Ilham Nasi Kukus
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This famous corner lot next to a mosque is old news for nasi kukus fiends. Here’s proof: a thriving Facebook fan page (with nearly 19k fans), ‘panjang gila’ lunchtime queues, and approximately 30,000 packets that get sold every month. But is it a stretch to declare Ilham the best nasi kukus joint in town?
It’s my luck that when I visit this time, Ilham is having a bad day. The common ethos I’m used to at Ilham is: Rice is individually steamed on order (can you really have nasi kukus any other way?) and ayam goreng rempah is freshly strained off the sizzling oil. But this time, I suspect they had a large catering order cancelled because I’m chucked a pre-packed brown packet exposing a cold chicken leg, bound with a rubber band.
Expectedly, the rice is lumpy and the chicken is soggy. But in my eyes, Ilham hasn’t sinned yet. I devotedly wait for the pre-packaged rice to run out, just about when the cook fires up the wok for a fresh batch of chicken. After an extra 20 minutes in line, the poultry shines – the crispy, not-too-thick skin is fragrant with spice and the flesh is moist and balmy. The rice also improves when prepared on order, but doesn’t come close to the feathery-yet-firm texture achieved by its greatest competitor, Nasi Kukus Farni.
The variable in a study of most nasi kukus in KL is the side of kuah kari – and Ilham pulls off a mean version. Thick and sweet, it’s made from a blend of three curries: fish curry, a mild Kelantanese gulai darat and kerutuk daging (an eastern kuah made of asam gelugor, coconut meat, gula Melaka and a load of spices). Curry mixed into rice, threads of warm chicken, a side of ripe pineapple and a crushing of keropok ikan – it’s all as comforting as the fact that nasi kukus is a thing that exists.