Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gourmet trail: Delicious side of Tin Town - NST

Malaysians are beginning to discover that Ipoh has much to offer gourmands. Just thinking about it is enough to help CASEY NG work up an appetite.

THE road is choked with traffic from dawn to dusk. The clanging of cups and bowls as well as orders for food and drinks hollered from across the street often reach deafening decibles.

Yet, Ipoh folk can’t think of a better place to have a cuppa than at one of the coffeeshops along Jalan Bandar Timah.

Apart from its limestone outcrops and pretty girls, Ipoh is famous for its food novelties like white coffee, ngah choy kai (beansprouts and chicken) and hor fun that give visitors enough reasons to make the city one of their favourite destinations for food in the country.

In a city where food forms its historic core, one can expect the sediments of its past to show in quaint restaurants, street stalls and the multi-racial behind-the-scene cooks.

To tantalise your tastebuds, this is an account of an insider’s experiences along Ipoh’s gourmet trail that will make you postpone your diet.

A Little Bit Of History

Before we start, it’s important to know a little about Ipoh’s history. Tin was the very reason the city began and the Kinta River was a crucial transport artery that linked tin-rich areas like Ulu Kinta, Batu Gajah, Malim Nawar and Papan. Ipoh was the stopover for tin smelting and other commercial dealings.

Although Batu Gajah was the preferred hub during British governance, Ipoh’s popularity among rich landowners, planters and tin miners soared when social clubs, restaurants, cabarets, gambling dens and drinking bars started dotting its environs.

Population growth gained momentum and by 1937, Ipoh had become the capital of Perak.
When tin prices fell after World War II, the riverfront town never regained its former lustre. Today it forms an enclave fondly known as “Ipoh Old Town”.

While the city boundary continued to expand after Merdeka, the Old Town saw very little change owing to the Rent Control Act 1966 that classified shophouses as “pre-war buildings” and made it illegal for landlords to impose high rentals.

In turn, the low rental meant landlords could not do much to change the buildings.
That, in a way, helped the old settlement preserve its character, way of life and, of course, its food businesses.

Dos & Don’ts

Don’t just step out and follow your nose.

Here are some pointers to help you blend into Ipoh’s culinary scene.
1. Some hawkers, especially busy ones, are often impatient when it comes to taking orders. They expect you to know what you want and won’t bother to explain the menu. Don’t worry, just look at what others are eating before you order.
2. From September this year, the coupon system for parking was implemented. So stop feeding the parking meter (many are still around) and buy yourself some coupons.
3. “Can you wait 30 minutes?” That’s the question that will often greet you during peak breakfast and lunch hours. Cooks take their time to do every dish correctly, so be patient. Sit back, relax and wait.
4. It’s best to scour the streets in the day because Old Town starts to wind down after 5pm. However, there are still some outlets colouring the night scene.
5. Besides food, keep a look out for shops that sell antiques, rattan items, traditional kitchenware and other customary knickknacks.

There’s enough to keep you walking to build up a good appetite.

Where To Eat

Now, let’s go eat. Old Town is strung together by countless eateries and making a choice can be hard. So, here we give you only timetested food joints and most importantly, a good mix that best depicts Ipoh’s food scene.

No trail is complete without first mentioning the oldest surviving food joint in Ipoh and possibly the country. Yes, FMS is celebrating its 100 years bash this year. Founded in 1906 by a Hainanese settler, FMS stands for “Federated Malay States” and it was frequented by European miners and planters in the old days.

The first floor restaurant is where lunch and dinner (mainly Chinese food) is served while the ground floor pub is a favourite hangout for lawyers and high society looking for a pint and to unwind.

Centred in Ipoh’s banking hub, Miner’s Arm has been dishing out reasonably priced western food for over 30 years. Its cosy interiors resemble an English pub and its walls are decorated with tin mining mementos. Old-timers also throng the eatery in attempts to relive their youthful days – and first dates.

One of the oldest kopitiams in Ipoh, this is where ex-Ipoh folk come to grab a quick bite whenever they’re back for the holidays. The place still serves food on white marble-topped tables.

The must-eats are popiah, cuttlefish and kangkung, kai see hor fun and lobak.

Although relatively new to the food scene, this is fast making a name for its outstanding dry curry mee. Its buns and coffee are worth ordering too. Service is fast and friendly.
People come here for the best lam mee, kai see hor fun, wat kai (literally meaning “smooth” chicken) and ngah choy. Formerly operating in a small shop in Market Street, it relocated to a new corner shop to accommodate the growing clientele.

If you mentioned “Lorong Panglima” in the mid- 1900s, locals would give you the sly look because back then, this was a red light area with the epithet yee lai hong, meaning “mistress lane”.

Flanked by tattered shophouses, today, the lane’s joie de vivre is long gone and Wong Koh Kee is the only reason why people still come here. Open for lunch only, its Chinese menu includes dishes that grandma used to serve.

As far as Ipoh white coffee is concerned, this kopitiam leads the pack in Jalan Bandar Timah. The operators’ mastery in coffee brewing is attested by the crowd that never ceases from dawn to 6pm.

Must-eats include roti bakar that goes superbly well with the coffee. Ipoh white coffee may look lighter but it is surely not short of oomph.

At the junction of Jalan Sultan Iskandar and Jalan Datuk Jaafar Onn is Ipoh’s most celebrated Malay-run Chinese food stall.
That’s right. For the past 20 years, Mat Jasak’s family has been dishing out char kuay teow, yong tau foo, mee kicap and kari mee from dawn to dusk with a brief rest between 2pm and 5pm.

Here is where locals go for nasi kandar specialities — and of course ayam merah. Located at the quiet end of Jalan Bijeh Timah overlooking Kinta Heights flats, Omar Bahirathan’s family has been keeping customers happy with a distinctive ayam merah for many decades.

The proprietor claims to sell 40 chickens daily and 60 on weekends.
Its location near a pedestrian bridge over the Kinta River makes it easy for Old Town residents to stop by for some home-cooked Indian Muslim food.

You’d need the help of a true blue Ipoh resident to find Nasi Kandar Hussein. Hidden in Sagor Food Court near the State Mosque, this nasi kandar stall has been attracting food aficionados for the past 40 years.

Nowadays, those running the stall are decades older than most of the customers; you may need to edge closer and speak louder to make your orders heard. Definitely the place for some spicy buzz.

Don’t fight over which is the best restaurant in Little India. After all, it’s the fierce competition among the restaurants dotting Jalan Lahat-Jalan Sultan Yusoff that helps keep standards high. Most are equally good in dishing out Indian staples like thosai, appalam, idlli, puri, and of course, banana-leaf rice.

Of late, restaurants specialising in Chettinad food have mushroomed. Apart from food, keep your eyes peeled for colourful flower garland peddlers and striking saree shops.
Getting There

Ipoh is located midway between Penang and Kuala Lumpur. It takes two hours to reach Ipoh from KL via the PLUS highway. Once you exit the highway, make your way to the Old Town with the lofty Kinta Heights flats as your landmark.

The flats are visible from miles away. You’d know you have arrived when the roads start to narrow and whitewashed shophouses dot the townscape.

Nasi Kunyit Recipe

Ingredients :

1 kg Basmati rice, wash and drain
3 Pandanus leaves
2 cm Turmeric, pressed for juice
2 tablespoons Margarine
1 Big garlic
1 teaspoon Chopped ginger
6 Cloves
4 cm Cinnamon stick
10 pieces Cardamoms
2 tablespoons Chicken powder
1 liter Hot water
Deep fried cashew nut
Deep fried shallots slices

Method :

Stir fry margarine, garlic, chopped ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamoms until fragrant.
Add rice, turmeric juice and pandanus leaves.
Stir fry until oil is absorbed into rice.
Pour half pot of water in 3 liter pot.
Put steamer on top.
Put the rice in the steamer.
Sprinkle chicken powder and hot water into the rice evenly.
Cover the lid and steam until strong steam appears.
Repeat sprinkling until rice is cooked.
Sprinkle cashew nut and deep fried shallot slices on top when serve.

Nasi Kunyit Recipe

Ingredients :

1 kg Basmati rice, wash and drain
3 Pandanus leaves
2 cm Turmeric, pressed for juice
2 tablespoons Margarine
1 Big garlic
1 teaspoon Chopped ginger
6 Cloves
4 cm Cinnamon stick
10 pieces Cardamoms
2 tablespoons Chicken powder
1 liter Hot water
Deep fried cashew nut
Deep fried shallots slices

Method :

Stir fry margarine, garlic, chopped ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick and cardamoms until fragrant.
Add rice, turmeric juice and pandanus leaves.
Stir fry until oil is absorbed into rice.
Pour half pot of water in 3 liter pot.
Put steamer on top.
Put the rice in the steamer.
Sprinkle chicken powder and hot water into the rice evenly.
Cover the lid and steam until strong steam appears.
Repeat sprinkling until rice is cooked.
Sprinkle cashew nut and deep fried shallot slices on top when serve.

Nyonya Chicken Curry Recipe

Ingredients :
1.5 kg Chicken, cut into bite size
4 Potatoes, quartered
2 Big onions, quartered
2 Red chilies
200 g Cabbage
1/2 cup Deep fried shallots slices
200 g Dried chilies, soak until soft
100 g Shallots
50 g Garlic
3 Candlenuts
2 slices Galangal
3 stalks Lemon grass
1 tablespoon Dried shrimp paste (belacan)
1/2 tablespoon Mustard powder
1 tablespoon Hot water
1 tablespoon Sugar
2 teaspoons Salt
2 tablespoons Soy sauce

Method :

Heat 1 cup oil. Add dried chilies, shallots, garlic, candlenuts, galangal, lemon grass and dried shrimp paste. Stir fry till fragrant.
Add mustard powder, hot water, sugar, salt and soy sauce and stir well.
Add 1 liter water and bring to a boil.
Put in the potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add chicken. Cover the lid and cook until tender.
Add onion, chilies and cabbage and cook until it boils.
Sprinkle deep fried shallot slices on top when serving.
Serve hot.


Nyonya Food

Nyonya food, also referred to as Straits Chinese food or Lauk Embok Embok, is an interesting amalgamation of Chinese and Malay dishes thought to have originated from the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) of Malacca over 400 years ago. This was the result of inter-marriages between Chinese immigrants and local Malays, which produced a unique culture. Here, the ladies are called nyonyas and the men babas.

Nyonya food is also native to Penang and Singapore. However, over the years, distinct differences have evolved in nyonya cooking found in Penang and Singapore than that in Malacca. The proximity of Malacca and Singapore to Indonesia resulted in an Indonesian influence on nyonya food. Malacca Nyonyas prepare food that is generally sweeter, richer in coconut milk, and with the addition of more Malay spices like coriander and cumin. Meanwhile, the Penang Nyonyas drew inspiration from Thai cooking styles, including a preference for sour food, hot chilies, fragrant herbs, and pungent black prawn paste (belacan).

Influences aside, nyonya recipes are complicated affairs, often requiring hours upon hours of preparation. Nyonya housewives of the past would spend the better part of their lives in the kitchen, but they were fiercely proud of their unique cuisine, preferring nyonya food to any other type of food.

It has been said that in the old days, a Nyonya lady seeking a prospective bride for her son would listen to the pounding of spices by the maiden concerned as it denoted the amount of attention she would give to her cooking!

Nyonya cooking is also about the blending of spices, employing pungent roots like galangal, turmeric and ginger; aromatic leaves like pandan leaf, fragrant lime leaf and laksa leaf, together with other ingredients like candlenuts, shallots, shrimp paste and chilies. Lemon, tamarind, belimbing (carambola) or green mangoes are used to add a tangy taste to many dishes.

For dessert, fruits are seldom served and are instead replaced by cakes. Nyonya cakes are rich and varied, made from ingredients like sweet potato, glutinous rice, palm sugar, and coconut milk.

• Nyonya Assam Curry FishThe nyonya assam curry fish is cooked with assam jawa juice, shallots, garlic, lengkuas, buah keras, serai (lemon grass), buah kantan, daun kesom, chili boh, tumeric powder, belacan powder, chicken stock, and sugar. It is best served with steaming hot rice.

• Brinjal curryBrinjal is sliced and seasoned with tumeric powder (serbuk kunyit), dried prawns, roasted belacan (shrimp paste), and other spices. Served with hot rice and garnished with fried onions.

• PopiahThe basic ingredients are the same - shredded turnip, carrots, bean sprouts, cucumber, prawns, Chinese Taro, dried onion flakes, and garlic. However, the Nyonya popiah has the addition of a chili and sweet sauce made from palm sugar, wet spices, and a rice flour mixture that gives it a distinct taste. Egg is also added to the batter to give the popiah skin a moist texture.

• Nyonya Fried RiceUnlike other fried rice, the Nyonya Fried Rice is cooked with chopped dried shrimp, sliced mushrooms, hot pepper-soy sauce, chili powder, and shredded lettuce.

• Bubur cha-chaOne of the most popular Malaysian desserts is the bubur cha cha. It is cooked with yam, sweet potato, sago, pandan leaves, coconut milk, and block sugar.

• Ketam Lemak (Crabmeat)This dish is cooked in coconut milk, which makes the gravy mixture thick and sumptuous, and not forgetting the must-have spices.

• Udang Lemak NenasA popular dish, Udang Lemak Nenas is a mild prawn curry cooked with fresh pineapple cubes, coconut milk, and spices that includes coriander, star anise, and tumeric.

• Onde-ondeBasically glutinous rice balls rolled in freshly grated coconut, this is a dessert that is delicious yet fun to eat. At bite size, these balls are made by sealing a lump of chopped palm sugar (gula melaka) into a dessert spoonful of glutinous rice dough and then rolled into a ball. The fun comes when one savors the delicious feeling of oozing gula melaka syrup as you bite through the dough.


Laksa Lemak Recipe

2 lb fresh yellow egg [chow mein noodles]
2 lb fresh shrimps, save shells to make 2 cups shrimp stock
1 onion, quartered
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed
3-4 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
10 sprigs laksa leaves [Vietnamese mint, Holy mint or Polygonum odoratum] [Substitute: fresh mint sprigs]
4 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and bashed
4 sprigs curry leaves [optional]
Salt and pepper
1-1½ tbsp sugar
2 cans coconut milk
8 cups water
4 pieces dried tamarind skins [asam gelugor] [Substitute: ½ cup key lime juice]
4 tbsp or to taste, chili paste
20 shallots
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 inch fresh turmeric root [lengkuas], sliced
2 inch fresh galangal [lengkuas in Malay], sliced
1 tbsp belacan, also spelt belachan or blacan [dried shrimp paste]

Ingredients for Garnishing :
cooked shrimp [from making the stock]
4 cups fresh bean sprouts
4 tbsp shallots, sliced thinly, fried golden brown
2 cups seedless cucumber, finely shredded
1 fresh pineapple, cut into thin strips [Substitute: 4 to 6 oz canned pineapple]
2 red onions, very thinly sliced
3 torch ginger [bunga kantan], finely chopped [optional]
4 red Serrano chilies, seeded, finely sliced [optional]
10 sprigs fresh mint leaves, stems discarded
12 kaffir limes, cut into halves

To Prepare :

-Using a mortar & pestle or blender, grind chili paste, belacan, galangal, turmeric root, shallots and coriander seeds into a paste
-Peel shrimp, save shells, roughly pound shrimp shells [if preferred, set aside a few shrimps in the shell, for presentation]
-In a stockpot add onion, garlic, 2 cups water, simmer 15-20 mins to extract maximum flavor, strain, discard shells
-Add shrimp to stock, cook until just opaque, remove shrimp with a slotted spoon, set aside for garnish [if preferred, cook a few shrimps in the shell, for presentation]
-Heat wok, add peanut or vegetable oil, add ground paste, stir-fry until quite toasted and oil starts to ooze from paste - do not burn!
-Add shrimp stock, bring to a boil, simmer rapidly 3 mins, then transfer into a stockpot
-In the stockpot, coconut milk , the rest of the water, lemongrass stalks, sugar, dried tamarind skins [asam gelugur ], curry leaves [optional], and season with salt and pepper
-Simmer on med heat for 20-30 mins
-Do a taste for salt and sugar, add accordingly and keep soup hot on low heat, for serving
-Using a sieve, blanch noodles in hot water to warm up noodles
-Assemble individual serving bowls - put some bean sprouts into a bowl, followed by a handful of noodles, ladle piping hot soup over noodles and garnish with a little of each - fried shallots, cucumber, pineapple, onions, mint leaves, torch ginger [optional], red Serrano chilies [optional] and a lime half


Cleansing meal - The Star


A totally vegetarian meal sometimes works wonders for the system.

WE HAVE always been threatening our children that we would not give them even a morsel of meat one day and see how they’d survive.

Despite the constant threats, we have not carried out any of them only because we know the conclusion.

Most times, because they have friends with wheels, they would just nonchalantly tell us they are going out with friends, so “don’t wait up for us” or “go ahead and have your meals; don’t keep any for us”.

It is rather unfortunate that they don’t understand how good at least one vegetarian meal a month is good for the system.

In recent months, vegetarian meals have actually become more expensive rather than a cost saver for most as the cost of vegetables have skyrocketed, only because not much land is currently available for the planting of vegetables but also because of the use of many fruit vegetables for biofuel.

It became a cause for concern personally when the Malaysian Government had had to put RM4bil for food stockpile, especially for rice, in fear of citizens not being able to enjoy their staple.

I have, for a long time, educated my family on the need to reduce dependence on rice simply because it is carbohydrates that we don’t really need much of and that there are more nutritious food available to be put on the table.

In fact, I am currently making it a habit to put rice only once on the table daily and for the other meals, I tend to make other food that can satisfy hunger just as well if not better.

Especially for dinner, I tend to favour bread with a stew or a chicken roasted with vegetables, meatloaf, noodles and even roast beef on weekends.

It may be a lot of work for the cook of the house, having to plan different dishes for every meal, but if health is at stake and with the high cost of food, one cannot but be a little more conscientious in tightening the belt.

Of course, the other good investment that most of us can make is getting a bread machine to make our own bread.

I got mine through the credit card redemption and it has served me well, with great smells of baking bread in the morning and being able to tweak recipes to suit my personal taste and that of the family.

It is also healthier and additive-free as you bake bread for how much you and your family can consume and not waste.

I will in the coming months include a few bread recipes for you to try out and see the results for yourself.

For this week, at the request of friends and readers, I am giving recipes for a totally vegetarian meal, which you can actually enjoy and appreciate going meatless. Of course, for those who are really into proteins, the bean curd serves that area while the vegetables are calming and packing loads of minerals and vitamins.

Enjoy the meal for a total cleansing experience and work it into your diet for as often as possible.
Faridah Begum is passionate about cooking and stuffing family and friends with food, whether tasty or not.

Vegetable SoupIngredients

3 leaves cabbage, cut into 3cm squares
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1 carrot, sliced round
1 onion, sliced
1 potato, cut into 8
3 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
A little light soy sauce

Boil the water and when it is rolling, add all the vegetables together, simmer on a small fire for about half an hour and when the vegetables are soft, add your seasoning and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.

Bean Curd on the DoubleIngredients

I piece of soft bean curd, either steamed for about 3 minutes or just immerse it in hot water for about 5 minutes
5 shallots, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2cm ginger, minced
1 stalk spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil

Pat-dry the bean curd and cut to desired pieces and arrange on a platter. If you are serving for a dinner, then leave the bean curd whole. In a wok, heat up the sesame oil and sauté the minced ingredients for about 2 minutes over high heat. When slightly soft, add the sauce, fry for another minute and pour over the bean curd. Add a dash of pepper, if desired, and sprinkle with the spring onions. Serve hot.

Stir-Fried Red SpinachIngredients

500g red spinach, take the leaves and young stalks
3 shallots, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce

Heat the oil in the wok and sauté the minced ingredients until they are aromatic. Add the spinach and stir-fry until the vegetable sweats. (If you wish, cover the wok with a wok cover that has ventilation holes for the steam to escape). Add the sauces and pepper and serve.

Precious pursuit - The Star

April 27l, 2008 - SUNDAY WITH T.SELVA

There is a certain joy to becoming a vegetarian that can only be experienced and cannot be described.

EX-BEATLE Paul McCartney’s quote, “The biggest change anyone could make in their own lifestyle would be to become vegetarian”, inspired me to write this week’s column.

On Wednesday, the singer and guitarist urged the world to go vegetarian in a bid to fight global warming.

It has been two years since I started following a strict vegetarian diet and I must say I’m glad to have made the switch because I feel so liberated.

Weeks after I declared to be green conscious, a friend sent me an SMS which read: “Our body is meant to be a sacred space and not a graveyard”.

People go meatless for various reasons, the most common being for spiritual practice or health.
Timely: The awareness of the benefits of a vegetarian diet is increasing.

Researching, reading about, writing on, and visiting places of worship of different faiths made me go vegetarian out of respect for these powerful sites.

Vedic scriptures stress that for our body to enjoy the desired harmony with the five elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth, one should be meat-free.

Also, when one stop eating meat one’s sense organs – the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose – can connect completely with the five elements easily.

This has also been found to be one of profound ways to tune an individual’s body so that the person can joy the full benefits of the positive energies available in any peaceful space.
Giving up meat is viewed as a big sacrifice by many but when a person makes such a decision, he or she is also testing the individual’s will power, ego and discipline.

It short, it means total surrender and it requires mental orientation and wisdom to conform to such virtues.

I don’t deny that it can be challenging sometimes when you attend functions or eat out because you are bound to be exposed to more meat dishes than vegetables and also sometimes peer pressure tempting you to break your restricted diet.

There have been several instances where family and friends try and sabotage my decision because they don’t understand the values of becoming vegetarian.

A frequently asked question is what is it like to be a vegetarian?

I feel lighter, my aura has improved, I no longer crave any particular food, I do not feel hungry between lunch and dinner, I enjoy improved meditation powers and inner bliss, and generally feel a lot fitter.

Some people think that once you give up meat, you will tire easily and become weak and less energetic.

This is definitely not true in my case. A vegetarian diet can be a very healthy option but it is important to ensure it is well balanced.

What is a vegetarian diet?

A vegetarian diet is distinguished from an omnivorous diet by its content of dry beans and lentils. These take the place of meat and fish as the major source of protein.
And there are many different kinds of beans you can choose from – kidney, cranberry, navy, garbanzo, soy beans and black-eyed peas.

These can be served with rice, added to soups, stews, and salads or a variety of casseroles, and made into different dishes.

Tofu, or soy bean curd, can be used in dips and spreads, or served with pasta or stir-fried vegetables.

Now some of these flavoured proteins taste just like the real meat dishes.
For me, my meals include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and dairy products.

I find my diet is much lower in total fat, and I tend to eat proportionally more polyunsaturated fat than saturated fat compared with non-vegetarians.

The awareness of the benefits of a green diet is increasing and also how it can help to improve health and balance the body, mind and soul.

In the past, I used to have my meals at home before attending functions but now more and more people are aware of the need to prepare separate vegetable cuisine to cater for this special group.

Studies of human evolution have shown that our ancestors were vegetarian by nature and that the structure of the human body is not suited to eating meat all the time.

From the beginning of recorded history, vegetables have been the natural food of human beings; meat was a rare addition.

I strongly believe that no one should be forced to become a vegetarian because you have to make such a decision on your own.

When the time comes in each person’s life, he or she will realise the benefits and goodness of a vegetarian diet whether for spiritual or health reasons or simply to stop exploiting animals.
As for me, the unique joy of becoming a vegetarian can only be experienced and cannot be described.

T. Selva, The Star’s Sunday Metro Editor, feels that for all health reasons we should become a vegetarian.

At home at Khadijah’s - The Star

April 27, 2008 By RENITA CHE WAN (

WITH all of her close friends calling her Ibu, singer Khadijah Ibrahim certainly embodies the traits of a doting mother.

Even her staff members at her new restaurant, Khadijah’s Kitchen, call her Ibu and not because they were told to, but because that’s exactly how they perceive her – a kind, attentive and loving person.

Some might argue that her nickname Khaty is what she’s best known as, but once you step into her restaurant, you'll find that she’s immediately in her element, treating everyone as if they’re part of a close-knit family.

“I’ve had friends who called me Khaty all these years but I don’t remember when it transitioned to Ibu (mother). I’m definitely not complaining,” says Khadijah with a hearty laugh.
Warm tenderness: Khadijah Ibrahim adds her motherly touch to the food she serves up at Khadijah’s Kitchen.

Yes, you heard right, Khadijah has opened a new restaurant with her business partner, Norli Anna, specialising in Malaysian cuisines in Section 11, Petaling Jaya.

In case you don’t already know, this is her second restaurant; she opened a similar eating outlet in New Zealand a few years ago and it did quite well until she moved back to Malaysia.
“I lived there for a few years, mainly because I was pursuing my diploma in interior design at a college in Christchurch.

“After a while I came to fall in love with the country and the next thing I know, I ended up opening a restaurant which took me only three days to get everything done,” exclaims the 48-year-old songbird cum restaurateur, admitting that she even forgot about her next album.
“I’m not really a perfectionist but I like to get things done fast, and once I set my mind on a certain challenge, things will be done effectively and quickly.”

However, it took her almost a year to set up this new restaurant as the rules and regulations in this country are much tighter than in New Zealand.

“We were ready to launch the restaurant but were told to wait quite a long while for certain parties to give us the green-light.

“Alhamdulillah, things worked out well in the end and now we’re just gearing to start our little business,” she says excitedly.

The whole concept of the restaurant is akin to that of the typical stalls you would see when you go to the kampung area – most of the furniture is made of wood and it has that homey ambience to it.

The only difference is the floors are made of tiles instead of the usual parquet flooring and the most important factor is that it’s air- conditioned. It is able to cater to only about 30 people. Khatijah says that this is not an oversight and it was planned that way.

“The whole purpose of this restaurant is to make people feel comfortable, just like how they would feel in their own homes, but with someone else’s cooking of course.

“I want my customers to be able to see everyone in the entire room and recognise each other.
“You never know, they might even be friends the next time they dine at my restaurant,” she laughs.

Switching to her menu, she has an interesting tale to tell.

“Most of the dishes you see on the menu are mine, but sometimes I ‘nick’ my friends’ or relatives’ recipes and add them to the menu.

“Not to offend anyone, I credit the dishes with their names. For example, the Kari Ikan Jenahak is a recipe of Norli’s husband so it’s now called Kari Ikan Jenahak Azizi (Azizi is Norli’s husband).
“Be warned that you would see a lot of strangers’ names in the menu,” she laughs.

The menu has a colourful array of Malaysian cooking like Masak Lemak Ikan Parang, Masak Lemak Ikan Talang Dengan Nenas, Sotong Masak Hitam, Sambal Udang Tempoyak Dengan Daun Kunyit, Bayam Goreng Dengan Tauhu Kering and several others.

Clockwise from above: Achar Daging, Sotong Masak Hitam Masria, Norli’s Begedil, Tauhu Telur and Kari Ikan Jenahak Azizi

Every day, the same dishes are served, with one or two different dishes of the day introduced, buffet-style.

Interestingly, you don’t need to queue for your food but just order what you want from the waiters and they would do all the work for you.

“Come to think of it, the concept is similar to that of a cafeteria. You pick and point to the dishes you want and the waiter will scoop up the food for you. It’s fast, effective and fun,” says Norli.
The restaurant is open every day, from 11am to 11pm.

“From 2.30pm to 6pm, we serve tea and light refreshments like Cucur Udang and Pisang Goreng, and from 7pm to 11pm, it’s a la carte.

“If you’re lucky, Ibu might even sing one of her famous tunes at the restaurant so make sure you make your way here!” says the animated Norli.

Khadijah’s Kitchen is at No.21, Jalan 11/2, Jalan Bukit, Petaling Jaya (Tel: 03-7960 1079).