Researching places to eat before you go on a trip can be a bit of a hit or miss affair. From doing research i knew that one of the things that I would have to have on my holiday is a traditional nyonya meal and a place that seems to have good reviews online is a place called cottage spices restaurant. I looked up where it was on google maps in relation to my hotel and it was about a 20 minute walk. I decided to go and try it for lunch on a Tuesday so i set off on foot in the dense southeast Asian heat.
After the 20 minute walk I find the restaurant and it’s closed.
I pondered what my next move should be and I decided to just go for a walk and see if i could find a place to go for lunch. From walking around i found a place serving ‘bak kut teh’ and as i was about to walk into that particular restaurant i spotted something in the corner of my eye. What i spotted was a group of 4 Malay people on scooters that were clearly on their lunch break walking into a nondescript corner stall. I have a theory that if you want to try the true food culture of a place you have to go where the workers go so i decided to cross the street and see what this place was like.
What i noticed when i crossed the street was a restaurant called restoran madinah where absolutely zero tourists were eating and 90% of people eating were wearing uniforms of some description. As soon as i noticed this i knew that i was going to eat well, I was whisked over to the counter by the very friendly staff member as he mentioned that this place specialised in ‘Nasi campur’. Nasi campur roughly translates to ‘mixed rice’ where there is a beau marie filled with delicious dishes and then you have a plate to steamed rice to load up with any number of dishes (a little bit like the self service counters at chinese places in food halls in perth but with stuff that looks a lot tastier).
There were a few different things that i wanted to try from the smorgasbord of different flavours so i picked whatever looked the tastiest and sat down with my plate of deliciousness as the aforementioned friendly waitperson dropped a teh tarik off at my table. The teh tarik was a very refreshing respite from the heat. 8/10
I think i will break down each individual thing that i have tried from here as they all had their own individual flavours, the first thing i tried was the little mixture of red onion, birds eye chillies and fermented shrimp paste. There was also something else, I am not sure what it was but it gave the mix a slightly floral taste. I didn’t like this at all (you can’t see this in the picture but it was kind of behind the chicken).
While i didn’t like the first thing i thought “i might like the second thing” and i did, oh yes i did. The second thing i tried was the beef rendang and it was amazing, this one little cube of beef was the best curry (if you can call it that) that i have ever had in my life. What I didn’t realise from having western beef rendang dishes is that there shouldn’t be any sauce at all and the beef should be tender and packed such intense flavour that you shouldn’t need any sauce. Seriously. Amazing.
The next thing that i tried is the long beans stir fried with eggs. This was something that was simple and very tasty, while eating it i thought to myself that i could probably make this. So when i get home i am going to try making this.
The final thing i had was the ayam goreng or fried chicken, each culture seems to do their fried chicken slightly differently. In the case of malaysian people it is rubbed with a rich tomato and chilli paste before being deep fried without any batter on it. The flavours of this chicken were also really pronounced and while the chicken wasn’t completely juicy the flavours more than overcame this and yet again it was amazing.
In terms of how i should rate this, I think that it easily gets a 10 due to the amazing beef rendang. 10/10
The universe works in strange ways sometimes, If that nyonya place was open i wouldn’t have had a chance to experience this extremely authentic and delicious meal in fantastic company.