“So was the nasi kandar power??”
“Like Penang one ah”? “Or better?”
“Good? Worth driving all the way to USJ? Wake up at 6am wor.. U must tell me if good enough…”
To many, waking up at 6 am to drive to USJ is a big deal.
Admittedly, I’m one of those who would have similar reservations. Now that some of my friends knew I visited Gai Ali, they are seeking assurance if it is worth waking up for, worth the drive, worth the time?
Well, to be honest – I won’t describe the nasi kandar as “power“.
This is NOT your typical commercial nasi kandar outlet with super rich (read: greasy), thick curries. If you wish to visit Rogayah, set your mind to expect comforting, tasty home cooked dishes. Come for the experience of being welcomed into someone’s home, where food is assuringly cooked from pastes made from scratch and single-handedly prepared by a gutsy, kind Muslim Penangite lady who had learnt the ropes from her beloved mother, of which she spoke of fondly.
In fact, the draw of the whole experience lies in the informal ambiance, Rogayah’s presence as she amuses with her sharp but lively remarks, and eating “alfresco” (as she cheekily puts it) in her garden.
The kitchen is off-limits; otherwise Rogayah welcomes everyone with open arms. That, and her nasi kandar.
“I love cooking,” she said as she plonks herself down at our table.
Don’t be surprised if she does that, for she treats every customer the same. She will talk to them whenever she has time, and within minutes in conversation you will discover that Rogayah is a fair, honest and outspoken lady.
“I have to take care of my health too. It’s not the money. I can give free food,” she went on to explain as disappointed customers who came later than 8 am this morning (12th Nov) was turned away.
“God has given me a new life,” she muses.
“Both my parents died in my arms. I saw them go. Mum was 80, Dad 82. They were my pillars. My dad is my tester. He would say “Take this away, it’s not same as mum’s”. My Mum taught me cooking.”
Her illness was a topic she doesn’t shy away from. Fighting Stage 3 cancer (cyst in her stomach), this gutsy lady is taking it all in her stride. “I’m still going for scans. Malaysia’s public healthcare is one of the best in world. At my age, everything is free. ”
The 62 year-old lady prepares all dishes herself. Since her nasi kandar is only available on Sundays, her work starts on Saturday. On Sunday she would be awake by 2 am to cook. At the break of dawn, she would have laid out all the dishes plus all tables and chairs (by 6.15 am).
“My customers come after subuh, so starting at 6:30 am is timely,” she said.
We lingered for 2 hours this morning (not encouraged since seatings are limited but by the time we were done eating there were no more food anyways) and we observed that her customers are from all walks of life. Young, old, all races and genders – they walked in, queued and loaded their plates with nasi kandar.
Rogayah would ‘banjir‘ (flood) each customer’s plate with a combination of curries but during our turn we had to do so ourselves as she was busy overseeing something. David reckons that his wasn’t as tasty because he overloaded on the beef curry. I felt mine just was right since I took a bit of everything! 😛
Our bill: RM30.60 and Rogayah just took RM30.
The combination of different curries imparts a special overall flavor to the nasi kandar and many swear by it. “Nasi kandar tastes best with ‘kuah campur’” – it is a mantra all nasi kandar purists live by.
For those who are wondering, Rogayah’s neighbours are supportive of her venture. In fact most of them are her customers.
I asked one if he minded the Sunday morning crowd. He replied “As long as the cars doesn’t block my gate or my vehicles, I’m fine. Besides, it is only 3 hours.”
Another commendable trait of Rogayah that I find uncommon nowadays is her willingness to impart her knowledge.
Cooks, old folks and chefs are notoriously guarded about their recipes but for Rogayah, she insisted that there are no secrets.
“Come,” she said. “On Saturday onwards. Learn and watch me cook. Anyone can do it. It is not difficult, but make sure you have passion, patience and keep in mind that cleanliness is important.”
Well, I’m definitely taking up on that offer! Looks like I’ll be busy “cooking” next weekend. 🙂
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU VISIT:
- Keep expectations in check – it won’t taste like Kudu, Hammeediyah, Line Clear ok?
- SELF SERVICE – Understand that she’s alone with some volunteers helping out so if you have to serve yourself (with her permission unless you want to ‘kena F**’), just do so.
- Do not abuse her hospitality – as you can see from the prices these are pretty reasonable numbers for the ingredients, portion and taste. The brinjal, rice and ladyfingers are FREE. So is her coffee. Try to leave some for others ok?
- Be honest – she doesn’t have time to calculate the price for every plate immediately after her patrons filled their plates. Usually she will come by much later and ask you what you had. You can take a picture of your plate (before eating) so you can show her when she comes by or just list out what you took (dish + quantity) honestly. Pay for what you eat.
- Don’t linger. Eat and go. There are limited seatings so do give your seat to new customers.
- Clearing of plates – don’t worry. Her helpers will do so, but if you wish to help, ask first. Do not simply step into her kitchen.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST – the 4th Nov Malaysia Insider’s article had bought a new wave of interest to Rogayah’s nasi kandar so you can either (1) start queuing at 6:30 am, (2) tapau if there are no seats or (3) wait until the curiosity had slowed down before you visit.
Rogayah promised and planned to increase production for future Sundays but she is limited by manpower.
As she had said – “I need to take care of my health too.” However, she will try her best to cater to the current demand.
Though she cooks weekly for dine-in, Rogayah accepts catering bookings so you can contact her as below. Besides nasi kandar, you can order her biryani and nasi tomato.
ADDRESS & CONTACT:
24, Jalan USJ 11/1b, USJ 11, 47620 Subang Jaya, Selangor
CALL: 016-346 2723
TIME: ONLY SUNDAYS. 6:30 am – sold out (usually 8 am)
WAZE: “Gai Ali Nasi Kandar ”
PARKING: Please park on the main road (not on Jalan USJ 11/1b itself). DO NOT block the neighbours’ gates/entrances to their homes.