The Nasi Lemak Seller

(McD have the both the rice and the burger but both are priced at a level I would say ridiculous for a nasi lemak. For the same price, I can get 3-4 items more on a nasi lemak and still got spare cash for nasi tambah. Image source: McDonalds Malaysia)

One of the biggest problems that we face during the fasting month is the difficulty to get a good nasi lemak for breakfast. The usual morning nasi lemak stalls are closed for the month.

We can still get the usual nasi lemak from the nearest kedai Mamak (the sorry looking sambal that they splash on the plain rice is the same dumb sambal that they put on the roti canai, so the sambal is nothing special and probably is not fresh too. Same goes for the nuts and the anchovies) but it is not the same with the one that I usually buy from the old Makcik at the road side stall and has a really spicy sambal (you know I hate sweet sambal – read the post here).

Last two weekends ago, we decided to have our dinner outside but instead our usual hang-out place, we decided to look for a new place. We were getting bored with our usual place. I google out and found a small food court on the way to my sister’s house. The reviews on the net look “reasonable” too. When we arrived, we noticed that most of the tables were taken up but 2 tables nearer to the road were empty. There were plenty of stalls but considering it to be a new place; we decided to go with something safe – fried keow teow, noodles and satay. Just when we decided to leave, I noticed one stall that we missed earlier – a nasi lemak kukus stall with several containers for the extra ingredients and yes, my favorite – sotong sambal and kerang rendang was available. Since we were full, we decided to try nasi lemak the next time around.

Last weekend, we were back against at the food court and instead of looking at other food this time around, we headed straight to the nasi lemak stall. An old lady was manning the stall so it reminded me of the old Makcik from my favorite place. I had high hopes. Instead of eating at the food court, we decided to pack up and eat at home whilst watching a good movie. Usually a nasi lemak kosong with sambal packed separately will cost us RM1 to RM1.50 (correct me if I am wrong) and if add the other sambal here and there, it probably cost us RM10 – RM15 for 5 packets.

We informed the lady at the stall that we just wanted “nasi lemak biasa” and immediately we sensed trouble – she looked a bit blurred when we said nasi lemak kosong and sambal packed separately. I had a feeling that there must be a floor rate for each plate she sells – there is a minimum that she needs to charge per plate and probably she had never sell nasi lemak biasa. My wife took the trouble to explain in plain English and then Bahasa.

I think after some time, she finally understood what we wanted as we saw her packing up just the rice, roasted nuts, slices of cucumber and half of a boiled egg but when we are not “looking”, she quickly packed one whole boiled egg in some of the packs (so sneaky of her). When we point out that we only need a small slice of the boiled egg and not the whole egg, she acted like she did not understand and continue to pack up (later I found she charge RM1 for one whole egg, so half means RM0.50). I was not happy of the fact that she was charging us separately for the eggs in nasi lemak when it should be part & parcel of the whole package. At that point, I was even wondering if she is going to charge us separately for the roasted nuts and the sambal (she did charge us for the sambal in the end also).

Obviously she rarely does packed meals for her customers. Then she looked even more blurred when she want to pack up the sambal. Looking “blur” may have been part of the act, I guess. So my wife had to step-in to explain again. And whilst this was going on, I did mental calculation on the cost – I had a feeling that it is not going to be cheap. Then two other customers came over and as they are filling up their plates, I was keen to know the cost of their plates because they did not take much – one cost about RM8.90 and another was just under RM7.00.

In the end, there were 5 packs of nasi lemak kosong, one small pack sambal (enough for 3 people) and one pack of kerang rendang ready on the table. It was time to calculate the total price – how difficult it is going to be right? The old lady took out her calculator and I looked at my wife – somewhat my earlier suspicion that it is not going to be cheap may be to be proved to be true.

With a calculator at hand, she charged us RM3.50 for the nasi lemak kosong with half egg whilst the nasi lemak kosong with a full boiled egg, she charged us even extra – RM4.00. The kerang rendang which was not much (if you ask me – most of it was gravy and not the actual kerang), she whacked RM10 for that alone. In the end, we ended up paying almost RM30 for the whole package. Ok lah, minus the kerang rendang (RM10), the price is about RM4 per pack of nasi lemak – which is the same as how some Mamak restaurant will charge for a nasi lemak biasa.

But what about the taste – terrible if you ask me! I had better tasting nasi lemak for far less price. This is the problem some people are having – not only the food tastes terrible, they charge their customers ridiculous price for it too – I don’t think the lady is interested to get & retain new customers (especially one is crazy about nasi lemak). It would have been a different story if the taste had been out of this world – I have no problem paying good money for good food. It is for sure that we are not going back to this stall again.

Good thing, the fasting month is ending soon and the good old Makcik will be back to open her stall.

Selamat Hari Raya and Happy Holidays to all



Ever Wondered?

Ever wondered why the “spicy” sambal is getting sweeter these days?

(Image source: Wikipedia)

I guess somewhere in the universe, some planets or stars must have crossed paths and the nasi lemak sellers down in Malaysia have decided to put more sugar (instead of chilly) into the “must have” concoction.

Last weekend, we woke up and had an urging desire to have nasi lemak for breakfast. So we went on a nasi lemak hunt – our usual stall manned by a friendly Orang Asli was closed. We drove around and found one stall manned by an old makcik. As we were busying order, the makcik asked a question to us – “you want the sweet sambal or the spicy sambal?”

All this while, all we know about the sambal is that it is red, have plenty of chilly and it is hot! Now we are hearing “sweet sambal” where it is still looks reddish, have plenty of chilly but instead of being hot and spicy, it is sweet and in real sense, tasteless.

Faced with the question “you want the sweet sambal or the spicy sambal?” our choice was too obvious. But sadly, the “spicy sambal” that the makcik had was not that spicy – a big letdown early in the morning.

But at least the makcik has a choice. The other place I often go to does not even have a choice. Their mainstay sambal is the sweet sambal which probably explains why their nasi lemak is one of the least popular dishes in their menu. Their curry is spicier than their sambal and with a load of curry; their santan rich nasi lemak gets some “pride” back.

To make good on the “losses” on not getting the spicy sambal these days, what we do is that to cook up a really spicy sambal at least once a week – really spicy in the sense that we can feel “fire” in the mouth.

We have been having way too much sugar in our spicy dishes on the outside.

RM100 isn’t much today

An interesting topic in The Star today and I must agree there that RM100 is indeed not much today but is it?

Now let’s see that again based on my daily expenses

A) When I was studying Law part time and working full time (almost 10 years ago)

Transportation: RM2.00 bus fare to and fro my house to KL (then I walk from the bus station to my work place, almost 5 kilometers away and walk again to the college – no wonder I was slim and very healthy then)

Food total: RM3.50 based on RM1.00 (“nasi lemak biasa” or 3 kari-puffs, either one for almost everyday! If I already “muak”, maybe will be opt for “mee goreng”), RM2.50 (standard nasi campur – no chicken or fish, just 2 types of “sayur”, “sambal” and plenty of “kuah”)

There was no entertainment cost, no magazines to be purchased, no other miscellaneous cost, bills and etc. I can’t afford to have one with my starting salary of just RM630 (half of which goes to my college fees and the balance into my saving for year end exam fees)

That’s totals to RM5.50 per day. So, with RM100, it can last me for 18 days!

B) Daily expenses (2004)

Things have changed. One thing is that my income has increased a lot since my income days of RM630 per month. So, as they say “you earn more, you spend more”. Another, the prices has gone up causing us to pay more for the same portion of items.

Transportation: RM6.00 (Based on an average RM30 petrol per week – Monday to Friday and if the traffic jam is not so bad)

Food total: RM12.00 based on RM3.50 (standard “mee goreng” with “teh ais“), RM5.50 (standard “nasi campur” with at least chicken or fish), RM3.00 (tea-time meal – “roti canai” with “teh tarik“)

Parking: RM5.50 (Based on monthly charges of RM170.00)

House weekly sundry expenses: RM4.00 (Based on a weekly trip to Pasar Borong – RM30.00)

The above does not include water & Astro bills of RM100.00, periodic trips to Tesco – RM100.00 (average per trip), expenses for my son – RM100.00 (average per month), and etc. Based on the above (and excluding my other expenses), I am spending RM27.50 per day. So, with RM100, it can only last me for 4 days!

C) Current Daily expenses (2005)

Time to tighten the belt!

Transportation: RM8.00 (Based on an average RM40 petrol per week – Monday to Friday and if the traffic jam is not so bad)

Food total: RM5.00 based on RM2.00 (either “nasi lemak” or “mee goreng” or sometime have nothing for breakfast), RM3.00 (standard nasi campur with no chicken or fish)

Parking: RM5.50 (Based on monthly charges of RM170.00 – no change there)

House weekly sundry expenses: RM1.50 (Based on a weekly trip to Pasar Borong – RM10.00)

The above does not include water & Astro bills of RM100.00, controlled trips to Tesco – RM80.00 (average per trip), expenses for my son – RM70.00 (average per month), and etc

Based on the above (and excluding my other expenses), I managed to reduce daily spending to RM20.00 per day. Yes, it is not much but it is a reduction nonetheless. So, with RM100, it can now last me for 5 days.

I have cut down a lot of non-essential expenses (for example my tea-time meals) and surprisingly still have balances to put in my savings account. I am continuing to review my expenses and hope to cut more especially on sundry expenses (hmm…maybe need to blog one this someday).

So, with the high prices today, there is not much RM100 can do but if we tighten our belt and spend wisely, we can indeed stretch RM100 for longer days.

(Cartoon source: