Nasi Haji Ali at SS17 Subang Jaya
Nasi Haji Ali - nasi lemak with a Kedah twist - is officially my latest food crush. I stumbled upon this gem of a dish at lunchtime the other day when I drove past Boom City Restaurant at SS17 Subang Jaya. The restaurant, which operates only at night, was uncommonly open that afternoon when I drove by, and from my car I could see customers. Interesting. So I stopped the car, got out and did a bit of detective work. It seemed that the restaurant had a new offering for lunch now, a Kedah style nasi lemak called Nasi Haji Ali. "This stuff must be good," I thought to myself, "or why would they bother opening in the afternoon just to sell it?" My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to give the dish a try. And I'm glad I did because it was actually pretty darn amazing. Maybe it's a northern thing and I would describe the dish as a cross between nasi lemak and probably nasi kandar. Think of it as a punchier version of nasi lemak, if you will, with a slight mamak vibe. You get a serving of santan-infused rice like you would nasi lemak, plus a pretty enticing array of savoury items to add to the rice, such as ayam bawang, ayam marican, ayam masala, ayam hitam, daging ros, daging cincang, tenggiri goreng, sotong pedas, telur rebus, telur masin, kobis, peria, bendi, acar rampai, plus a selection of gulai, all of which you can mix and match as you like according to availability and then pay for correspondingly. Like I said, not quite your typical nasi lemak, but that's the whole point. I don't know if you can tell from the picture below, but my combo of fish, egg, veg and a blend of a couple of spicy curries was really divine and merited the RM9.00 sum total.
While I was eating my meal inside the restaurant, Alia Shafiza, franchise owner of Nasi Haji Ali, gave me the low-down on the origins of the dish. Apparently, it has its roots in her family. It all began when her late grandfather, Haji Ali, created the dish in 1958 and sold it from his humble stall under the shades of a cherry tree in Alor Setar, Kedah. As she took me back in history, even though I'm neither from Kedah nor that timeline, I could almost picture the scene in my mind (in vintage black and white, of course!) of customers queuing up underneath that tree to get their fix of Nasi Haji Ali. The dish became so popular in Alor Setar that her late grandfather was able to eventually establish a restaurant along Jalan Seberang Perak (near the birthplace of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad), where it remains as the hotspot that still serves the dish to this day.
Driven by the desire to extend her late grandfather's culinary legacy, Alia brought the franchise to Shah Alam in 2017 where she was able to generate a sizeable following for the dish across the Klang Valley. A fresh relocation to intimate SS17 Subang Jaya took place just a few days ago and her decision to operate a stall here now, in my opinion, is a really nice reminiscent nod to the past. Of course, I had to ask the burning question that had been on my mind the whole time, which was, "Why is the dish referred to as nasi lemak in Kedah even though it's obviously not?" Alia explained, "Just like nasi lemak, Kedahans back in the day ate Nasi Haji Ali as a breakfast dish, and so the reference stuck. That, and the fact that the rice is lightly santan-ed." OK. Makes sense, I guess.
That's me and Alia below, by the way.
I'm glad that Alia and her crew are inhabiting a space at Boom City Restaurant now. Their Nasi Haji Ali is insane and I'm pretty certain I'll be back. Come check it out if you're in the neighbourhood at lunchtime. I don't think you'll be disappointed. And for Kedahans in KL longing for a taste of home, it's hard to get closer to the experience than this. 🙂
Nasi Haji Ali @ Boom City Restaurant No.135, Jalan SS17/1A 47500 Subang Jaya Selangor Nasi Haji Ali business hours: Mondays to Saturdays: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (they may wrap up earlier if they're sold out before 5:00 p.m.)
Call/WhatsApp: 019 515 2655 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Price, where mentioned, is correct at time of writing.