Monday, May 09, 2005

My take on nasi kandar

Okay, here's the deal – if you don't know what I'm talking about, go read Jian's blog. I think I just lost my appetite reading it. Ugh, there goes my turkey croissant for lunch.
I for one, however, would like to take a more appetizing jab at nasi kandar in UK. First off, be glad that you're in UK! A lot of people in the US don't even know where the hell Malaysia is, what more about nasi kandar. Our sad idea of Malaysian food is basically pseudo-Chinese hawker food, usually lumped together with Thai and Singaporean cuisine (I know what you're thinking, there's no such thing as Singaporean food, I've been trying to tell them that too) and the restaurant usually has the word "Island" pegged on to it. Strange, don't ask me why, it probably makes it sound more exotic. "Malaysian" restaurants that I know of in San Francisco and the Bay Area – Penang Island, Banana Island, Spice Island and Coconut Grove. So basically what I'm trying to say is that we don't even have nasi kandar, or anything that's close to it. If we get desperate, there's Indian food at Naan n Curry. The worse thing is, we have Malaysian chefs who proudly declare themselves Malaysian but make crappy things like Indonesian Rendang (or as the waiters here like to call it, "ren-dang" like "Dang, I didn't know that…"). We gotta deal, sigh. They give me funny looks when I correct them.
London, on the other hand, has more decent Malaysian restaurants, at least the 2 Malaysian restaurants that I've tried.

Satay House at 13 Sale Place, London
I personally prefer Satay House because I love nasi briyani and it's really good here, fluffy and tasty, nothing yellow and sticky like the ones that I try to make with my Maggi briyani packet, sigh. I tried several things but from what I can remember, the nasi lemak was very yummy, complete with real coconut milk/pandan leaf rice and the lamb curry was decent. The sup kambing smelt original but was tasteless. My favorite part of the experience was being able to order in Malay! Weee…."Bang, ais sirap satu." Sigh…yes, they have ais sirap! It's pricey though, and a little difficult to find, coz it's hidden among some residential houses me thinks. You might wanna take a cab there.

Mawar at 175A Edgeware Road, Marble Arch, London
This is your typical, cheap indoor mamak. A lot of students go there, so expect to be greeted by a group of loud Malaysian accents and every now and then, an obnoxious Singaporean one. They have an ala carte menu for dinner but for lunch, it's nasi campur, or mixed rice for my Bahasa Melayu-challenged friends at $4.99 or $5.99. It's basically white rice with a choice of 2 or 3 side dishes. They have a pretty good range – sotong sambal (calamari with spicy Malaysian prawn paste), curry chicken or fish, fried fish or chicken, telur dadar (omelet), I like my telur mata kerbau (sunny side up) and some other stuff. They even have that funny yellow mix vege side dish. The drinks and the desserts -- sago gula melaka/sago with brown sugar and kuih muih/cakes -- are a little pricey, I think it's $3 each. Ouch, I know. But the nasi campur is definitely worth the price, big portions, and remember, this is coming from someone who's used to American-sized (in other words, enough to feed a baby Asiatic elephant) portions. Stupid brits and their tiny cups of coffee – the audacity of charging $1.50 for a cup of coffee with no refills!



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