Monday, May 23, 2011

Rose Restaurant Revisited

There were so many Mamak restaurants in Alor Setar in the past with great food to be enjoyed. The older generations remember fondly of Kedai No. 36, the original Nasi Lemak Royal stall at the Royal Cinema building, Nasi Lemak Ali, Bunga Tanjong (Malay restaurant), the Mamak restaurant in front of Market Besar (Main Market) near Tun Mahathir's birthplace, Mee Abu and Rose Restaurant. The modernization or progress in Alor Setar in the 1980s saw these shops of the old either faded away or relocated. There are also some who maintained and became some sort of a legend, such as Mee Abu. Nasi Lemak Royal made a comeback in the late 1990s by opening a few branches. Nasi Lemak Ali remained where it has been for decades and became legendary as it is now frequented by customers coming even as far away from Singapore.

Rose Restaurant, just like Nasi Lemak Ali remained in its same location for almost more than 30 years. My last trip there, located in the center of Alor Setar was somewhere around 20 years ago. I remember the ever so busy restaurant dishing out Nasi Kandar, Nasi Lemak, the various rotis and murtabak. That place was almost never empty. The typical setting of Rose Restaurant back then was that it has the ground floor for normal service, while the 2nd floor is air-conditioned. Anytime people want to eat there, at any time of day, all they had to do was just drive there, park anywhere nearby and go into the restaurant.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Rose Restaurant was reputed to have the best murtabak in town. However, in the mid-1980s, people claim that the taste and quality of the murtabak went down because the cook always makes the murtabak in bulk. I never knew whether this is true or not as I was not around in Alor Setar that much at the time.

The development of Alor Setar brought about changes in infrastructrure of the town and with more and more traffic and less parking area, Rose Restaurant became virtually inaccessible to people who drives around in town. With fast food franchises pulling the young crowd away, and with other stalls and eateries cropping up, Rose Restaurant seems to lose its glory.

We happened to walk by near Rose Restaurant a few days ago, and as that nostalgic feeling kicked in, I decided to go into the restaurant, with my wife and son as well. The place had changed so much. Gone is the air-conditioned 2nd floor, there were no mamaks. The owner is Indian Muslim, either 2nd or 3rd generation with a Malay wife and his staff are all Malays. Nasi Kandar is still there, along with the addition of Malay/Thai food and of course, the murtabak.

For those who might not know, a murtabak is a dish made with roti canai pastry, stuffed with an omellette comprising of onions, chicken/beef/lamb, eggs and spices. The Alor Setar murtabak differs from the Penang ones in both ingredients and texture. Overall, the northern murtabak differs a lot from the central and southern murtabak whereby the northern murtabak is always moist as a lot of onions is used. There is a theory that murtabak is derived from a Middle Eastern dish known as Mutabbaq, which is a sweet omelette-like dish stuffed with honey and nuts, and also fried on a griddle.

Back to Rose Restaurant, I must admit that the taste has not changed at all. The owner's son/grandson has maintained the original recipe and none of the ingredients has been substituted. The murtabak is served with a plate of pickled onions and fish curry. Being a traditionalist, I had mine with pickled onions. Frankly, I think his pickled onions are the best, compared to Mee Abu's as it does not only well balanced, but also enhances the taste of the murtabak - a true compliment to the experience.

The price is quite reasonable for a murtabak that size and that good, which is at RM3.50. For those who seeks a good murtabak within Alor Setar town itself, I would recommend Rose Restaurant, located at Jalan Tengku Ibrahim, which is about 5 minutes walk from Pekan Rabu and 3 minutes walk from City Plaza. It is located directly accross Kedah Shopping Centre and next to RHB Bank. Check it out, it is the place where the taste stood out with history.

Breaking The Break

These few months have been quite a taxing one. I had ailments coming over from time to time, and with my work keeping my schedule tighter, I had less time to write.

A few months back I got hit by the common gastric, something which I never had before. I mean, I was never expecting that at all, at this age, and my careful eating schedule, I never saw it coming. I spent almost 10 days consuming magnesium tricilicate, prescribed by doctors from my clinic, general hospital and private hospital, but to no avail. In the end, all it took was a visit to a sinseh (Chinese traditional medical practitioner) in Tunjang who I had been frequenting since 2007. During those 10 days, I totally forgot about him, but once I remembered, I went there like a shot. He prescribed some herbal remedies, all in capsule form. Don't get me wrong, he may be traditional in practise but you'll never see him grind any herbs or roots. Everything is prepared in a modern style, and you might recognize most of the brands there in local pharmacies. He prescribed me some supplements, and one of them is "Akar Kunyit" or Turmeric Root in capsule form. Unbelievably, my gastric went away in less than 12 hours and I haven't had any gastric problems since, of course, with extra control on my eating time as well.

I must admit that I have never had a 100% trust on modern medicine, at most times I rely more on herbal supplements. I have written before that I grow my own Misai Kucing and from that I make my own tea. I also grow my own Daun Cerita (or Hempedu Bumi as it is known in the South), a small, wild plant with extremely bitter leaves. It is known for being anti-cancer properties and it is also claimed to work well to regulate blood circulation, along with regulating blood sugar and pressure.

I have visited several places that serve excellent food that Alor Setar has to offer, and I am hoping to share all of these very very soon.

Believe it or not, I consume more and more vegetables nowadays, usually for dinner. For this purpose, I have been experimenting several vegetarian dishes and salad dressings, some good and some disastrous. Through this, my wife and I found out that distilled vinegar has bad effects on our stomachs, just like our parents before us.

Here's looking forward to sharing my food experience and recipes with you.