Thursday, January 26, 2017

'YES' TO YEMENI FOOD AT AL NAFOURA

Meet the pièce de résistance of Al Nafoura restaurant in Wangsa Maju. A hearty Yemeni rice dish that takes about 20-30 minutes to prepare, Maghdout is well worth the wait. You can choose either Lamb Maghdout (1/2kg RM39, RM75 1kg) or Chicken (RM35 half, RM65 whole) which has long grain basmati rice pressure-cooked to perfection in tomato-based sauce with lamb or chicken and aromatic spices
Prepared only upon order, the resultant speciality had us hooked on its deep-seated flavours; the fluffy rice a nice foil for the chunks of meltingly tender meat. Served with a side dish of Al Nafoura Salad (RM10) - diced Japanese cucumber, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese, this signature dish is ideal for sharing and worth repeat visits.
Opened in February 2016, Al Nafoura - the word means water fountain in Arabic - has garnered a steady following despite its low-key existence. The chefs working at Al Nafoura are Yemeni as are the ingredients. The resto owners, Rahim and Izana ensure dishes served remain as original as possible to those found in Yemen, especially Rahim who had studied in Saudi Arabia and spent years relishing Yemeni food in the Middle East.

According to them, Yemeni food is heavily influenced by Africa, India and Turkey after the country's fisherfolks, merchants and traders brought exotic spices and recipes back from their forays. Also Yemenis thrive on rice as a staple unlike the rest of the Middle Easterners who prefer bread. Having sampled the assorted Yemeni and Middle-Eastern specialities, we realised they outshone those proffered in the city centre.
The opening salvo of freshly made and baked Mullawah Bread (RM5 small, RM8 large) was ample proof. Layered and folded with butter or ghee, this deliciously rustic Yemeni bread is only available on weekdays (after 6 pm for dinner only) and weekends.
Tear up the fluffy bread and savour it with Hummus (RM12), house blended chickpeas with olive oil and Prawn Salona (RM22). Both these tapas-style offerings hit the spot as we were ravenous after the long drive to the resto.
Tomato, onion and cumin formed the alluring base for the Prawn Salona, a robustly flavoured house speciality with shelled prawns. You can also enjoy the bread with Chicken Oqda (RM17), a well-spiced albeit slightly drier chicken stew with potatoes, tomatoes and carrots. In Arabic, oqda means knot - referring to how nicely 'tied up' the ingredients are. Think of it as a scrumptious Middle Eastern rendang.

Al Nafoura also served its own distinctive Garlic Sauce (RM4) - a creamy blend of garlic, egg white and sunflower oil to complement the array of lamb and chicken dishes. Of course, you can expect Shaweq - an irresistible relish of tomato, garlic, coriander and bird's eye chilli to accompany most of the food too.
The menu also includes ubiquitous Middle-Eastern dishes such as Mandi Chicken (RM16 quarter, RM26 half) - delectable spice marinated chicken grilled and served with basmati rice. I had my fair share of this and more commonly found fare on a recent assignment but I daresay Al Nafoura's is one of the more notable ones worth savouring and suitable for both adults and kids.
You'd find it hard to eat another lousy mamak mee goreng once you try the resto's hybrid Maggi Goreng Kabsa (RM18). Boldly flavoured with sedap giler tomato-spice nuances similar to the house speciality of Maghdout, we polished off this crowd-pleaser within minutes.

Partial to lamb? Then Kabsa Lamb Rice (RM23 small, RM37 large) should convert you into part of the flock once you have a taste of the hearty lamb stew laden with aromatic Yemeni spices served with fragrant basmati rice.
Dessert can be rather hefty to deal with single-handedly after all that carbs and protein. We suggest a serving to share especially if you wish to dig into Areeka (RM18). It's a sweet-savoury bread pudding of sorts, rustled up with housemade Yemeni wheat flatbread with minced dates and nuts. Crowned with cream and grated cheese, the decadent treat was rich and filling.
Cheese lovers may prefer Kunafe (RM15), an Arabic cheesecake of sorts which is made from shredded phyllo dough and white soft cheese baked and topped off with a dollop of cream. Simple yet extremely lush and not to be trifled with lightly. Good with a warm cup of Adani Tea (milky red tea enhanced with spices) to finish.

For reservations call Al Nafoura, tel: 03-4131 4886. Address: 9-G, Plaza Wangsa Maju (Hedgeford Galleria), Jalan Maju Ria 2, Wangsa Maju, Section 10, Kuala Lumpur.

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