I was having a pretty “normal” day and scrolling aimlessly on Instagram like most of us do in a pandemic before I stumbled upon a video about four multiracial guys talking about Roti John. Despite its modest production quality — it was shot “Zoom” style in the guys’ own homes — the 11 minutes 55 seconds video dropped a few interesting facts about the origins of Roti John.
But it also brought out a few laughs as I listened to their off-topic banter. In this episode, their attempts to pronounce the word ‘pomelo’ cracked me up, amongst other things. The conversation steered further and further away from Roti John, but I was more invested in their random side chats anyway. It felt like I was at a coffee shop, participating in a lepak session with the bros.
Collectively known by the name of their channel “Abang Goreng,” the four men may still have a modest following but I am entertained by every video that they’ve put out since. In an interview with The Halal Eater recently, I got clarity on who they really are, their intentions for making videos of halal food, and first hand experience hanging out with the boisterous foursome.
Who is Abang Goreng?
Abang Goreng is made up of four good friends — Rush, 25, Shariq, 25, Afiq, 28, and Terence, 24 — who crossed paths in undetermined circumstances. “It depends on who you ask,” they say.
The gist of it is this: Rush and Afiq were poly classmates turned bunk mates in National Service (NS), and they both met Shariq through work later on. Rush revealed that he first met Terence at his birthday party, even though Terence could not recall that ever happening.
From Terence’s point of view, he got to know them through his girlfriend, and that they officially met each other at a Chinese New Year party.
The history of how they met might be hazy but as most great friendships are, “it doesn’t matter the number of years we know each other, it’s just the chemistry that we have that counts,” says Afiq.
Throughout the years, they’ve bonded over their love of teh tarik and hanging out at coffee shops where they talk about everything from games and soccer to more serious adulting stuff like investment and housing.
It was not until friends complimented on their camaraderie that they started to toy with the idea of making videos together.
“I don’t see content out there where you feel like you are lepak-ing with members,” Rush says, “so it comes to a point where we decide to video (ourselves) and share it.”
So in July last year, they recorded an introductory video of themselves and published it on the Internet. In it, they mentioned that their content will revolve around the “best halal food in Singapore”. Why halal food, though?
Why halal food?
For one, there’s that obvious reason of dietary limitations. “Cannot be they all eat pork, right?” Terence replies, as the rest of the guys break out into laughter.
Terence, who has roots in Malacca, is the only non-Muslim member of the group, but he doesn’t mind that halal food be the focus of their channel. In fact, him being Chinese works out perfectly for the team as he is able to share his perspectives and knowledge on cross-cultural food.
For instance, in the kuih episode, he shares that kuih lapis is called Jiu Ceng Gao in Chinese culture which also translates to ‘nine-layered cake’. In a more recent popiah episode, where yours truly is a guest, Terence talks about “popiah parties” at home, where the ingredients are laid out and guests make their own popiah with proportions ingredients to their own personal liking.
Terence further explains that vlogging about halal food is a deliberate choice as there seems to be a shortage of quality halal food video content out there.
Even when there are videos of halal food on local social media, they are usually done by content creators who only feature halal-themed food occasionally.
“So we want to fill in that gap,” says Shariq. To date, Abang Goreng has published over 20 episodes of their halal food vlogs, featuring a variety of food from Nasi Lemak to Laksa to my personal favourite, Nasi Padang.
Making themselves relatable
From reviews to guides on where to bring your date, Abang Goreng’s videos are essentially about food. But it is the vernacular way in which they deliver their message that makes them more relatable, in my opinion.
They speak in the everyday language of the average Singaporean; certainly not Queen’s English but also not quite bahasa pasar. I personally liken it to my NS experience where people of different races and diverse backgrounds conversed in a collective ‘rojak’ language, but still somehow managed to understand each other.
If you haven’t watched any of their videos, just pick a random one to see what I mean when I say they are relatable.
Actually, watch this one where I judge their popiah rolling skills instead. The judging criteria is arbitrary as I find myself enjoying the unscripted things that come out of their mouths more.
That said, Abang Goreng also prides in producing quality work. A common thread that runs through their videos is education, which is something that all of them aim to impart to the audience.
For them, food is just another way for people to connect even better, and if a viewer were to learn at least one thing after watching their videos, they consider that a success in itself. For instance, in the Deepavali episode, I learnt that thali is an Indian-style meal made up of a selection of various dishes which are served on a platter, much like our Nasi Ambeng.
Creating genuine content takes time, but till you are passionate and love doing it and continue to develop it, then it will gain lots of engagement and may trend as well.
When asked about the future of Abang Goreng and content creators like themselves, they answered rationally and realistically. “Hopefully, more and more people will see our content or be inspired to create something similar,” says Terence to which Afiq jokingly adds, “Next thing you see Kakak Goreng, Adik Goreng, goreng-goreng all!”
Jokes aside, the guys do intend to take their vlogs outside of Singapore when borders reopen. They’re not limiting themselves to just halal food in Singapore, but rather prefer to take on a broader approach to the kind of content they wish to create.
But till then, Abang Goreng will continue to create videos revolving around local halal food, entertaining us with their lepak humour whilst imparting nuggets of information that we would not know of otherwise.