Life in multicultural George Town in Penang is such that one can be having Cantonese dim sum, surrounded by a Chinese “yum cha” crowd one moment, and then walk a block down and find good Indonesian or Indian eateries in a completely different, corresponding setting.
Dinner for us today is in Jelutong, a working-class part of George Town, with a large section of its populace being Tamil-Muslims. Their cuisine, popularly known in Penang as “mamak food” is very much sought after by Penangites, whether Chinese, Indian or Malay.
Our first stop was Maansorali Roti Canai & Murtabak. What caught our eyes were Maansorali Khan’s large bubbles of freshly-kneade and folded bubbles doughballs, to be pan-fried on a griddle with lots of ghee to become crisp roti canai pancakes.
The roti canai are served with spicy “dal” (yellow lentils) and potato gravy.
Second stop is Jelutong stalwart, Ali Ameir Nasi Kandar. Located on the ever-busy main street, Jelutong Road, It used to have its workers carry giant pots of rice and pots of curries balanced on “kandar” (shoulder-poles) each morning from the kitchen where they did the cooking to the coffeeshop where they sold their nasi kandar from 6am each morning.
However, this rather novel practice has been discontinued ever since they moved to this newer shophouse location (which has its own kitchen/cooking facilities) in 2013 - just as well, dodging motorcycles & heavier vehicles whilst toting a pole with two giant pots of steaming hot rice on either end did seem pretty risky.
As with other nasi kandar spots, the skill of the Nasi Kandar-man in mixing the various curry gravies onto your dinner plate order is what defines a good nasi kandar spot ([Penang, Malaysia] Deen Maju Nasi Kandar at Jln Gurdwara (Brick Kiln Road).)
The Nasi Kandar-man at Ali Ameir seemed pretty deft at combining the various gravies on your order to form the obligatory gluggy, messy-looking plates of deliciousness.
We ordered curried chicken, a dry beef curry, hard-boiled eggs, okra and spiced cabbage - though it’s hard to distinguish which is which after 5 or 6 different kinds of gravy had been poured on top of our order.
Ali Ameir today is run by third-generation siblings, Mohamed Ali Ameir, Abdul Alim Ameir, and Anvar Ali Ameir.
(1) Maansorali Roti Canai & Murtabak
Corner of Jalan Madrasah and Jalan Jelutong, 11600 Penang
Tel: +6016-469 1781
Operating hours: 8.30am-8pm (Mon-Fri), 8.30am-6pm Sat. Closed on Sun.
(2) Ali Ameir Nasi Kandar
567, Jalan Jelutong, 11600 George Town, Penang
Operating hours: 2pm to midnight daily