Sunday, March 09, 2008

In praise of the Nasi Kandar, Malaysia

There was no menu, no prices, the viands had no labels, no one could speak English and all the servers could ask me was: "Makan? Makan?"

This ain't no twilight zone-- this was Lotus nasi kandar on Jalan Binjai, Kuala Lumpur.
My first thought was that this was a buffet with the rows and rows of steel pans containing a very wide assortment of food. How assorted? Well let's see...

- first you've got the standards-- grilled satay (my fave!), chicken rice, roti, noodles, western food
- the fried fare (chicken, pigeon, catfish)
- curried lamb, chicken, fish, shrimp and squid
- tofu in different kinds of sauce
- veggies (bitter gourd with egg, green beans, broccoli, assorted stir fried veggies, etc...)
- drinks (fresh soy milk, lime, tea, coffee, milo, fresh coconut, softdrinks)
- sup ayam which is basically chicken soup chock-full of chili and spice and everything nice. (I had a star anise in my soup!) This stuff will leave your nose runny.

! I will run out of space if I list everything here! You can't beat the nasi kandar for sheer variety. Period.

I understand that nasi kandar is a generic term for a "mixed rice" place and it's usually ran by Malaysian-Indians. It's sort of in between a kopitiam (food court) and a hawker center. This particular one i'm reviewing is Lotus which according to the taxi drivers, is so-so. (They recommend Pelita nasi kandar which I have yet to visit...)

Here's how it's done
You basically get a plate and heap food on it buffet style. Once you sit down to eat, one of the servers will magically appear beside you, look at the food and divine how much each item costs and write it on a piece of paper. After your meal, you bring this paper to the cashier to pay.

I can't quite figure out the pricing strategy but I am sure it is a combination of the type of viand and its quantity. Shrimps and squid cost more than meats, vegetables cost the least. It seems that eating a little of everything costs a lot of one thing than a lot of one thing. The more variety, the more you pay.

I've eaten here on more than one occasion and the cost of my food is never the same. One thing is constant though-- it's consistently below MYR12 (this includes 2 viands, rice, veggies and a drink) which I must say is very reasonable.

Rating: 0
Four pawikan points. Bonus points because everyone eats here! I've seen fashionistas dressed in their clubbing outfits, construction workers, office workers, foreigners, tourists and locals.

The place reminds me of a school canteen but what I like about it is the consistency--It's open 24 hours, the food is usually hot and there's no waiting for tables. The Lotus Family has operations all over Malaysia. Try it and let me know what you think.

1 comment:

B said...

there's a similar place at shenton way across sgx :)