Minang Saiyo restaurant in Taman Melawati is somewhat a hidden treasure, as not many people seem to know of it discounting nearby residents, and it's easy to see why. Make no mistake: this place is old. It's been around for about thirty years. So I was surprised when I dropped in recently to see that they've refurbished it. Before, the place was dark, with linoleum floors and yellowed paint on the walls. But now the floor tiles are new, the interior has been repainted, and they have new tables and chairs. it looks birhgter and more welcoming. It has always bee clean, and it still is.
At first glance, it just looks like any other nasi campur restaurant. But do yourself a favour and step inside; order a plate of rice and take your pick from the various dishes available.
I arrived early for lunch, and the place was still relatively empty. The array of dishes were mouth-watering: creamy, spicy Minang curries, deep fried catfish in sambal, bergedil, grilled fish, deep fried tempe, stir-fried greems and vegetables, and what I think is some of the best beef rendang around. Some of the recommended dishes to go for here are the gulai lemak perut with nangka, the sambal terung and of course, the beef rendang. But I decided to be simple this time: rice, beef rendang (RM3/ piece), ikan gelama masin, chicken (RM2/ piece), and a generous dollop of their unique sambal belachan hijau.
I mixed the fragrant kuah from the rendang and the sambal belachan with my rice, pinch some of the beef and chicken and took a bite (or a 'suap'). Scrumptious. The rendang gave an intense savoury flavour, and then the sambal hit: fiery and powerful. The combination of the rendang kuah and the sambal was, to me, fantastic. It was deliciously greasy, spicy, creamy and hot. Each mouthful of rice I had was packed with flavours that I think are uniquely Asean. There were hints of galangal, lemongrass, pepper and coconut. The chunky beef rendang was tender and could be pulled apart with just a fork; it wasn’t chewy or tough at all. The sambal belachan is one of my all-time favorites. It uses ONLY chili padi, and the result is a sambal that tastes ‘green’: very hot, with a slight, pleasant and bitter aftertaste and the umami of the belachan.
At half past noon the lauk counter was getting crowded with people bustling to get their share. By quarter past one, most dishes were emptying and the sambal belachan I love so much was all but finished by this time. Take that as a reminder to come here early.
Finished, I went to the counter to pay my bill, and it came out to RM7.80 including a glass of sirap bandung. I also decided to bring home some rendang, and that was another RM6/- As I walked out, it struck me on how I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember, and it occurred to me that the proprietors have been the same people ever since it opened. I wonder if it will still be around in five or ten-years time?
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