For countless city folks whose roots lie beyond the Klang Valley, Ramadan is that time of the year when they crave for comfort food; simple, rustic dishes lovingly prepared by one's mothers and family matriarchs back in the kampungs come time for berbuka puasa or breaking of fast.
To assuage these culinary longings, they can either trawl the numerous Ramadan bazaars or head to the nearest hotels or restaurants that proffer a profusion of local Malay delicacies from all over Malaysia.
This is exactly what Malay chef Azhar Alias and his Nipah CoffeeShop team have set out to do - conjure up 150 homely kampung-style fare for buka puasa nightly.
“We've drawn inspirations from every nook and cranny of the country. Some specialities are prepared according to treasured family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation,” says Chef Azhar.
Kambing Gulai Kentang...hearty mutton curry with potatoes
Few Johoreans would be able to resist Nasi Briyani Gam, the ubiquitous spiced-infused basmati rice cooked with chunks of scrumptious chicken or beef. Fluffy and flavourful, you just need some Jelatah (pickled cucumber, pineapple and onion) or Acar Buah (subtly sweet fruit pickles) to complete the dish.
If you're from the East Coast then you'd love the Nasi Dagang with Gulai Ikan Tongkol, a rich and spicy tuna curry that's the requisite accompaniment for this unique rice dish. Another perennial delight from this part of the country is Ayam Golek with Percik Sauce, grilled whole chicken basted with a thick spice and coconut milk-based sauce.
It was an evening of meat overload as we feasted on Grilled Stingray, Mutton Keema (thick Indian mutton curry), Chicken Satay and the piece de resistance of every buffet worth its salt, Kambing Panggang Berempah - a whole roast lamb rubbed with exotic spices.
My good Penangite friend gave the Prawn Noodle her stamp of approval which means the dish is as close to the real deal as you'd get at five-star hotels. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the mushy Otak-otak.
Thank goodness, the meat-filled Murtabak with Onion Pickles came up to mark as did the Sweet and Sour Razor Clams which was prepared on the spot at the live cooking station.
From the dessert section, my favourites are the velvety soft and smooth Soya Bean Curd, and unusual Fried Ice Cream, dodol and assorted fresh local fruits such as jackfruit, longans, water apple, and watermelon. The Apam Balik was too chewy for my liking but my dining companions had a field day rounding up their meal with Ais Krim Potong, Ice Kacang, traditional Malay kuihs and sweet broths.
The Aneka Sajian Tradisional Buffet Dinner is priced at RM99.00++ per adult and RM49.00++ per child.For reservations at Nipah CoffeeShop, call: 03-2161 7777 ext 8555.