Charred and smoky, char kway teow is a popular Malaysian street food dish. To get the ‘wok hei’ taste, you do have to cook it over a high flame but if that’s not something you can do, don’t worry, it will still taste pretty amazing. More »
"Perfect packets of nasi kukus..."
Nasi Kukus Ilham only sells nasi kukus and I don't blame them. If their star dish pulls in the crowd, why complicate matters with too many variations? By keeping it simple, they've managed to maintain the quality of their winning dish and keep their customers coming for more.
At Ilham, a packet of nasi kukus comprises of steamed white rice, fried chicken, a mixture of gulai, fiery sambal belacan, crispy ikan bilis and a scoop of pineapple. That's the standard package, you can customise it according to your liking, more gravy, less sambal, extra pineapple etc, just ask the server and she'll gladly do it for you.
Everything is self-service here so once you've queued up for a pack of rice, you go to the drinks station to get your beverage and then pay when you're done with your meal.
So, what makes the nasi kukus here so popular? Let's start with the rice. Steamed in individual moulds, the rice is nice and fluffy, perfect for soaking up the mixture of gulai resulting in satisfying mouthfuls of gulai-infused rice.
When asked on why he steams the rice individually, the owner, Khairul pointed out that this is how they did in Kelantan. The reason why they do it this way is because when the moulds are arranged in the steamer, there's extra space in between the moulds to allow steam to flow through. This not only speeds up the cooking process but also ensures that the rice is evenly cooked.
Each layer of the steamer has 24 moulds making it easier for Khairul to keep track of how many portions he serves in a day. On average, he sells about 600 packets of nasi kukus daily. On their busiest day, which is Friday, it reaches up to 700 packs. Post-Friday prayers is their peak time because the restaurant is packed with people coming from the nearby surau for lunch.
If Malaysia had a national drink, it would be teh tarik. The pulling or ‘tarik’ action used by mamaks help to cool down the brew. What’s great about this technique is not only does it cools the drink down, it also creates plenty of froth. More »
From the terasi shrimp paste of the Indonesian islands and the nam pla fish sauce of our northern Thai neighbours, to the shiokara fermented seafood of Japan and the alamang patis shrimp sauce of the Philippines, we East Asians really like our fermented seafood. Whether it's belacan, cencaluk or other stinky delights, these delicacies play an important… More »
Canned sardines are a staple in Malaysian pantries because of their versatility. In this recipe we use them to fill up rolled up fried bread. These rolls are so easy to make and perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Plus, kids also love ‘em! More »
"Steak is what this place is about..."
First of all, in case you’re wondering – yes, there is a Ril! It’s named after the executive chef and owner Tunku Khairil Tunku Ibrahim, whose family owns the Santai group which Ril’s is under. Other spots under Santai include the Black & White Kopitiam off Jalan P Ramlee, and Alang’s Rawa, a private island resort in Johor. The steak house will be reaching its first anniversary on the 28th of September 2012. Only a year has gone by, and the response has been pretty good, according to general manager Kevin Tan. So, why steak? Because Khairil loves steaks and saw a need in KL for a good steak house that wouldn’t break your bank and be delicious at the same time. Right now they only offer fresh beef, but there is a possibility in the next few years that they will have aged beef as well, along with different grades of Wagyu beef.
Before you even go upstairs to Ril’s, you have to make your way through the art gallery first. They have a changing display of art on sale, sometimes quirky but always interesting. Once you’ve had your fill of culture for the evening, then totter up the rather steep stairs to the dining room. It’s large yet intimate, with the great service and white tablecloths of 'atas' restaurants but the vibe of a cool neighbourhood bar.
Their bread rolls arrive first, and we’ll have to warn you right now: you’ll be tempted to fill up on these. They are excellent, savoury and herby concoctions. Break them apart, slather some of their butter on it (we adore their tomato butter) and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on top. If there were ever a time to sneak home dinner rolls from a restaurant, it would be now.
A knot of pandan leaf in the water bottles makes their water even more refreshing than most. But if you’d like to frou-frou up your dinner, we highly recommend their strawberry basil fizz. Generous chunks of strawberries are muddled with basil leaves, making your drink sweet and slightly spicy. Ridonkulously good.
If you only had space for one appetizer, make it their prawn cocktail. Yes, it’s old-fashioned and kitschy, but their version completely knocked our socks off. Huge prawns hang out the side of a martini glass filled with peppery leaves like arugula. The best bit is their “revamped” marie-rose sauce: a sweet and savoury combo jacked up with what we suspect is horseradish. We had their lobster bisque on an earlier visit; velvety smooth soup loaded with seafood flavour. Dip some of the aforementioned bread into this for a meal on its own.
This is a really spicy Negeri Sembilan sambal because of the generous amount of bird’s eye chillies in it. Fried anchovies add a nice crunchy texture to the dish. Simple yet incredibly addictive. Perfect with a warm plate of rice. More »