By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
A traditional Malay house, all wood, with an upstairs seating area in addition to the downstairs open area, a warm welcoming staff, including Nan himself with his daughter, his son, and his other family members and you will have all the trappings of being in a typical kampung. Except that this place Tok Nan is in Meru Raya, amidst the shophouses and ‘busyness” of the area. The food is exquisitely, authentically ‘kampung’ Malay, all the sambals, dips, and garnitures fresh made, the spices freshly ground and the fish freshly caught from the river.
This is food that you only get when you have the privilege of dining at a Malay home, and it certainly felt like that when I had a meal there, with Nan’s daughter in the kitchen and his son taking orders.
Because it is all wood, the upstairs sitting area is cool even in the hot afternoon sun. While the roof itself is not attap, the skirting is fully carved and the inside ceiling is woven matting, and fans and many open windows provide for extra cooling. There is ample parking and the whole compound is gravelled, allowing for outdoor seating and extra tents to cater for big occasions like weddings.
And the Food! I had one meal there and am hankering for more. Like the ulam or fresh local herbs like Ulam Rajah or King’s Salad which research has shown to be good for diabetics, Daun Pegaga or Pennywort (good for circulation, respiratory, asthma and anxiety issues). A mixture, often with blanched ladies fingers, depending on availability, is served with three or four separate dips, namely, sambal belacan, air asam (a tangy, tart and fiery dip), tempoyak or fermented durian.
An interesting side dish which is good for dipping into the sauces is their pickled Stinky Bean or petai.
Top of the list for me is their Curry Mee with udang galah, a robust soup/gravy, rich in fragrant coconut, chock full of prawns, fish paste slices, bean sprouts, mint and served with limau kasturi which is totally yummilicious, RM11.90.
Do order the Patin Tempoyak, a fresh caught river patin cooked with tempoyak (fermented durian paste), daun kesum (Laksa leaf) and bunga kantan (torch ginger). Usually I avoid river fish as they are generally muddy in taste but this patin was very fresh, RM4 per portion and RM19.90 for a large plate for 5.
The Udang Galah Masak Lemak, medium-sized river prawns cooked in coconut milk, the sauce thick and redolent with well blended spices is delicious even if you have to physically remove the shells, RM18.
Rendang Daging Hitam was perfect for my palate not being too sweet and having enough of the thick gravy to put on my rice, RM5 for 1 person and RM24 for 5; while the Daging Kawah (or big kwali beef) was tender and robust, RM4.50 for 1 person and RM20 for 5.
There is a choice of sets ranging from RM35 to RM131 including fresh fruit juices which are enough for 3/5/8 people. You can drop in for a fried noodle or fried rice and any of their main dishes and from 4pm onwards, Chicken and Beef Satay at RM1 per stick is available and even Western dishes like Fish and Chips (RM17.90), Chicken chops (RM15.90) or Lamb chops (RM19.90).
The lingering memories of the authentic tastes still linger, long after my first visit there and I have promised to return. And may I wish Tok Nan continuing success in garnering fans of his restaurant.Restoran Tok NanCircle Meru Raya, Bandar Meru Raya, 30020 Ipoh.Tel: 014 948 6872Business hours: 3pm-12amNo day off