ROJAK is more than just a fruit and vegetable salad (fruit rojak), or sliced vegetables, beancurd and fritters drenched in a savoury peanut sauce (Indian rojak or pasembur). It’s an institution in our Malaysian cuisine.
Pasembur is another term for mamak rojak, particularly among Penangites, many of whom would flock to Gurney Drive to have their fix by the sea.
Rojak colloquially means “mixed” in Malay. Having been born and bred in Penang and living in Selangor for the past 14 years, I am often asked where to get the best pasembur in the Klang Valley. Granted, there are many places, but we narrowed it down to five of our favourites.
The thick sweet and spicy sauce that coats fried dough fritters, boiled potatoes, fried beancurd, hard-boiled eggs, julienned cucumbers and jicama (sengkuang) will make most Malaysians salivate, and it is mostly consumed during lunch or teatime.
Most places give customers the option of adding noodles to their pasembur, so it becomes a fine line between pasembur and mee rebus. The latter is made with similar ingredients except peanuts.
It is important that the sauce is made correctly, without it being too sweet or runny, and some sellers who have been in the business for years have managed to get this right.
Like fish is to chips, pasembur is commonly sold together with cendol, as evident at most stalls, maybe as a refreshing dessert to wash down the meal.
These five pasembur stalls are according to my personal ranking.
Jalan 21/17(opposite Sea Park wet market),
Sea Park, Petaling Jaya
Stall owner Umar Sikkandarsha Hasan has been running the business since 1990 at the same location. Back then, he sold pasembur on a motorcycle before upgrading to a van.
I like the pasembur here because of its distinct spiciness and it is not very sweet, with just the right amount of essential ingredients like cucumber, jicama, beancurd, crunchy fritters and eggs.
Umar said he has since perfected his father Hasan’s recipe. Hasan was also a cook at home and sold pasembur in Kepong before he passed away 10 years ago.
Now, Umar’s brother, Basri, helps him sell cendol at the Sea Park stall. As it is Chinese New Year, they are enjoying brisk business as many eateries in the area are still closed for the festive season.
They have two variants – Rojak Sotong (RM6.50) and Rojak Biasa which comes with eggs, for RM4.50.
Hasan’s Rojak opens from 10am to 4.30pm every day, except Friday.
Rojak & Cendol Din
Persiaran Zaaba (opposite BHP), Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur
Owner Jainal Abudin Noordin has run the family business for 12 years and the stall in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) is just one of the four. The other three are in Jalan Kuching (Segambut-bound and another near the Volvo showroom, Kuala Lumpur-bound) and Sri Hartamas (near Petronas station).
His father Noordin started the business and learnt the family recipe for the rojak peanut sauce that is deliciously savoury and spicy.
I had the Rojak Sotong (RM7) and it was filling and satisfying. The Mee Rebus (RM5.50) is another must-try as the sweet potato gravy is subtle and spicy without cornstarch additives to thicken the gravy.
Rojak Din has Rojak Mee (RM5.50), Rojak Biasa (RM5) and Rojak Mee Sotong (RM7.50), as well as Cendol Biasa (RM2.50) and Cendol Pulut (RM3).
The stall is easy to find as it faces the main road near the petrol stations leading into TTDI. They open from 10am to 6pm every day except Saturday and Sunday.
Rojak SS15 Subang Jaya
Jaya33, Jalan Semangat, Section 13, Petaling Jaya
The popular stall’s main location is in Jalan SS15/3B (near Shell station), Subang Jaya, which is the one I have been frequenting since 14 years ago, when I lived in the area.
Since moving to Petaling Jaya in Section 52, imagine my excitement when the set up a stall in Jaya33. They still maintain their standard here and you can enjoy your pasembur fix in an air-conditioned mall.
I had the Rojak Sotong & Telur (RM6). Personally, I felt that the portion was slightly smaller here compared to the stall in SS15, but the flavour is the same. The gravy is mellow, and it is not spicy or sweet.
If you still prefer roughing it out under a tree on the street, the original Subang stall is the one to visit.
To my knowledge, they also have branches in PJ New Town and Shah Alam. They are open from 11.30am to 6pm daily, except Sunday.
63, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur
The zinc-roofed eatery in Jalan Bellamy (near the old palace) is the main branch and they have another one in Plaza Damansara, Damansara Heights.
The restaurant here attracts the lunch crowd mainly comprising officer workers nearby. One thing to note is that the service is a little slow, but the food is tasty.
Here, they have Rojak Ayam (RM7) which is pasembur with fried chicken. The combination was tasty, but the dish lacked the vegetables and boiled potatoes. They also have Rojak Biasa, Rojak Sotong and Rojak Mee Ayam, if you are feeling adventurous. I liked the mee rebus, too, as the gravy was light and tangy.
They are open every day from 7am to 7pm.
Jalan Bukit Pantai, Kuala Lumpur
I usually use this road as a shortcut to get to Bangsar if I am driving from Petaling Jaya. You will pass Pantai Hospital on your left and as you drive along the uphill Jalan Bukit Pantai, you will see a white van parked on the side of the road opposite the bungalows.
The rather conspicuous sight of people eating under a tree would make one stop to check out the scene.
The original stall is near the Petronas station in Batu Muda, Sentul. The van along Jalan Bukit Pantai has been there for the past five years, according to the workers.
They serve Rojak Biasa (RM6), Rojak Mee (RM7) and Rojak Special (RM8). I had the Rojak Special, which had eggs, cuttlefish and mee.
In terms of flavour, it is pleasant and fulfils all the characteristics of a pasembur, but I found the gravy a tad sweet.
Rojak Sentul is open daily from 10.30am to 6pm, except Sunday.