Special Feature

Chatting with Mak Jah

by Honey Ahmad Photography FriedChillies on Sat, November 02, 2013

Breakfast spots are everywhere in KL but once you find a gem, you'll go back to it again and again. Mak Jah Corner is one such place and recently, while filming them for our nasi lemak event we got chatting with the doyen of kuih herself...

Semua kat sini sedaplah...

One of the bonuses of moving to Ampang is that I’m now within walking distance of Mak Jah. Gone were the days when I used to brave cross KL traffic to eat here. I now have all access to the delectable kuihs, the Malay roti canai served with dhal and sambal and of course Mak Jah’s nasi lemak. “I've always been more of a cook at first and not really into kuih,” says Mak Jah now pushing 80 but still comes to the shop everyday usually on her motorbike. In the beginning she sold dishes and rice for lunch in Taman Permata and then had to leave because of a highway project.

“When I came to Ampang, everybody was selling lauk, I needed something different, so I started making kuih and selling them under the tree.” In the beginning she just made a tray of each, 30 serimuka, 20 currypuffs for instance. The operation was very small and all cooked by her. She sings when she sells, and became an eccentric and well loved figure in Ampang.

TalamUs Perakians call this limas but it's known here as tepung pelita

When people started ordering, family members were roped in. Kak Faridah, Mak Jah’s younger sister fondly recalls that their mother was a gifted cook and kuih maker. She never bought anything from the shops. When someone wanted to eat lepat pisang, she made it. This up-bringing resulted in resilient women who keep the traditions of making food with integrity.

Kuih CaraWe love the kuih cara here, savoury or with sugar bursting through

Where most places will have stacks of steamers, Mak Jah still makes her serimuka and other steamed kuihs in one steamer at a time- this retains taste and texture. They now operate in a corner shop on Jalan Kerja Air Lama but the back end operations is quite large and all in the family. They rented a place in Jalan 7 which is the centralized kuih place and supplies kuihs to other places in town like KL Tower. They do catering, rendangs and cookies for Raya (pre-ordered and wildly popular) and are now going into frozen food, although I could never get my hands on their frozen karipap sardine. They disappear as fast as they make them.

KaripapUnable to get sardin, ayam pun bolehlah...

“Many people ask us to freeze our rendang or kuihs so they can take it overseas,” says Kak Faridah. They are now developing frozen lodeh and pulut pangang. Many customers also buy a whole tray of kuih and freeze it themselves, then re-steam it when they feel like it. Because ingredients used are fresh and it’s well cooked, flavour is retained. During fasting month they start selling kuih from noon finishing at about 4pm and it’s still good to eat at buka.

Although kuih is the highlight, they have over 45-50 kinds of kuih with recipes that are passed down then experimented until it’s right, many come here for the nasi lemak.

Nasi LemakLove the old-school plates here with the blue flower pattern

The nasi lemak here has a homecooked taste with rice a little soft and sticky and a good solid sambal. The main cook here was trained from the ground up. Mak Jah prefers to train them fresh but she still monitors, trying out the food on offer. “I do spot checks, you can never leave things entirely to the staff,” she smiles, “besides what am I going to do just sitting at home?” We recommend the paru here, which is springy and the sambal sotong. A highlight at the little lauk counter is always the rendang. They try not to blend too much preferring to cut and slice onions and herbs by hand. “If you blend too many onions it becomes too wet, and your rendang just won’t be the same,” a tip from Mak Jah to all you rendang enthusiasts out there.

LaukManaged to snap the sambal and rendang before it's all gone!

Hailing from Teluk Intan Perak, that’s why the rendang pedas and rendang dendeng here is so good and why when I come here it reminds me a little of home.

Roti canai here is also popular so with kuih and nasi lemak they pretty much cornered the market on breakfast in the area.

Their fans are many and devoted. You can often find Mak Jah seated in a corner on one of the tables talking up a storm with one of her customers. More come in with daughters and grandchildren in tow. Most will stop to salam her and ask her how she’s doing. During busy times she still jumps behind the counter serving kuih and wrapping nasi lemak, and somehow this just makes everything tastes just a little more delicious.

Mak Jah Corner is at No. 26, Jalan Kerja Air Lama, Ampang Jaya. Tel: 012- 223 4423. Get a taste of the nasi lemak here on 9th November at Telekom Malaysia Convention Centre at The I Eat Nasi Lemak Event.

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