"So popular that you actually have to take a number!"
Nasi Lemak is a much-loved breakfast meal for Malaysians and because of their popularity, you can usually find a stall set up in most neighbourhoods in KL. My favourite stall is luckily located near my house. This particular nasi lemak stall started out as one of those stalls that mushroom up overnight, before quickly establishing itself as an institution through word of mouth advertising. It's operated by a friendly duo of Encik Asmi and his wife Kak Sanah (for whom the stall is named after); from the back of a lorry. Kak Sanah serves up 500-600 packets of nasi lemak a day, every morning to its crowd of loyal customers. It's quite popular with people from all walks of life, from the aunty housewife to the office worker.
The range of lauk they serve is amazing. This ranges from the typical sambal kerang, sotong, daging, ayam and kuih assortments. There is even paru goreng sambal here.
I usually go for the ayam goreng because I'm not really a fan of spicy foods. Deep-fried, just right to that point where the chicken is melt-in-your-mouth tender but not mushy. The skin is crispy in that magical goldilocks zone where it's not drenched in grease nor too dry - always just right. There's a peppery but fragrant note hidden in the spices that coats the skin which gives it a nice spicy kick. More »
"A smoking plate of CKT..."
Damansara Uptown Hawker Centre has been the go-to place for PJ-ians looking to grab some grub in the middle of the night for years. There's a few famous CKT stalls in the hawker centre so there are plenty of choices if you're hankering for a plate of CKT. One of the more popular CKT stall is tucked behind a well-known Chinese Muslim joint and in front of another well-known ‘power’ fish and rice stall, this discreetly located hawker is Gerai Makanan Swee Foong. Although it is hidden, the stall still manages to garner many fans who frequent it regularly to get their CKT fix.
They have a fish counter in front, and a simple menu of fried stuffs and the usual ikan bakar. But I was here for the char kway teow, so I placed an order for a plate (RM4.50/plate of char kway teow). I noticed the stall wasn’t that crowded, perhaps due to it being relatively ‘hidden’. With the roar of the burner, the cook at Swee Foong started away with the frying. His movements were quick and measured, and you see him deftly chucking in cockles, prawns, chives and taugeh into the smoking hot wok, followed by the flat noodles and seasonings.
Minutes later, I was served a simple looking plate of char kway teow, with a dish of chili potong on the side. But like so many good dishes, simplicity belied all the good things.
It was all about an excellent play of textures in this plate. Yummy. The noodles were perfectly cooked, soft but still firm with a bite to it. It picked up the seasonings well, although I suspect the cook was being cautious with the amounts of soy sauce and salt. But not a deal breaker, as the chili potong and kicap boosted the flavors up. The cockles and prawns used were small, but made their flavours prominent. The chives and taugeh gave the char kway teow a satisfying crispiness. And as befitting a wok and a high-pressure burner, the ‘wok hei’ was great. It was a smoky and satisfying plate, a textbook example of a char kway teow done right. More »
"Gorgeous satay glistening with fat..."
A friend of mine once proudly said that he “ate 70 sticks of satay” in one sitting. Pointless accomplishment? Perhaps, and I didn’t really believe him. But what is serves to illustrate is that we love our satay. It really doesn’t matter where you are in Malaysia, as a stall serving delicious skewers of well marinated meat is probably just around the corner. So it was one dusky Sunday I found myself in the town synonymous with sate. Kajang, of course. The mission was to find out hands on about a rather amusingly named satay stall: Willy Satay.
Located at Ramal Junction Food Court and easily accesible by highway from mostly anywhere in the Klang Valley, Willy Satay has been in business for around five years. The founder, Mr. Farizki bin Rosman, started off Willy Satay as a small stall just a bit down the street where they currently are now. Good food always brings in the crowds, and suffice to say, that was exactly what happened to Willy Satay.
Their stall is located at the corner of the entrance to the food court. You can’t miss it, with their big signs… and the smoke and smells from the rows of charcoal grills behind their service counter. I actually spent a few minutes just taking photos and ended up a ‘smoked’ version of myself. The next thing you notice is the line: on Sunday they open at 6pm, and I had arrived around 730pm thinking it was early. No dice; already there were 10-12 people ahead of me. And the thing is, you have to book a table first before you order at the counter. It was pretty tough on a weekend as the food court was pretty full. 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.
"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.
"Their roti booms are da bomb!"
Many folks are divided on what makes a good roti canai. There’s the flaky-and-crispy camp (which I lean towards) and there are those who like the light-and-fluffy kind. My personal taste? I love the smaller and thicker reincarnations of roti canai and I know exactly where to get it. It's the same reason why a lot of people come to Naan Corner, it's one thing and one thing only: their incredible roti boom.
Most people agree that the best roti booms are crispy, with a bit of heft and layers to catch all the gravy it’s dipped into. They also shouldn’t be too big – so you can proudly say you’ve eaten 5 in a row – or too small that you can eat it in one bite, because you want to break apart that swirly mass of crispy dough. Naan Corner’s roti boom ticks all the right boxes. People have been known to brave the rain and traffic for it, and even some foreigners make beelines for it once they arrive in Malaysia.
Our favourite gravy for roti boom-dipping is their butter chicken. The moment the dish reaches your table, you’re almost assaulted by the scent wafting out of it. Tender pieces of chicken chunks are almost swimming in a sea of lightly spiced, yet almost obscenely buttery gravy. Ignore the surgeon general’s warning and have it anyway. More »
"Dream-worthy paru goreng!"
If we have to choose a national dish, nasi lemak would be a worthy contender. It's the most familiar and widely enjoyed dish in Malaysia. In KL, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to nasi lemak. One of our all-time-favourite NL haunt is R.A Nasi Lemak.
at R.A is what makes me come here over and over again. Theirs is the dry version where cow lungs are deep fried with ginger and shallots until crispy. To tenderize the lung, they boil it whole for a few minutes before cutting it into thin slices and then frying it. The texture of the lungs is like beef jerky, crisp on the outside and a little chewy when you take a bite. If you're a paru fan, be prepared to come early because these dream-worthy lungs would be one of the first things to run out every day.
is also popular here. The squid is covered with thick sambal while the texture is springy with plenty of bite.
Even eaten plain, the nasi lemak here is pretty good. Rice is cooked almost al-dente so it's not clumpy and dense. It falls into individual grains making them the perfect transporter for the chilli sambal. The rice is flavoured with just a hint of coconut milk, which makes it light enough to enjoy on a workday morning. More »