People in the area are familiar with the sight of a big crowd most mornings, even before 8am, at Nasi Lemak Tawaf.
From cuttlefish to chicken dishes, there is something for everyone at the 23-year-old eatery.
Founder Zulmah Jaffar, 61, said even after two decades, the cook here has always been her husband, Dzulkifli Ahmad, 63.
“Our signature dishes are the sotong kering, udang petai, kerang and kambing rendang.
“Now, my husband has two assistants at our home to help with preparations but he still does the bulk of cooking.
“He is meticulous and passionate about the food he prepares,” said Zulmah.
All the food sold at the eatery is prepared in their home in Balakong and delivered by family members to Sri Petaling, with Zulmah making the first trip in the morning.
“We used to live nearby, so it was much easier for us to bring our food here and start selling.
“Now we have to drive all the way from Balakong. Sometimes, I arrive late because of traffic congestion,” she said.
It has not been smooth sailing all the way but Zulmah finds joy in making and selling good food despite getting only three to four hours of sleep a day.
“During the 1997 financial crisis, my husband opted for the voluntary separation scheme and we used the money to start this business.
“In the first two years, we did not make any profit. By the end of each business day, we were throwing leftover food away.
“But slowly, by word of mouth, our business grew to what it is today,” Zulmah said.
Zulmah and Dzulkifli were not always in the food business.
She used to work in a factory while he was in quality control.
They had to learn through trial and error.
“Now we have perfected our recipes but preparation is still hard work. We wake up at 4am every day.
“For example, to prepare the sotong kering (dried cuttlefish), we need to soak them in air abu for nine to 10 hours, and then soak them in water for about two more hours before we start cooking,” she said.
Zulmah explained that the recipe for the kambing rendang actually came from her husband’s best friend.
One repeat customer is Chong Siew Ching, 51, who savours the food every Saturday morning after picking her son up from tuition.
“We love the kerang! The sambal is not too spicy, so it is suitable for my son,” Chong said.
Another customer who visits with her family on a weekly basis is Ruslina Mohd Ghazali, 41.
Ruslina, who loves the udang petai and ayam goreng, said although the price was slightly on the high side, the ingredients were worth the money.
“The quality of food and service are very good here. The rice is of good quality,” she said.
A plate of rice with lamb costs RM7 onwards while a basic plate of rice with sambal, ikan bilis, peanuts and boiled egg costs RM2 onwards.
Sotong kering will set you back RM2 to RM4 a piece.
Personally, I truly enjoyed the kambing rendang and sotong kering. The efficient service and simple setting also makes breakfast here more enjoyable.
When asked how she felt now that the business was doing well, Zulmah said she was content.
“I am glad my husband and I decided to start selling food. I have no regrets.
“Sometimes, when I arrive in the morning, customers who are already waiting in queue would smile and wave at me – I feel like a celebrity!
“Then, there are customers who come back with their children, asking if I remember them from years back when they were still single.
“Honestly, I do not remember any more but I am very happy they come back for our food,” Zulmah said.
Nasi Lemak Tawaf opens 8am to 1pm from Tuesdays to Sundays.
It is located at 1, Jalan Radin Anum in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur.
There is also a newly-opened Balakong branch in Taman Impian Ehsan.
For details, call 017-317 9154 or 017-251 1427.
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