I'm not an early riser, I don't wake up at the crack of dawn and I usually skip breakfast. But, there are always exceptions. A breakfast sojourn to Uptown is one of them. Tell me about a nasi lemak crawl and I'll be there bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Fancy some Nasi Lemak Bonnet?
When a friend enticed me with a Damansara Uptown nasi lemak crawl, I actually made the effort to brave the morning traffic to join her on this little excursion. The crawl consisted of kopitiams, a makeshift stall (and a car) scattered around Uptown. So loosen up your belts and join us on a gluttonous breakfast trail. You might end up yawning the whole day from a nasi lemak overdose but hey, you only live once, right?
The Perfect Balance
Nasi Lemak Bonnet
The set up of this stall amazes me. It's unbelievable how many things you can fit in your car's bonnet. Kak Zalina who handles and makes the nasi lemak here seems to be an expert in utilising small spaces. She arranges her wares neatly without cluttering her bonnet up.
Lauks and kuihs are arranged on the top tier of the bonnet while rice and sambal sits on the bottom. Using her husband's (Abang Jasman) family recipe, she's been selling nasi lemak this way for the past 3 years. They used to sell nasi lemak in a cafe nearby, unfortunately the cafe closed down and they lost their space so to solve this problem, they started selling nasi lemak from their car. Her set up might be small but her nasi lemak is big on flavour. Since it's sold from the back of a car, you have to 'tapau' and eat your nasi lemak somewhere else.
It's amazing how so many things can fit in the back of your car, you can even fit in a small nasi lemak business!
As soon as I opened the pack, I was hit by the aroma of pandan. It's incredibly fragrant so you know that they add pandan leaves when they're cooking the rice. I take a bite and it gets better. The rice is rich with santan, it's not starchy so the rice falls in separate grains instead of clumping up in a ball. This is great because when you mix in the sambal, the individual grain gets coated evenly and you'll get a perfect sambal-rice combo.
The rendang kerang is pretty awesome....
As for the sambal, the flavours are well balanced. Not too sweet, not too spicy and just the right amount of chillies and onions. Some sambals usually come swimming in oil but this one doesn't. It's moist without being oily. Another plus point is their crispy 'ikan bilis' and the choice of fried egg. You can choose to have the runny yolk or the well-fried version. Order the rendang kerang because they use fresh cockles and they don't overcook it so it has a nice and springy texture. It has a lovely rendang taste with plenty of turmeric leaves and kerisik. It will remind you of your school canteen nasi lemak, subtle but memorable.
In front of Country Farm Organics Pharmacy, Open daily, 7am - 10 am, Closed Weekends
The Best Lauk
Nasi Lemak Bus Stop ( Kak Hani )
The stall is located next to the main bus stop in Uptown. You will see cars stopping at the side of the road to 'tapau' nasi lemak from this stall. The friendly and bubbly proprietor is Kak Hani. I love the ayam masak merah here. It has an aromatic citrusy hint to it because Kak Hani actually adds kaffir lime leaves in the dish. She marinates the chicken well because the gravy sticks to the flesh, flavouring it with the lovely spices.
Sticky ayam masak merah liven up with kaffir lime leaves...
Her sambal is slightly oily with a sticky consistency. It's a very mellow sambal with a lot of onions. The rice is not as flavourful as the ones at Nasi Lemak Bonnet but it is still quite decent. The portions here are generous and she wraps it in a banana leaf to give it that extra aroma. Her nasi lemak is so popular that her husband has also set up another stall at the other side of Uptown to keep up with the customers' requests. They open all year round, even selling in Jalan Masjid India during Ramadhan.
In front of Beauty and Slimming Express, Open Daily, 7am - 10.30 am
The Fan Favourite
How can we go on a nasi lemak crawl at Uptown without stopping at Village Park? They have a huge fan base. HUGE. Rumour has it that even a certain prime minister likes to have his breakfast here. The must-order dish here is nasi lemak and fried chicken. It is pricey compared to other nasi lemak places in Uptown but you do get a huge chunk of chicken with your rice so it's worth it.
Hi, fried chicken, can I eat you?
Sambal is sweet and the chicken has crunchy bits of fried onion and garlic along with the crispy skin. The plate is completed with the usual 'ikan bilis' and peanuts. The rice here is sufficiently fragrant and is cooked with just enough coconut milk to give it a smidgen of 'lemak'. I wish the sambal had more heat and not too much sweetness though. The downfall of Village Park is their inconsistency. There are days when their chicken and nasi lemak are not that great. But then that's just my personal opinion. I don't think my take would affect their popularity though because there doesn't seem to be an end to the stream of customers frequenting Village Park every morning. Besides nasi lemak, they also serve other kopitiam fare like half boiled eggs and roti bakar, check out the full review to see what else is on offer.
Village Park, 5, Jalan SS21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, GPS: 3.137784,101.623358, Tel: 03-7710 7860, Open from 7 am to 8pm daily, 7 am to 6 pm on Sunday/Public Holiday
The Hot Sambal
If you're looking for sambal with a bounty of chillies, head over to Killiney. They make their nasi lemak bungkus in-house and it's a wonderful accompaniment to their coffee. Packed with heat, the sambal has a reddish colour instead of the brown/orange tones you find at other places. Be warned, the colour comes from the amount of chillies they put in the sambal, when it's red, it usually means that it's gonna be mucho spicy. Anchovies are also cooked together with the sambal to give it some extra flavour. One taste of the sambal and you get a heaty kick on your tongue. It has a slightly sour tinge which I think comes from the addition of tamarind. This is almost like a nyonya-styled sambal, sour and spicy.The rice is okay, it has hints of coconut milk although it's not as pronounced as some of the other places.
It's not as harmless as you think, pedas,yo!
The nasi lemak bungkus does come with a piece of fried chicken but it's pretty small so get a side order of otak-otak to eat with the rice if you want to bulk it up. With slices of cucumber and a thin sliver of boiled egg, it's a satisfying breakfast choice. The sambal is spicy so if your stomach can't handle too much spice in the morning, give this one a pass. They also sell an assortment of local kuehs and the karipap kentang is quite tasty so if you want a post-nasi lemak snack, the karipap is a good choice.
Killiney, 44 Jalan SS21/3, Damansara Utama 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, Tel : 03 7725 5130, 03 7725 5131, 10am to 10pm daily
The Cheap Option
Nasi Lemak Bungkus Kampung Kayu Ara
For a no-frills and cheap brekkie choice, why not try the nasi lemak bungkus Kampung Kayu Ara? It's a steal at RM1 a pack. You can see someone selling it by the side of the road, his plastic basket filled with packs of nasi lemak brought from the nearby kampung every morning. He's even there during the weekends.
The cute packets of nasi lemak bungkus...
The taste is not as rich as the other entries in this list but a pack is enough to provide you with a wholesome breakfast especially when your wallet is at its thinnest. A pack contains rice, sambal and cucumber slices. Tiny anchovies are cooked together with the sambal so it ends up chewy, some people like it that way, I prefer mine crunchy. The rice is slightly clumpy because I think they pack it while it was still warm. It only has a tiny note of 'santan' while the sambal has subtle hints of shrimp. It's value for money so if you're looking for a simple breakfast, give this one a go.
In front of Brother Peter Workshop, Opens daily, 7am - 10 am, Mon - Sun