: My father has been an inspiration throughout. He instill in me to be humble and to continue learning, and where possible, to learn from the best. Education, after all is a lifelong process. I am very happy to take over the family business, of course with my brother Ahmad Fahimi, and hopefully one day with my sister, Nur Azizah too. We aspire to become an integrated food company – from farm-to-fork, though we haven’t a farm – yet. While we continue to grow the businesses of Dewina’s sauces and ready meals factory, Desatera’s institutional catering, ready meals factory in Jordan and our F&B operations – both locally and overseas, it is my fervent hope, as the next generation and further growing my father’s legacy, that our Dewina-Brahim’s Group will one day be a major conglomerate in the global halal food business, insyaAllah.

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