No write-up about Malaysian food would be complete without a mention of Madam Kwans - an extremely popular chain (especially among Singaporeans visiting Kuala Lumpur) started by a sprightly 75-year-old lady who used to be the chief cook at Sakura, KL's dining icon in the 1970s.
Madam Kwan's most popular food offerings are its lunch/dinner plates: the Nasi Lemak set (steamed coconut creme-flavored rice, a very rich chicken curry, hard-boiled egg, shredded dried shrimp, cucumber) and Nasi Bojari set (pilaf rice, shredded beef rendang, a divine piece of fried chicken, and a very tasty assam prawns with lots of onions, cucumber). Both are essentially Malay dishes interpreted by ethnic Chinese-Malaysians, and are superb - rich, perfectly-balanced flavors, not too spicy, more pronounced sweet-sour (Chinese) accent compared to genuine Malay renditions. Since Madam Kwan's outlets are all certified 'halal', you do see large numbers of Malay-Muslim customers.
For dinner this evening, we opted for a la carte dishes:
- Shredded beef rendang: unique shredded texture, more like a cross between beef "serondeng" and beef rendang. I felt the spice-level was very much toned down to suit Chinese-Malaysian tastes, and lacked to cumin/coriander scent, nor the fresh turmeric and kaffir lime leaf flavors I normally associate with classic Malay-style rendang. Still, Madam Kwan's version has taken on a life of its own, with a massive following, including ethnic Malay diners.
- Sambal petai with prawns - now *this* rendition was absolutely divine: generous amount of plump stick-beans or petai, crunchy fat prawns, juicy onion rings, and a spicy-sweet-sour chili-tamarind sauce that's to-die for.
- Fish-head curry: very fresh snapper fish-head, cooked in a spicy coconut creme-rich curry sauce, with aubergines, long beans, quartered fresh tomatoes & tofu puffs. But the curry sauce could do with a more astringent pineapple flavor which top Chinese-style fish-head curry spots in Singapore offer.
- Sweet-sour fish: very Chinese-influenced dish - boneless fish fillets coated in batter & deep-fried, then smothered in a tomato-flavored sauce, with onions, green peppers & fresh quartered tomatoes. I won't recommend this dish at all, unless you have someone who cannot take any chilis.
- Stir-fried beansprouts with salted fish: another average-tasting dish, despite the good quality beansprouts used.
Prompt efficient, service. One needs to wait a while for the food as the dishes are usually cooked a la minute. But definitely worth the wait.
Lot 420/421, Level 4
Suria KLCC, KL City Centre
50088 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2026 2297