By Nina Huang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Safira Ezani and her mom, Mas Puteh, owners of Malaysian food business Masakan Seattle, are preparing to serve their biggest audience since they started their business in 2020. During the football season, Lumen Field—recently voted the best NFL stadium by USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards—easily draws over 60,000 people.
Football firsts for Masakan
Ezani and her family have served at events where there have been a couple thousand people at most, but the scale of Lumen Field’s crowds for a Seattle Seahawks game will definitely be the largest.
Ezani is nervous but excited to see how they’re going to do it—this may be the first time Malaysian food will be served at an NFL game.
“My parents are so excited because they hadn’t been to Lumen Field before. They were touring the stadium and they never thought they would have the opportunity to go. For them to be able to step onto the stadium, it was super cute and heartwarming to see,” she said.
The opportunity to serve during Seattle Seahawks games came up organically. Ezani had a friend at the commercial kitchen they rent out of and heard the stadium was interested in bringing in more diversity of food vendors and Masakan was a good match for that.
Brainstorming food options for the football crowds has been interesting, Ezani shared.
She and her family have been thinking about which Malaysian dishes they can repurpose and repackage in a way that’s easy for people to understand if they’ve never had Malaysian food before, as well as thinking of ease of transportation and serving customers.
“I feel like a lot of the food that we do provide tends to be more sit down meals,” she added.
While their signature dish is nasi lemak with beef rendang, on game days at Lumen Field, they will serve vegetarian karipap, beef murtabak, a combination of chicken satay and fried rice, and ‘air bandung’ (milked rose water).
Ezani was born in Kuala Lumpur and her whole immediate family moved to Florida when she was 3. They lived there until she was 15, before they decided to move to Seattle in 2010 where they had more Malaysian friends.
Puteh is from the state of Negeri Sembilan, which is known for having a lot of Indonesian influences with a lot of spices and coconut milk. Ezani shared that rendang is well known where her mom is from.
Ezani’s dad is from the northern part of Malaysia where the cuisine has more Thai influences.
“We try to get as close to our memory of the dishes that we’ve had in Malaysia…as close as we can to our version of Malaysian food,” she said.
Ezani’s mother grew up all over Malaysia and she’s gathered recipes from her childhood and family friends over the years to make them at home.
“She will try recipes until she finds something where she’s like ‘yes, this is what I remember from Malaysia,’” Ezani said.
The biggest compliment that they receive is when customers tell them that their food reminds them of what they ate growing up.
Back in the early 2000s, Ezani started helping her mom make more Malaysian food since it was really difficult to find it in Seattle. They started going to community potlucks and helping cook for Eid or Iftar local mosque meals.
More and more people started asking Puteh if she could cater local events like birthdays, weddings, baby showers, and special dinners, and that’s how it started growing more and more.
Ezani had graduated from the University of Washington with an accounting degree and started her career working as an auditor, but this opportunity to make and serve Malaysian food came up.
“This really cool opportunity came up where people wanted the food that we were making and this food was super special because there aren’t a lot of options and representation across the Puget Sound. Food is such a big priority in my family for us to get together and everyone in the family loves to cook,” Ezani said.
Ezani decided that there was an opportunity to do this full-time after doing part-time pop-ups. They started the pop-ups in October 2020, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2022 where they pursued the food business full-time.
Promoting more Malaysian cuisine
“I would personally love to have dishes where they are more home style Malay dishes and less mainstream well-known dishes. Especially where I’m thinking about where my mom grew up, it might take a bit of convincing for people to try, because they just don’t know it. But I know it’s good and I’d love to be able to offer that in a pop-up or in a brick and mortar some day where we have less mainstream Malaysian food,” Ezani shared.
‘Masakan’ translates to ‘dish’ in Malaysian.
“What dishes did you make today? In Malay, it’d be like, ‘What masakan did you make today?’” Ezani explained.
Ezani hopes to introduce a more diverse variety of Malaysian dishes to the greater population. People are likely to be familiar with dishes like laksa, beef rendang, and char kway teow, but there’s so much more that Malaysian cuisine has to offer.
“We love the spirit of the pop-ups and meeting everyone who wants to come by and try Malaysian food,” Ezani said.
Ezani and her family have been busy these past few months and will likely be doing fewer pop-ups. In addition to preparing to cater for events, Ezani shared that they recently signed a contract with Bon Appetit to serve at Expedia’s corporate campus in Interbay as a rotating vendor.
They’ve also been moving to a new kitchen, providing community meals to nonprofit partner Wasat, and getting ready to serve food at the Seahawks games against the Cleveland Browns (Oct. 29) and Washington Commanders (Nov. 12) at Lumen Field.
Wasat has a big focus on feeding the community for free and that’s a program they’ve been running for a year now. Ezani shared that they’ve been regularly cooking about 200 meals a week in addition to catering and pop-ups.
“Since the beginning of our pop-ups, we’ve done similar charity work where we donate food or provide free food to people in the community to help those experiencing homelessness—all of that has always been a big part of what my mom likes to do,” Ezani shared.
“We would still always have that part of Masakan,” Ezani added.
Nina can be reached at email@example.com.