[Kuala Lumpur] Malay lunch at Sambal Hijau, Sungai Penchala

Sambal Hijau in Kampung Sungai Penchala seems an unlikely foodie destination - located in a Malay settlement quite a distance from the city, it started in 2004 as a little eatery next to a mosque. Its fortunes changed the following year when the restaurant was featured in a cookbook published in Singapore - local Malay diners started to take notice of the little eatery that could. Today, Sambal Hijau is perhaps the most popular Malay food destination in Kuala Lumpur, with its wide repertoire of Malay dishes.

These days, Sambal Hijau will be patronised by an average of 2,000 diners daily, more on weekends. One needs to come early, at least before noon on weekdays, to avoid the crowd and long queues at the self-service food counters. Up to 70 different dishes, most of which are curries or spicy, chilied dishes, are laid out for diners to serve themselves.

The choices can be mind-boggling - all manners of meats and seafoods cooked Malay-style: turmeric, galangal and chili-rich. Deep-fried chicken, barbecued fish, fresh raw salads.

Servers will be on-hand to hand out plates filled with steamed white rice to customers who then lined up at the food counters and help themselves to the dishes. One then brings one’s lunch-plate to the counter, where the cost of your meal, dependant upon what you’ve picked will be tallied and you pay first before you eat.

As the restaurant can get pretty crowded, it’s better to in as a small group, have someone in your lunch or dinner party stake out one of the smaller tables which can accommodate your group, or else some seats in the long communal tables.

One can also ask for small plates for side-dishes to be served separately instead of stacked onto one’s lunch-plate - which was what we did. Bring those side-dishes onto your designated table and get one of the wait-staff to come and tally your food costs before you start eating. It’s a very informal way of dining.

What we had:
Gulai Ayam (Chicken curry)

Gulai Daging dengan Kentang (Beef-and-potato curry)

Udang Masak Lemak (Prawns in a spicy-coconut gravy)

Ikan Sumbat (Grilled mackerel stuffed with chili spices)

Sayur Masak Putih (Gourd, wingbeans and carrots cooked in a spiced coconut gravy).

Sambal Goreng Tempeh (Stir-fried tempe with chili spices)

Bergedil / Telur Masin (Potato croquettes / Salted duck’s egg)

Ulam dengan Budu (Raw salads with Kelantanese fermented fish dip)

Sirap Bandung (Iced rose syrup-flavoured milk drink).

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Sambal Hijau also offers a popular spiced oxtail soup (Sop Ekor) from a large vat kept simmering near the entrance of the restaurant. I didn’t get to try it this time, and may return sometime for it. Very interesting place indeed.

Address
Sambal Hijau Restaurant
2990, Jalan Sungai Penchala
Kampung Sungai Penchala
60000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-7731 2045
Opening hours: 7.30am-2am daily

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My favorite restaurant in KL. The make an excellent patin masak tempoyak (look for one of the large pots by the entrance) although its an acquired taste.

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You can say that again! I’d not tried the “tempoyak” here, but I’d had it in a couple of Malay eateries around KL, and could never get used to the dull, heavy flavour of fermented durians.

Yeah even many Malays can’t handle it.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
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