I was excited to be in Kuala Lumpur for a business meeting last week -- my stomach and I were ready to makan (Indonesian for "eat") and rich, hot, spicy Malay cuisine is one of my favourites.
Just a good ten minute stroll from my hotel is the Pavilion Mall, Kuala Lumpur's leading upmarket mall. The food court of the Pavilion has a number of stalls and restaurants that come highly recommended for good Malay cooking.
Madam Kwan's beckoned to me with its bright and open interiors. The sign clearly said nasi lemak possibly my favourite nasi dish. There were a lot of full tables inside, an indication that the food is bound to be good.
A smiling likeness of Madam Kwan stood by the entrance, welcoming me to come in and try her cooking.
The fare is typically Malay, most of what you would eat in street hawker centres, brought into a more sanitised restaurant setting. The prices are also two to three times more than what you'd pay for in a hawker stall.
My friend ordered a mixed satay plate -- which came with six sticks of chicken and beef satay, sliced red onions, cucumbers, fresh pineapple chunks, nasi impit and a bowl of peanut sauce.
Impit is compressed rice, steamed and cut into cubes, sort of like a denser version of our local puto. It's typically eaten with satay. I didn't try the satay, which my friend pronounced as tender and well cooked but I did have a bit of nasi impit, liberally coating it with the peanut sauce.
To my mind, an excellent peanut sauce is the key to enjoying satay. Madam Kwan's peanut sauce had just the right amount of hot-salty-sweet flavours from the blend of spices and the fresh roasted peanuts. I could have dunked more impit but I had to stop myself -- after all, this was someone else's plate that I was mooching from!
Of course I ordered nasi lemak. Madam Kwan's nasi lemak is not quite the version that I always get in Singapore. Perhaps this is more typical of nasi lemak in Malaysia.
On my plate, I had a creamy, bright yellow kari ayam (chicken curry) that had tender chicken parts in a smooth sauce that was just the right consistency -- neither too thick nor too thin and watery.
On the side, there was sambal ikan bilis or fried anchovies in a spicy sambal sauce with just a hint of sour tamarind. There was also some finely minced fish floss and a whole boiled egg.
The nasi, cooked in coconut milk, was fluffy, aromatic and perfectly rounded out the flavour medley.
My nasi lemak was delicious and seemed really home made -- I could imagine Madam Kwan toiling over her hot stove ... cooking, tasting and plating it in her kitchen!