I have explored a lot on the Indian Muslim food in Alor Setar, and believe me, I still have more. A few friends, and even my wife, asked whether there are any Malay eating places that might get my attention. I admit that I did write one or two, but with so many Malay stalls, restaurants and tomyam places out there, it can be very tricky. Another frustrating factor is the inconsistency of taste and even the performance of the vendors. I have written before about a very good Malay Char Koay Teow in Alor Setar, but he has since been opening irregularly and last I heard, disappeared from the place. Or the the tale of the 2 nasi campur restaurant in Pumpong which at one time were the happening at lunch hour that draws customers even from KL during the holidays. Today, even the locals are grumbling about the food quality and price there.
Excluding Indian Muslim or Mamak restaurants/stalls, it is rare to find rice with dishes being sold at night. You will find thai food stalls/restaurants or other type of food available, but not nasi campur style restaurant.
For those who are tired of eating Nasi Lemak, or looking for an alternative to it, there is a place popular among the locals of Alor Setar. Located in front of CIMB Mergong Branch at Seberang Jalan Putra is Abang Nasi Tomato. Contrary to nightly rice dishes of Alor Setar, this stall is owned by a Malay, and he has been in this business for decades. The huge pot serves hot, hunger-comforting tomato rice, usually from around 7:00p.m. to very late at night, except on Tuesdays.
Nobody really has the exact history or origin of Nasi Tomato, or Tomato Rice. One theory has that Nasi Tomato originates from Pahang, which was at first enjoyed by royalties. Another has it that it is a creation of two ethnic groups, the Chinese and the Indians. Another less-known theory is that it is a variation, or modified from the Middle Eastern Beriyani, modified out of necessity and flavor of the locals. Noreover, it is a feast food, usually using tomatos and yoghurt with a blend of spices. I don't know, the verdict is still silent.
Like the old-school Nasi Lemak Mamak shops, the queue is always there. The customers are from all walks of life, and you even have many Chinese and some Indians enjoying their hearty meals there. There are around 8-12 dishes available, usually consisting of fish, beef, chicken (or its parts) along with vegetables. Nasi Tomato is usually accompanied by Ayam Masak Merah (Chicken in Spicy Red Sauce) and Acar or pickles made from pineapple, cucumber and carrot, and don't worry, they're there. Somehow I noticed there are more people opting for Fried Chicken and fried vegetables instead of them. Maybe people want Nasi Tomato with dishes that suit them more than the usual kenduri fare. Despite the fact that this a Malay business, you can still find the Mamak element with many customers requesting for "kuah campur" or mixed gravy to go with their rice. The man at the counter is highly experienced as his mixture has never disappointed me in the years that I have been going there.
As I had chicken on my visits before, I decided to have my rice with fried fish, fruit acar and fried cabbages, of course with kuah campur. My wife had a similar one as well. We are not talking about fried ikan kembong here, it's a nicely cut chunk of a fish, I forgot to ask the name of the fish though. The rice was still hot, and the accompanying dishes were perfect. The fish was nicely marinated with the usual salt and tumeric and the curry mixture was excellent.
I have been there so many times, and during those visits I manage to see politicians from government and opposition having dinner, high ranking officials, businessmen with their families and/or friends having dinner there. I also noticed that those who eats there are mostly locals. Well, I haven't the chance to eat there during holidays so far, so I might have missed seeing them.
If you would like to try Nasi Tomato Abang, I was told that the stall is listed in the GPS, maybe you can check and confirm it. It is located right in front of CIMB Bank Mergong Branch in Seberang Jalan Putra. There are a lot of stalls there, just look for the one right in front of the bank, with dishes on the counter, a huge pot of steaming tomato rice and a seemingly never-ending queue. You can go there by following the directions on the map below:
The food is wholesome and hearty, so make sure to bring a good appetite and an empty stomach when you go there. And I better remind myself to bring the digital camera on my outings, the night photo shots with this handphone is terrible.
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