Irresistible draw of ayam berempah

A favourite spot for many in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam, for lunch is a nasi kukus stall.

Located within a shady carpark in the heart of a busy shop lot area on Jalan Anggerik Aranda 31/C, this stall has been a local hotspot for aromatic nasi kukus for the last decade, with long queues each day.

Each plate of nasi kukus comes with a huge piece of spiced fried chicken – commonly known as ayam berempah, steamed rice, a bright yellow-tinted fish curry, pickled vegetables and a fiery, tangy sambal.

Nik Rohani Nik Ismail, 55, has been running the popular stall with the help of her three daughters for the last 10 years, as a way to pay homage to her Kelantanese roots.

“I developed my own recipe over the years, as my dish differs from traditional Kelantanese nasi kukus,” the self-taught cook said adding that the Kelantanese version does not offer any sauces or pickled vegetables.

She also chose to prepare a fish-based curry, to cater to different customers’ dietary preferences.

“Some customers do not eat beef so with a mild fish-based curry, everyone can eat it,” she said.

Customers often wait over 20 minutes for takeaway orders with the enticing fragrance of the spiced chicken deep-frying in a large wok wafting through the air.

“We fry the chicken on site to maintain the freshness and crunchiness of the chicken,” she said.

Batches of her chicken often disappear within minutes, while the rice is also cooked in large steamers which are visible to customers.

Personally, the huge piece of chicken is my favourite part of the meal, as the chicken skin is unbelievably crispy and aromatic with hints of lemongrass, ginger and spices while the meat inside is juicy and flavourful.

Nik Rohani said the chicken pieces are marinated with a secret blend of spices overnight, while the other components of the dish are prepared fresh every morning.

Paired with the mild curry and fiery sambal belacan, each bite packs a punch of flavour and heat.

The crunchy acar – a pickled mixture of cabbage, cucumbers and carrots is a refreshing palate cleanser in between the spicy bites of chicken, sambal and rice.

However, Nik Rohani remains humble and claims there is nothing special about her dish.

“The simplicity of my nasi kukus may be the reason why so many customers return,” she said.

While her stall was closed for more than three months during the movement control order (MCO), she continued to sell her nasi kukus on a much smaller scale out of her home via food delivery.

Now that her stall has reopened, she regularly receives large orders from offices and for functions as customers prefer not to wait in long lines.

Nik Rohani estimates that she sells more than 300 pieces of chicken a day, especially on Fridays, which is her busiest day.

The hearty serve of nasi kukus and its components can satisfy even the largest appetites at an affordable price of RM6.50.

The stall is also located right next to a drinks stall offering fresh coconut water, asam boi and many more, providing customers with a refreshing icy cold drink that pairs well with nasi kukus on hot days.

Open on weekdays from 11am, the food here is often sold out by 2pm.

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