Friday, April 16, 2010

Nasi Lemak Mak Wanjor

No matter where you go, you’ll always remember the place that had you fed well and enough. Fortunately for most of us, that’s home. Mine’s a city called Kuala Lumpur, approximately 350 km north of Singapore. Or south of Bangkok, as I’d easily tell my foreign friends that are not so familiar with this region. Most, if not all of us KLites grew up eating some of the best food in the world - char kway teow, HOKKIEN MEE, laksa, roti canai and nasi lemak. A trip back home is never complete without at least a taste of the familiar and more importantly, delicious. Over the years, many of my KLite friends had turned international travelers and it’s only natural that they wish for each journey to begin and end with a hearty, local meal. Conveniently for me, that used to be the fantastic nasi lemak with sambal shrimps served onboard the national air carrier. A few economy class flights without the offering of the dish and my last to New Delhi being one of sheer boredom as the personal in-flight entertainment system was not supplied left me really disappointed. Have things improved since two years ago? I’m not sure as I’ve turned to other options.

The night before a friend departed for Cairo, we were at Kampung Baru, a mecca for good Malay-style nasi lemak. In deciding which stall to head for, we were reminded of the untried Mak Wanjor. That’s quite embarrassing on our part, considering its significant rank alongside heavyweights like CT Roses and Antarabangsa, and the fact that we do frequent this side of town. Then again, with an undertone of plain fluorescence and the almost non-existence of a crowd at night, anyone could have mistaken it for a closing nasi campur stall. These, however, have attributed to Mak Wanjor’s distinction against the louder, more chaotic competition.

There’s no point in resisting the temptation to pick EVERYTHING you desire when faced with the mouth-watering spread of sides for the nasi lemak – smoky paru, crispy fried chicken, sotong, stir-fried kangkung etc. For all you know, the accumulated calories of the sides are still lesser than that of the rice cooked in coconut milk. My favourite sides include sambal kerang (cockles) and ayam masak merah (chicken cooked in a sweetish chilli sauce). A sambal, to me, is as important as the rice, if not more. It has to be savoury and thick. A splash of tamarind juice sounds excellent too. But like Antarabangsa, Mak Wanjor leaned towards the sweet side but thankfully, was still adequately dense. I feel that in the case of sambal kerang, the smaller they are, the better they taste. So, I’m loving the cockles here. There were countless occasions when I’d imagine how my ideal piece of ayam masak merah would be like - turmeric marinated skin deep-fried to crisp perfection and simply drizzled with a honeyed chilli sauce. Oh, there should be a handful of raw onion rings too! Okay, that’s technically not ayam masak merah. Oh, well. In general, what I enjoy the most about this dish is the sauce that bursts with flavours from ingredients such as cinnamon, cumin, lemongrass and ginger. Usage of some ketchup and bottled chilli sauce instead of tomato puree is fine. In fact, it does bring out this (though slightly artificial) sweet and sour taste that’s really appetizing. Let’s not forget that seductive redness that comes with it as well. However, too much of it is a bad thing. Sometimes, I get ayam masak merah that’s chicken cooked in a mixture of bottled sauces just, and that really puts me off. Mak Wanjor’s nothing like that but was not incredible either. Anyway, it was a good nasi lemak experience and I like it even more because for the same, if not better quality than its nearby competitor, I don’t have to queue long to get my nasi lemak fix.

Here at Kampung Baru, one stop is never enough. Unless we’re in a hurry, some desserts at the neighboring stalls usually follow suit. The kuihs and bubur manis might not be the best the city has to offer but are still very much satisfying. Choices are endless and comparable to those offered at the annual Pasar Ramadans. That applies to the nasi kerabu, nasi campur, laksam, nasi ayam, grilled fish, lontong, satay and yes, western food as well! Ah...home sweet home, isn't it?

Nasi Lemak Mak Wanjor
8, Jln Raja Muda Musa
Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur


CUMI & CIKI said...

oh, i LOVE nasi lemak posts. makes me wanna slather my loved one in it .. and EAT IT :P mwuahhaha.. happy weekend (i'm just kidding.. losing my brain oredi.. time for sat and sunday to kick in! haha)

baDboyzs said...

Mak Wanjor is quite competent but not terribly outstanding, that superlative is reserved for the backlaners somewhere out there !

We still rank the RA nearby as a notch above this one and Antarabangsa a notch below.

Sean said...

I've walked past this place a few times, but always gave it a miss cos it did look deserted most of the time. Kg baru is actually within strolling distance from my office, but I've only checked out five or six of the outlets there.
Prefer my cockles fat, juicy and slimy!!!

babe_kl said...

eee me like Sean, like my cockles big and fat!!! :p i find this place so so only ler but definitely better than antarabangsa

mimid3vils said...

Haiz...I never been to Kampung Baru for any nasi lemak only been to the Chow Kit pre-pack nasi lemak, that's very nice too...

thenomadGourmand said...

Hardly in the area at night. but u reminded me of my crave for nasi lemak now!
go try the Chan Sow Lin one!

After said...

How can anyone resist the perfect colour palette of nasi lemak - the varying shades of fiery reds, the pale green of the cucumber juxtaposed against the comforting canvas of white? Tis ART!!

Life for Beginners said...

Minus the cockles (not my thing, but Devil loves them), and I love this nasi lemak post... have not had any in ages... I am still a Village Park fan though. :)

ToyGirl said...

that picture of all the sambal on your plate made salivate! if only nasi lemak taste as good without the nasi. LOL. poor me lah. cannot enjoy a good nasi me indigestion. :(

HairyBerry said...

cumi & ciki, hahaha, so morbid liddat one. ;D hope you had a good weekend!!!

badboyzs, agree! but i guess the fact that mak wanjor is less crowded seems to be a crowd puller, eh? ok la, at night, i mean..hehe

sean, i am envious of the location of your office!!!! wow, 5/6 outlets is considered an achievement! i only manage to do that in say, a year? ooohhh, i like my cockles juicy too, but not in my sambal. i'm afraid that i've get confused with the blood. ;D

babe_kl, yeah, agree. it's not really the best but i guess it's still quite good. comfort food that i miss dearly for the past few months. :(

mimi, it's walking distance from chow kit, actually. :D this place is quite packed at night, so really have to come early. if you are bringing little Sam, better bring a fan, cos it's hot! hehe.

thenomadgourmand, at chan sow lin? mana ar? must ask you in detail when we meet next time! ;D eh, pj also got good nasi lemak, right? unka got bring u there or not? hehehe.

After, you've opened up a whole new perspective of nasi lemak for me! i've never really thought of it as a colour palette and you know, it's true! not forgetting the whiff of spices that comes with the curries and santan as well!

kenny, glad you liked the post! and welcome home! ;D oh, talking about village park, yeah, the nasi lemak there is good too. i like that chopping sound on the crispy fried chicken!

toygirl, aiyoh, i didn't know that you can't take nasi lemak! actually, i think sambal with plain rice is ok also. or mix plain rice with a bit of nasi lemak la. at least it's more appetizing that way! ;D