I decided to make a new series of photograph, revisiting places, eateries, people that are connected to my childhood and my identity as a Chinese Indonesian. This was my first stop. This is...
Kwetiau Sapi Mangga Besar 78
Spread across various locations, "Kwetiau 78" in Mangga Besar remains a culinary delight that should not be missed. With mouthwatering dishes the brings one straight to childhood, this is a story of a business led by heart.
The old adage that says “success is hidden in your daily routine” cannot be more true in the case of Haris Leswana and his journey in leading his family business, Kwetiau Sapi 78 Mangga Besar or Beef Rice Noodle 78 Mangga Besar.
We spent the afternoon talking to Haris, the second generation partiarch of the family. “This is the business where we have to use a lot of heart. When we speak to our workers, we cannot just be led by logic and method, rather it has to be led by heart. I think this is the key in building their understanding and ethics, so they know what to do and how to do it correctly”.
He adds that leading by heart is the reason Kwetiau Sapi 78 is able to maintain a standardized quality, where you can’t tell the dish from one cook to another, he gave an analogy of a cooking being 11 to 12 (meaning about the same). “ When we have 10 to 12, then we have a problem,” he said smilingly.
A turning point in Haris’s life was in 94 when he took over the management of the restaurant when his father asked him to come back and take care of the restaurant. “In the 70s or 80s, we encountered some problems with local thugs, but looking back, I think that was not the main challenge. You have to love what you sell, love your business no matter how monotonous it is, because you can feel stuck when you do the same thing over and over again. For instance, you have to wake up at a certain time, even when you sleep late, the next day you have to wake up at the same time, there is “no” for an answer, this business demands that. And if you feel bored, you have to keep going and to know in your heart this is what you specialized in, so you keep at it, and you can not surrender all authority to your workers, it won’t go well”.
For over 50 years, the long-standing building in which it is located at 78 Mangga Besar has never seen major renovation until the pandemic hits. At the time while other businesses decided to lay off their employees or cut their working hours, Haris thought differently.
“In my mind, I don’t think that’s the way to go. We cannot expect people to work for us and leave them as soon as the going gets rough. It was in fact, the best time to give back to them and I felt obligated to pay them their full salary.” he reminisced.
Four years into his leadership, Haris experienced the May 1998 riots of Indonesia. “Our place was targeted and looted, even our stoves were looted,” he recalled. “As soon as things quieted down, I mustered the courage and cooked again with little equipment that we had, and it turned out to be the right decision, as nobody dared to open up their businesses yet, in three months we were able to recuperate”.
A family man at heart, Haris is currently passing down his knowledge to one of his nephews. “You are your own worst enemy, so you have to beat yourself, it’s tiring and boring, but at one point you are able to enjoy and love what you do, then you’re in the right frame of mind”
With all time favorite offerings such as Kwetiau Goreng, Bun and Siram, Haris sticks to his principle of not using any artificial chemical on his food prep for all dishes and condiments. Choosing the best ingredients for his dishes is a priority and opting out on cheaper beef cuts. “It takes one whole day to do the beef broth only.” On a plate of fried rice noodles, we felt not only the wonderful flavor and umami but also a reminder on how dedication and sincerity can translate into a simple dish.