"Rojak and cendol! Cheap!"
You know what’s a great pick-me-up for a lazy weekend (or any other day, for that matter) afternoon?
Rojak and cendol.
And while there are so many different kinds to cater to the equally many different tastes, I think I’ve found one of the nicest examples from Rojak Ali, a food truck at Jalan PJS 1/26. You won’t miss the simple, small white truck with a couple of tables and some chairs set up, nicely shaded with umbrellas. It’s visible even from the NPE heading towards Sunway. You won’t miss the area too, as it’s rows of motorcycle shops!
The rojak (RM3.50) is of the Penang Pasembur variety, and it comes to you freshly prepared and chopped up by Karim. The rojak is chock-a-block full of excellent textural contrasts: delicate tofu, meaty cucur, and crunchy fritters lie beneath a bed of crisp, fresh sengkuang and cucumbers. Half a boiled egg garnishes the dish, and all this is bathed in their excellent kuah pasembur.
The kuah is wonderfully balanced, not too thick or thin, with spicy, sweet, creamy and nutty flavours that get soaked up by the other ingredients. To bulk it up, you can also order it with sotong and mee.
To accompany the rojak, the cendol pulut (RM2.50) is lovely. The ice is shaved using an old-school, hand cranked ice shaving machine that looks decades old (and probably is!), then scooped into small bowls, then a dollop of pulut is added. More »
"Your morning plate of cheer!"
It’s early weekday morning and the place is packed with people. This isn’t really surprising given the fact that for the last ten years, this restaurant has been steadily making a name in the business of booming breakfasts. While they have really great lauk campur lunches and fried dinner dishes, it’s the morning meals that customers go for. The restaurant started out as small one corner shop that has taken over a long stretch, scattered with tables starting from 6 a.m. If you’re a late riser, best make it before 10 as the food goes away fast.
Here’s what you should definitely aim for – the nasi lemak, and the cakoi. The nasi lemak is a steaming plate of full, creamy, home-made rice. It’s soft and fluffy, with a light scent of santan wafting away with the steam. A bite into its richness and you’ll find the secret to the restaurant’s success. The standard nasi lemak plate comes with a half boiled egg, slices of fresh cucumber, some nice salty nuts and the sambal. It’s enough to welcome your mornings, but Restoran Ceria offers the extra mile.
First off, there’s the basic sambal. Light in texture, it’s not too heavy on the oil and not super thick. It’s a solid, spicy and slightly sweet sambal mixed in with some anchovies. While it’s not out of the world, it does the trick to get your morning energy up fantastically. If you want to level up, have the sambal kerang. Tiny morsels of chewy, salty kerang flesh in hot sauce, with heavier tastes of garlic and chili. It goes amazing with the crunchy nuts, anchovies and soft egg that make up the dish.
But Ceria doesn’t stop there, as another option is to have your nasi lemak with the sambal sotong. This is by far one of the more popular sambal as it runs out by 10a.m. almost on a daily basis. Delicious, chewy cuttlefish drenched in the spicy sauce. It’s a scrumptious contrast between the slightly salted sotong and the sharp tang of the chili, in a mouthful with warm creamy rice. Mmm... More »
"Hissing spicy sambal pecel to get those juices going..."
The actual name of this restaurant is Syasya Syaheera – but nobody really calls it that. To most of its regular customers (hundreds of ‘em) the place is simply known as Pecel Lele. It’s famous for, you guessed it – the pecel. Pecel Lele started out as a small, one man stall in a busy corner of Padang Jawa 15 years ago. Haji Basri was just looking for an extra way to give back to the community while earning an extra income, and years later – it’s become a full blown three lot restaurant with its own parking space. The place is so famous that it doesn’t even have a signboard. It’s the quintessential word of mouth success story, and at any time of the day, the place will be at least half full. Most of the customers are students from universities around the area, but there’s also a healthy mix of the family and office crowd. There’s more than 7 workers going around with platters of food at any one time, and they’re all more than happy to assist and get your order, provided that you grab their attention quickly.
There’s two major things that blast the popularity model here. The first is the restaurant’s namesake – the sambal pecel. It’s a smooth, nutty paste with a kick of spice that’s just enough to get you hissing. As you devour the thick sambal, you taste the fusion of salty peanuts, ginger and garlic rolling in a cili blend. Dip it with some crunchy vegetables and you’re sold. The recipe is one that has been in Haji Basri’s family for generations, all the way from Indonesia. So it’s a safe bet you’ll get the good stuff here.
The pecel can be ordered with a choice of fried chicken, bakso (beef meatballs) or fried ikan keli. The fried chicken is very popular as it always arrives hot and steaming with a lot of flesh. If you’re up for something lighter and sweeter, have it with the fried ikan keli. While it may come slightly dry and small, the meat is tasty enough to satisfy your cravings. More »
"Honest to goodness nasi campur..."
Bawang Merah was opened about 13 years ago by Aini Baba. It's in a cozy yet busy part of Subang Jaya, just down the road from the SDMC hospital (formerly SJMC), so parking can be a little frustrating. But once you walk into the establishment and the familiar smells of home cooking hit you, you already know it's going to be worth it. The place is decorated like your favourite aunt's house, little knick-knacks here and there, and of course, paintings of red onions on the wall. Aini's family hails from Melaka, which raises my expectations for a good asam pedas. My mother is a stickler for asam pedas quality as well, so we exchanged meaningful glances in between discussing which lauk to order. In the end, as I brought my family along for this dinner, we decided to go the whole nine yards and ordered a little bit from almost every lauk on display.
First to arrive was a gleaming, almost overflowing bowl of asam pedas ikan kembung. It already gets our approval before we taste it, as the gravy is thick, unlike the watery counterparts you get in so many nasi campur places. The taste lives up to its looks, spicy and tangy at the same time, with herby notes courtesy of daun kesum and serai. The fish itself didn't disappoint with its sweet flaky flesh, which balanced well with the soft kacang bendi pieces floating in the gravy. It's definitely earned a spot on our favourite asam pedas list! Aini tells us that she makes the asam pedas with cuts of ikan tenggiri too, which should be a right treat. Make like a southerner and order ikan goreng to go with your asam pedas; their crispy fried kembung is perfectly seasoned.
The daging goreng hitam comes next, and we were in for delight. The chunks of beef were deliciously tender, no doubt from having been cooked down in a spicy gravy until almost dry. We sense a bit of coriander seeds in the spice mix, along with onions that are so soft they almost disappear when rubbed between fingers. Their paru goreng is equally supple, though differently seasoned as this was done sambal-style. Few people get thick-cut paru goreng right as it tends to be rubbery. The trick is to boil the paru until tender first, then slice it up to cook whichever way you please. The cooks at Bawang Merah clearly did their homework.
Even their vegetable dishes jostle for the spotlight. We had their kangkung goreng, stir-fried with very generous amounts of tasty chilli, so try not to order if you tak tahan pedas. More »
"Oh come to me you sweet, icy madness!"
Imagine a hot, sweltering day. And then, imagine an ice cold ABC. So far, so good, right? Now imagine ice cold ABC with thick, heavenly chocolate sauce, sweet sugary syrup, a crispy chocolate wafer, and creamy ice cream…. This is the makings of Fradoo’s ABC Special. Drop by any time of the day at this small stall in Section 2’s foodcourt, Shah Alam, and you’ll find people ordering the ABC Special in droves. The waiters are constantly in motion, working to provide the sweet treat to its craving customers. Granted the atmosphere is quite busy – but it’s worth the experience.
The savouring experience starts at the top of the ABC, a garnish of juicy grape and lychee, followed by a scoop of ice cream (your choice of strawberry, vanilla or chocolate). It’s drizzled with home-made chocolate sauce and syrup, on top of a large scoop of ice shavings. The sensation is a delicious mix of soft, hot sweetness and sharp iciness.
As you dig deeper into the desert you’ll crunch into the salty nuts swimming in a sweet pool of coconut milk, and then a treasure trove of tasty jelly mix. Dig into the flurry of chewy cendol, cincau, sweet corn, red beans, and even some fruity nata de coco. Alternate your taste bud sensations with the crispy wafer, and lick the syrup off your fingers. We’re warning you right now – it’s definitely a sweet mess! More »
"The one stop Makan shop"
30 years of experience has made Restoran Azira a food powerhouse. What started out as small cafe has grown into a favourite local hangout taking up two lots, with plenty of loyal customers. Present owner Kak Norzihan heads the family business, and together with her party of Indonesian cooks and servers, is more than ready to cater to your foodie needs. A quick and happy “hai apa khabar!” will set you up for a nice meal out.
Their menu covers almost every meal course needed, a good mix of Malay and Indonesian dishes. The main area is taken up by a long table full of lauk, to spoil your nasi campur choices. From ikan kembong masak asam, to ayam masak lemak cili api, to kerabu kacang botol. The more popular kari kepala ikan is gone in almost the first hour of opening. On a side of the restaurant, a table is set up for Ayam Pecel – the mix of sambal sauce and crunchy vegetables is enough to give your taste buds a good kick.
The star of the show is definitely the Laksa Johor though. I’ve never been a big fan of laksa but even this one gets my gold stars. Its hype from a hefty amount of media coverage doesn’t deter its reputation. The ikan kembong is blended in an exquisite mix of sweet santan and sour asam, balanced off with Azira’s secret recipe of spicy seasonings. Topped off with sliced long beans and extra sambal belacan, though with a tad bit too much of onions - a good dinner is already made.
"A Chiang Rai culinary curiosity shop"
First up: my current absolute favourite thing to eat in the universe, their hot and sour spicy noodles. Since their menu is either in Thai or English (none of that romanised Thai for you!), I'm going to go ahead and assume the soup base is a tomyum of sorts. Devilishly spicy and addictive, this is the soup to slurp down when you have sinuses needing clearing. Bits of meat and liver slices float in the soup amongst the nest of skinny flat rice noodles, giving you perfect meaty bites. I dream of this often at night and wake up in a fervour, grabbing my car keys and heading to Lai Thai straight away.
Lai Thai doesn't serve stand alone tomyum, as it would require a lot more ingredients (seafood, special chillies, etc) and preparation. "Other places serve tomyum too, but theirs is very Malaysianised. Ours is thick and almost oily in comparison," Pi Un, the owner points out. "Plus, we also try to keep our meats to just pork and chicken." Seafood being a touch more expensive and hard to keep, and beef-free because of their Buddhist beliefs.
My old usual order is their stir fried mince pork with basil leaf on red rice, topped with a fried egg. Also known as pad ga prao, the heady scent of basil hits your nose even before the plate hits the table. If the cook hasn't accidentally over-fried your egg - which alas happens often during busy shifts - you'll get a glorious runny yolk mixing in with your rice. A match made in heaven for the lovely morsels of spicy minced pork just dying to get in your belly.
Mondays being their green curry day, we of course had to try some. Touted by many of my friends as the best green curry in Klang Valley, the delicious creaminess of this curry is pretty much second to none. Full of chicken pieces, eggplant and those little pea eggplants, each bite makes you feel like you're sitting in a Thai grandma's home. Other notable dishes include their som tum, freshly prepared to order with generous shavings of green papaya and peanuts. Their larb moo is also an adventurous delight - minced pork tossed with pork liver, intestines and rind, then mixed with a hot yet refreshingly sour dressing of fish sauce, lime and chilli flakes. I'm from the tripe-smell-like-wet-dog school of Tony Bourdain, but I wolfed this down quite happily, intestines and all. The lime really does seem to take the dampness away from the intestines.