Full house... Fitri served nearly one tonne of shrimps a day to his customers at his restaurant in Penarik. Pic by NSTP/ROSLI ZAKARIA

SETIU: Since early this year, 22 stall owners selling ‘ikan celup tepung’ (fish fritters) along the coastal trunk road from Kuala Terengganu to Kota Baru are growing bigger and better, now operating from as early as 8am to midnight, seven days a week.

Diversifying, they have started the ‘udang celup tepung’ (shrimp fritters) craze where motorists can get 45 shrimps for as cheap as RM10. Some stalls are even offering ice lemon tea for free to customers, who also order fish and squids.

These enterprising villagers cook nearly 25 tonnes of shrimps a day and the sheer volume alone speaks volume of its popularity. Business is definitely booming in Penarik and now stalls are starting to mushroom in Merang and Batu Rakit.

As business is so good, the owner of TriZai restaurant Mohd Fitri Md Yusof, 31, decided to invest RM60,000 to build a new restaurant equipped with air-conditioning and a VIP room for special functions.

Fitri, who started selling 30 pieces of shrimp fritters for RM10 early this year, decided to offer 45 shrimps at the same price in August, which made his restaurant one of the favourite stops for among long-distance travellers.

“The return on my investment was less than a year. I have re-invested the profits to build a new restaurant which offers more convenience, including an air-conditioned room. It will be ready by early next month,” said Fitri, who has employed 20 helpers.

A check at some of the stalls showed operators raking in earnings between RM1,000 and RM3,000 a day and close to RM5,000 a day during public and school holidays.

All the stalls and restaurants in Penarik shared that they obtained their import quality shrimp directly or indirectly from Blue Archipelago, the biggest shrimp farm in the east coast.

“The competition here is not about the shrimps because the size and prices are standard. We compete on services and the secret recipe that makes the tastes of the fried shrimp fritters slightly different from one operator with another.

“The fresh shrimps make all the difference because when served fried, it tastes good,” he added.

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