KUCHING: A stall at Kubah Ria here, has been drawing the crowd in recent months.
Customers are queuing in front of the premises an hour before it opens for business, wanting to place their order as soon as possible to avoid a long wait during dinner time.
“Nasi lemak sotong, tapao (take away), nasi lemak petai, makan sini (having here),” someone is heard placing an order once the shutter of the No.22 stall goes up.
While his wife and staff were serving the customers, Zaini Apen, 42, was cooking in the kitchen.
“I don’t have the time to go in front (of the stall). I need to jaga my santan rice (coconut milk rice)… Every step is important and I must do it myself,” he said.
Zaini has been in the food business for more than 10 years.
He started selling nasi lemak by the roadside in the village before operating a food stall.
“I was trying to be creative and inclusive when I started a food stall. I listed about 20 to 30 dishes in my menu, ranging from fried rice, salad chicken rice, crispy noodle and Cantonese noodle.”
However, business was not good then and the father of five spent more time worrying about not being able to sustain his business.
“My brother suggested I sell nasi lemak again as everyone loves the traditional dish. But with a twist this time,” he said.
The new menu, Nasi Lemak Ganja, introduced in April, has attracted a following after it went viral on social media, as it comes with sambal (shrimp paste) squid, prawn, petai and paru (lung).
“We start serving at 5pm but customers start standing outside the stall as early as 4pm.
“If they come at peak hours, they will have to wait for an hour at least,” he said.
Zaini said he steamed the santan (coconut milk) rice with pandan leaves to make it soft and be rich in flavour.
“I don’t cook the rice in large amounts at one go. I prepare them in batches and cook a few pots each day. The rice will be served on banana leaves to enhance its aroma,” he said.
The sambal is a recipe from his wife, Nurhayati Karim, and includes dried shrimps, onions, shallots, chilies and tamarind.
Priced between RM6 and RM12, the stall opens from 5pm to 10.30pm daily, except on Thursdays. Zaini ensures the ingredients are fresh and prepared daily to maintain the quality.
Since the nasi lemak has become a hit, the stall no longer offers other dishes.
“I wanted to be inclusive when I first set up the stall, but now I have to be exclusive — selling only nasi lemak.”