There’s a dearth of good Nyonya food outlets around town as many of these serve sad, pale versions of the cuisine. Blame that on commercialization or just a lack of skills – as far as I know, Nyonya cuisine involves a lot of tedious preparation, not to mention the difficulties in sourcing some of the ingredients, if authenticity is a priority. Ask any fastidious nyonya chef and you’ll be told that everything must be original and prepared by hand – kitchen machines have no place in a true blue nyonya kitchen.
Limapulo in Jalan Doraisamy evokes a sense of immense nostalgia, creating an ambience that’s reminiscent of the Straits Nyonya decades ago. Every article, ornament and furniture is dated back to years gone by.
Chef Tan Kim Chye or better known as Uncle John oversees the kitchen in Limapulo. In fact, most of the recipes for the food served here are closely guarded secrets handed down by his mother. Take his Nyonya Laksa, for example. The demanding process in its preparation has limited it to being served only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The thick aromatic broth of the laksa is enough to activate the salivary glands. That bright orange hue is from the past of chillies, shallots, galangal, turmeric, candlenuts, lemongrass and some other secret ingredients, simmered till fragrant in coconut milk. At RM9.90 a bowl, it’s money well spent for this bowl of exceedingly heart and tummy warming noodles. It seems many agree with this and that’s why Limapulo’s Nyonya Laksa bagged the “Best Curry Laksa” award in the Star Food Awards in March this year.
Appetizers like Nyonya Pie Tee (RM10 for 4 pieces) and Cucur Udang (RM9.90) do well to get a meal started here. I particularly enjoy the cucur as not only fried prawn fritters are served, there are also pieces of fried tempe, fishcake, tofu and boiled egg in the serving with chunks of cucumber, pineapples and jicama as well. It pretty much looks like a plate of pasembor to me!
For a full fledged Nyonya meal here, opt for dishes like Sambal Terung (sambal brinjals) (RM15), Bendi Kukus (steamed ladies fingers/okra)(RM15), Gerang Assam Fish (RM25), Pineapple Prawns Curry (market price) and Ayam Berempah (chicken in spices) (RM17). The flavours of the various spices and shrimp paste are strong and cut across the tastebuds in bold strokes and in some cases, overlap each other. For example, I feel the tastes of the prawns curry and chicken berempah are rather similar.
My favourite is the spicy Gerang Assam Fish with its tangy twist. It’s a dish you’d love to douse a mountain of rice with as the gravy is just so addictive. Oh, you’d eat twice the amount of rice if you pitch in their Pajeri Mangga (pickled spicy mangoes) (RM2 per piece). The spicy pickled mangoes are like little bundles of sour fiery dynamite which explode and engulf the palate.
On days when you don’t fancy a full meal with several dishes, you can opt for a one-dish meal like their Nasi Lemak. At RM9.90 a plate, hunger pangs are easily satiated as the nasi lemak is served with a bowl of nyonya curry chicken.
Limapulo does serve some decent Nyonya fares with Uncle John presiding over the kitchen there and ensuring his family recipes are strictly complied with. With someone as passionate as this 73-year-old chef helming the kitchen, Limapulo is in good hands.
26 Jalan Doraisamy
50300 Kuala Lumpur
(beside Sheraton Imperial KL, along the Asian Heritage Row)
Opens: 12.00pm-3.00pm, 6.00pm-10.00pm (Mon-Sat)
Closed on Sunday