Kuala Lumpur - Indian-Muslim "Nasi Kandar" from Kudu bin Abdul
"Nasi kandar" is a popular Indian-Muslim meal, originating from the Malaysian state of Penang, of steamed rice accompanied by a variety of curried and cooked dishes. Essentially, a "nasi kandar" meal is a plate lunch where side-dishes chosen by the diner are piled onto the plate of rice at the serving counter, and the skill of the server is how he then mixes several types of gravy (mostly curries), pouring them onto the rice: rich chicken curry, tamarind-sour fish curry, sweet black sauce from the beef stew, etc.
Some common side-dishes in a "nasi kandar" spread includes piquant curried fish, chicken, beef, goat, fish roe, beef liver and spleen, squid, prawns, crabs, etc. Boiled okra, hard-boiled eggs, spicy fried chicken, salted duck's egg, sweet stewed beef, stewed cabbage are other options.
The best "nasi kandar" spots are to be had in Penang, but KL happens to have one of the best-known "nasi kandar" restaurants in the country - Kudu bin Abdul, which was founded in 1969. One of the restaurant's best-known patrons was P. Ramlee, the Malay world's best-known actor-director, composer and singer, who ruled the Malay entertainment world in the 1950s and 60s with a string of award-winning films which are still regularly televised on local Malaysian TV channels even today.
Kudu bin Abdul is located in Chow Kit, a dodgy part of KL's inner city which is home to a large Indonesian community these days. The crumbling facade of the restaurant seemed to have no effect on local customers who formed long lines in front of the serving counter during peak lunch & dinner hours each day - come early in the evenings, as people here eat early and the restaurant closes at 8.30pm. You order at the counter - your food get piled onto your plate of food, the server will write out the cost of your plate on a little slip of paper and hand it over to you, you carry your own plate and look for a place to sit at the long communal tables. Drink orders are taken by waiters at the table. You pay at the cashier's at the end of the meal.
Old photos of P. Ramlee films fill one of the faded walls. Other customers may chat with you at the communal table - 80% are Malays/Indian-Muslims, but there are Chinese and Indian fans as well.
My dinner plate today consisted of tandoori spiced chicken, soy-stewed beef, curried fish roe, hard-boiled hen's egg and boiled okra. The curry mix was delicious. It was a marvellous, surprisingly good rendition of the Penang "nasi kandar". Although I'd had much better renditions from Penang-based spots like Line Clear Nasi Kandar (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/691849) and Nasi Kandar Beratur (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/883452), there's no doubt Kudu bin Abdul is the one to beat in Kuala Lumpur itself.
Restoran Kudu bin Abdul
335, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman
50100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2697 7082
Opening hours: 7.30am-8.30pm daily
I think KL has branches of Penang-originated nasi kandar chains like Pelita and Kayu. Tastewise, I have been brought to some of these places by well-meaning family friends in KL, but I've never found one which serves mamak curries as good as those in Penang. Next time you're in Penang, call me and I'll bring you to try the one at Jelutong. Every morning, the famous nasi kandar stall's workers will actually carry the big pots of curries using the traditional "kandar" shoulder poles which gave the dish its name. It's a sight to behold, like a scene out of history.