Penang - Ali Nasi Lemak at Beach Street
"Nasi lemak" is purportedly Malaysia's most popular breakfast dish - something which transcends the often-tenuous ethnic boundaries in this multi-racial country, as Malays, Indians and Chinese all *love* their "nasi lemak".
One of the most interesting discoveries for me this week is this little but astoundingly popular Ali Nasi Lemak stall located in an unlikely setting - along Beach Street, Penang's banking district lined with historic, Art-Deco British-colonial buildings, most of which date back to the 1920s. I actually stumbled onto this stall by accident - I was photographing a Victorian era postal box (astouundingly still in use) when I couldn't help noticing this flurry of activity right behind it - as customers streamed past the "nasi lemak" stall buying little conical packs of banana-leaf-wrapped coconut-scented rice, slathered with spicy chilli-spiked gravy and containing a choice of meat: either chicken, fish, or shrimps. The "nasi lemak" was prepared right there - steaming freshly-cooked coconut-milk enriched rice was scooped onto banana leaves, topped with meat and then the red-hued gravy poured liberally over the whole concoction, before they're expertly folded tamale-like into neat conical packets.
I went up and bought one packet each of chicken and shrimps. Unwrapped, the rice was moist - wetter than versions of "nasi lemak" I'd tried in Kuala Lumpur. The fried chicken was fresh, turmeric-flavoured and deep-fried. The shell-on shrimps were tiny, slightly salty and got much of their flavours from being cooked in a chilli paste. What I liked overall about Ali's rendition of the "nasi lemak" was the moistness of his rice - I preferred this version to the drier, grainy version liked by a different school of "nasi lemak" enthusiasts here in Malaysia. It's the same in Singapore - moist vs dry, with the dry version predominating (e.g. Changi Village Nasi Lemak, Adam Road Nasi Lemak).
Very simple meal-in-one-pack and, at RM1.50 or hardly 50 US cents, a true bargain!
Ali Nasi Lemak
Sri Weld Food Courts