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Penang - Ali Nasi Lemak at Beach Street

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"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!

Address details
Ali Nasi Lemak
Sri Weld Food Courts
Beach street
10300 Penang
Tel: +6016-4070717

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  1. Some pics of Beach Street, and that Victorian postal box right in front of Ali Nasi Lemak stall. Considering that Queen Victoria reigned till 1901, this postal box which still bore her insignia VR is more than 120 years old!