April 27, 2008 By RENITA CHE WAN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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).