Eat Drink KL: Hameediyah Bistro Ampang: Unleashing the full flavours of Malaysia's most enduring nasi kandar, from Penang to KL

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Hameediyah Bistro Ampang: Unleashing the full flavours of Malaysia's most enduring nasi kandar, from Penang to KL

Malaysia's oldest name for nasi kandar now boasts a legacy of nearly 115 years, stretching back to 1907, when the Rawther family of migrant spice traders from Tamil Nadu started selling meals of rice with curries, meat and vegetables in Penang. 

Balancing basketfuls of soulful food on a pole slung on their shoulders, they walked tirelessly from George Town's ports through its streets and past riversides, offering fast, hearty meals to other traders and workers.

Generations later, Hameediyah is entrenched as Penang's most recognised restaurant for nasi kandar, with lines of customers flocking to its main Lebuh Campbell outlet.

The Rawther family's Hameediyah Bistro in Ampang, launched in 2018, has also become a success, promising the full original flavours of Hameediyah without compromise.

Spice mixes are ground in George Town, sent straight to Ampang to recreate the recipes beloved by locals and visitors alike in Penang - there's no need to drive four hours north, since a complete Hameediyah feast can be savoured right here in KL.

Here are Hameediyah's recommendations for what to try - crowd-pleasing favourites that have stood the test of time, prepared with passion and skill, perfect to order whether you're a first-timer to Hameediyah or a loyal patron who has relished these recipes for decades.

For an introduction to Hameediyah, the Nasi Kandar Ayam Bawang is ideal.

This is no ordinary ayam bawang; Hameediyah harnesses Indian-imported onions for a juicier, sweeter tenderness. Everyday, Hameediyah Ampang uses 70 kilograms of onions purely for its Ayam Bawang.

The chicken is deep-fried and immersed in the gravy of caramelised onions for at least 90 minutes, making it more aromatic because the meat has absorbed the richness of the onions. It's then topped with more onions and served with sauce-soaked rice, egg and vegetables for an irresistible-looking plate.

Another signature dish for rice enthusiasts is Biryani with Kambing Kurmah - many Penangites prefer biryani to white rice for their nasi kandar, so order this to eat like a local! It looks appetising as soon as it appears on the table; the grains are gorgeously coloured, while the meat is made extra-fragrant with herbs.

Come here hungry and bring a few friends or family members to share the Kari Kepala Ikan, served steaming-hot in a claypot. Customers can choose the whole head of their preferred fish, such as jenahak (golden snapper, pictured above), siakap (sea bass) or grouper.

This is a recipe first created in World War II by the then-patriarch of the Rawther family, painstakingly grinding his spices with pestles and mortar, cooking over charcoal. 

It's loaded with a bounty of ingredients, including fennel, fenugreek, cumin, turmeric, tamarind juice, ginger, garlic, raw mangoes, okra, brinjal, tomatoes, green chillies and red chillies.

If you're a seafood fan, Hameediyah's Sotong Goreng is also a should-order. 

The restaurant relies on sotong harimau from Kuala Selangor, sizeable enough to feed five to six people. It's freshly prepared so that it won't be dry or rubbery - this is one of Hameediyah's most popular orders, especially on weekends and public holidays when many customers head here for top specialities.

Meat-craving carnivores have choices galore too, from Lamb Shank to Curry Itik, brimming with chunks of flesh, bursting with the vibrance of Hameediyah's own masala mix.

Beyond rice, noodles are also worthwhile here. The Mee Goreng Rawther is a family recipe that has survived since the late 1950s - it's packed with prawns, cucur, tauhu and taugeh, but its secret weapon is its unique sambal, with hand-pounded spices enhanced with dried squid - it's meant to be both spicy and tangy, not too sweet or salty, so that its flavours prove more uplifting than most Mee Goreng.

Fun fact: Hameediyah is also a favourite of Malaysian royalty, with several state sultans being longtime fans of the Murtabak Hameediyah.

This is murtabak at its most remarkable - we managed to taste it and can confirm that it's beautifully lined with multiple layers of roti and meaty fillings like chicken and mutton, mixed with onions and no fewer than 45 spices, plus pure Indian ghee. The result: Superbly satisfying murtabak, with the perfect thickness, the perfect tenderness and the perfect tastiness.

Since 2011, Hameediyah has also tackled tandoor temptations, flying in an oven-dedicated chef from Calcutta to fine-tune its tandoori chicken. This is a secret recipe with 18 spices and special garam masala, precisely proportioned with yogurt to ensure a memorable tandoor experience. We sampled the chicken tikka masala and would absolutely order it again - it's not tough or stringy at all, with a mellow smokiness that makes each bite addictively enjoyable.

Hameediyah also features a variety of naan, such as Garlic Naan, Butter Naan, Mozzarella Cheese Naan and the fruit-speckled Kashmiri Naan. If you adore naan, you'll want to check out each one of these - we tried some of them and believe they're among KL's most fulfilling naan, a fabulously versatile bread base for everything from potato-laden dal to tandoor-cooked meat.

Complete your visit to Hameediyah with refreshing chilled beverages like the sip-worthy Sirap Bandung Hameediyah or even a confidently brewed hot latte - Hameediyah's caffeine fix rivals many cafes, served by a friendly crew that's enthusiastic to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Hameediyah Bistro
Lot 36904, Jalan Kolam Ayer Lama, Taman Dato Ahmad Razali, 68000 Ampang Jaya, Selangor.
Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-10pm; Sunday, 6am-10pm. Tel: 016-447-0194

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