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THERE’S something so quintessential about nasi lemak in Malaysia that it ceases to be a cliché, despite the increasing proliferation of nasi lemak-flavoured or scented products in the market, the most recent being Miss Malaysia Universe’s nasi lemak dress.

However, not every plate of the spicy, sambal-topped coconut rice is created equal.

That’s why Mamalee restaurant in Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya, which specialises in Malaysian cuisine with a Penang flair, is such a terrific find, especially for out-of-town folks working or studying in the city.

Located above a tyre shop, the pork-free restaurant is a family-run affair, providing an added layer of homeliness to the casual atmosphere and food.

The restaurant was opened by the Khoo family, which hails from Penang.

“We’re all family, from the chef to the cashier and waiters,” said Alice Tan, one of Mamalee’s co-founders.

Tan’s husband, Cavin Khoo – the son of the real-life Mama Lee after whom the restaurant is named – helms the kitchen where mouthwatering dishes like its signature nasi lemak salted egg fried chicken (RM12), and nasi lemak butter milk fried chicken (RM13) are cooked fresh.

The two dishes come with the regular toppings of peanuts, cucumber, fried anchovies, hard boiled egg and fragrant red sambal sauce, which is on the sweeter side.

However, the main star of each dish would be the tender leg of crispy fried chicken, smothered in a yummy choice of irresistible salted egg or luscious buttermilk sauce, served with fluffy but firm rice.

For more familiar side dishes to go along with your nasi lemak, try the hearty spicy sotong (RM7) or prawn with petai (RM8).

Another dish to try is the restaurant’s jiu hu char (RM5). Made with a humble blend of finely shredded jicama, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, and morsels of chicken meat, and cooked in a pan with a sauce till aromatic, the dish might appear like regular popiah filling but the addition of cuttlefish truly elevates it into a fuller flavour profile.

Eat it with rice or wrapped in a lettuce leaf, and give it an added kick with some sambal belacan and a squirt of green calamansi lime juice on top.

If you love the pungent taste of garlic, you will also love Mamalee’s chicken lobak (RM5).

Wrapped in crispy bean curd skin, the sweet succulent chicken is countered with zesty minced garlic, and pairs wonderfully with the sweet chilli dipping sauce it comes with.

As for dessert, Mamalee has got you covered with a warm bowl of bubur cha cha (RM3.50), filled with a colourful medley of sweet potato and delightfully chewy pink tapioca jelly.

You can drop by Mamalee’s restaurant to get a taste of Penang nasi lemak yourself, or get it delivered by placing a minimum order of 15 boxes, at least one day in advance.

For more, visit Mamalee Facebook page.

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