A Malaysian Blog about Food, Family and Friends – by Lyrical Lemongrass
Several years ago, I asked my boss, a fastidious Malay man with impeccable english and a discerning palate, if he could recommend a restaurant serving good Malay food. He turned to me and said, “Meena, the only place where you can find good Malay food is at home.”
He was right, of course. I remember having best friends from all races while growing up, and we’d hang out in each other’s homes before and after school. One friend, in particular, a Malay girl who always had the best recess-time food, lived just outside the school, across the road, in the government quarters. It was a tiny house. Sometimes, while waiting for the bas sekolah, we’d sit on the cement floor which was covered in a plastic floor mat which had repetitive garish geometric designs and partake of the delicious tea time kuih freshly made in their little kitchen.
Nowadays, occurrences such as these are infrequent. I am not a saint; I am as guilty as the next person for not having more of the semangat kejiranan. I once lamented this situation to Bald Eagle. He opened my eyes to the fact that our lifestyles had changed from the days of yore, not necessarily for the better, as we seemed to be working longer hours with every passing year and thereby quelling all possibilities of bumping into our neighbours.
When I first learnt of Bijan, I was a little skeptical about dining there. The common misconception is that if the place looks good, something has to give, and it’s usually the food. But after dining there several times (Bijan should give me a loyalty card…hello, somebody out there!), I’ve come to the conclusion that the food’s great, the ambience is warm and romantic, and the prices, although high, are not overly expensive. Unfortunately, not many locals realise that, and more often than not I am surrounded by only Mat Salleh customers.
I’ll let you in on a secret. Bijan’s desserts are fantastic! Every time I do a food crawl at Jalan Alor with its fabulous chicken wings and grilled fish, I cap it off with coffee and desserts in Bijan. The gula melaka (palm sugar) cake is amazing – fluffy but firm-textured cake paired with thick gula melaka syrup, oozing with richness and flavour. The pandan pudding is also very good. And if you’re craving for durians, they have two durian desserts – a durian cheesecake and a chocolate durian cake. (I normally call ahead to book my durian favourites.) Homemade ice-cream is also available in various local flavours like teh tarik and bandung (rose syrup with milk).
When I dine at Bijan, I prefer to enjoy the ambience at my leisure, so dinner has always been my preferred meal there. But when I heard about the Nasi Hidang Selera on Facebook (gotta love Facebook), only available for lunch from Mondays to Fridays, I knew I had to try it. The promotion is apparently inspired by the concept of dim sum and nasi padang and is priced at RM38 nett per person (inclusive of desserts and coffee/tea). Good news for big eaters – it’s an all-you-can-eat deal as well. True enough, half way through our meal, another tray appeared, just like the first tray, for us to pick out additional dishes.
The dishes were typical Malay fare like ayam masak merah, fish head (red snapper) masak lemak, pucuk ubi masak lemak, sotong cili gajus, kerutup daging, tempeh with terung berembang, otak-otak, siakap goreng cili, chicken curry, mixed vegetables and kerabu. Some of these items (like kerutup daging, ayam masak merah and otak-otak) are also available on the ala carte menu, so it’s a great sampler if you’re hesitant to try the main-course sized dishes. I enjoyed most of the items; the otak-otak (made with snapper, if I’m not mistaken) was beautifully steamed in banana leaf, whilst the kerutup daging with its coriander, cumin and coconutty taste was scrumptious. I ordinarily like tempeh, but I found this a little overcooked. The chicken curry was mild, but I suppose a contrast was needed for the other more spicy fare. I loved all the dishes cooked in coconut milk (masak lemak) – they were all so fragrant and flavourful.
I don’t usually enjoy vegetables, but there’s something about ulam that rocks my world. If you haven’t tried it, despite it being raw, it’s not like eating grass. Each leaf has a distinct flavour. My favourite is ulam raja which tastes a little like unripe mango. The ulam has fascinating names like tenggek burung, daun ceylon and pegaga and is eaten with very pedas sambal belacan.
Desserts that day was a choice of fresh fruits or bandung ice-cream. The dishes and desserts change every day, so you won’t get bored easily with the choices available.
Parking used to be horrendous, but now there’s a huge open-air carpark where Bon Ton used to be (customers of Bijan and Nerovivo can rejoice!) directly opposite Bijan where parking’s RM5 flat. Of course, if you’re willing to risk it, you can throw your car a little further down the road along the side roads.
No 3 Jalan Ceylon
50200 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603 2031 3575
Mon-Sat 12 noon – 2:30pm & 6:30pm -10:30pm
Sunday 4:30pm – 10:30pm
Map and website HERE.
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.