KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — If you are craving for an excellent plate of mee goreng, seek out Navvirusaleem bin Ibrahim (Saleem)’s stall in Lucky Gardens, Bangsar. It’s a well-kept secret by his long-time regulars — Bangsar residents, workers from the nearby RTM, Tenaga Nasional Berhad headquarters and the list goes on.
The 62-year-old insists on frying each plate, himself. And he nails it every time. Each plate with its yellow wheat noodles, crunchy prawn fritters, beancurd and soft boiled potatoes, sprinkled with crunchy cut green chillies and fresh cilantro leaves, makes a perfect one-dish meal.
It’s messy. Not Instagram-worthy. But oh, so satisfying!
The secret lies in the chilli sauce. Every week, he cooks up a big batch. A laborious effort — taking two to three hours to slowly cook it down to its deliciousness. In his wok, you will find a mixture of cili boh and his special ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, garlic and ginger.
He also adds tiny dried prawns that gives it extra oomph! Saleem insists on using the higher grade cili boh for a better taste. The cheaper, lower grade ones, are often bulked up with corn, wheat and even papaya. This gives a lacklustre chilli taste to your food. “If you give better quality, the results are better. I want my customers to be satisfied with what they pay,” he explained.
If you don’t state your preference, he fries up the noodles, not too wet or dry -- just perfect for your first time here. You can also tune your mee goreng to your tastebuds, and he’ll oblige.
For the drier version, it’s less sauce. A generous sprinkle of chilli powder gives it that fiery taste and a drier texture. And noodle preferences can also be tweaked, since they also offer kuey teow and Maggi mee.
Other goodies to look for in this stall which started back in 1979 include their mee rebus. The boiled noodles are often labelled as the constant companion to mee goreng since the dish uses almost the same ingredients — prawn fritters and kuih kelapa.
Unlike other stalls, the broth for their mee rebus is creamy; redolent of groundnuts, potatoes and prawns. You will find their homemade crunchy prawn fritters and also the kuih kelapa — soft, floury fritters filled with freshly grated coconut, bean sprouts and onions very yummy. Also enjoy their rojak that is served with a lighter tasting sauce, grated yam bean and cucumber.
We also discovered by accident, the nasi biryani, served on Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s simple fare — rice cooked with spices served with a colourful, crunchy acar.
There’s chicken, fish and even mutton. Usually, it’s a plain rice paired with his mutton curry with a spicy, thick taste that fires up your tastebuds. A longtime customer Shah tells us that it’s a regular order from him.
He had discovered this stall after his boss, who used to stay in Bangsar, introduced him to its delights. He recommends another winner from Saleem: nasi minyak bawang.
You’ll be surprised that Saleem picked up his cooking skills via an unusual route. As a young boy, he had moved from Penang to Sungai Petani to stay with his grandparents who owned a restaurant.
They also owned a stationery and magazine store, which was a major distributor in central Kedah for certain publications. He tells us that his grandparents barred him from the kitchen, hoping that he would look elsewhere for a profession.
He started cooking after his LCE exams, as there was nobody around to cook. “I learned how to cook by listening to people... what they say, the method of it and applying that,” he said. The intuitive cook experimented in the kitchen, whipping up dishes that got the thumbs up from everyone.
After school, he moved to Kuala Lumpur to seek his fortune, ending up in Jalan Pekeliling where he worked in a sundry shop. In 1979, he joined hands with his uncle who owned a teh tarik stall here, to open his own place.
Till today, that partnership continues, as next to his stall, his uncle’s family serves up freshly-made roti. From day one, he has been serving mee goreng, adding mee rebus, rojak and other cooked dishes later on. Nowadays, he is grooming his youngest son to take over the business and his place behind the stove.
As you wait for your food, you’ll notice how confusing it is to pinpoint what this stall is actually called. One signboard says Saleem, the bamboo blinds say Salim and there’s even a newer sign proclaiming it’s called Navvir Catering.
According to Saleem, when he went to register his business Salim, he was rejected, hence he had to name it Navvir instead. In the old days, it was even called Salem, with a sign similar to the cigarette brand. Since the cigarette company objected to the likeness, he had to change it to Salim.
No matter what its name, one thing is for sure — I will be back for that mee goreng!
Saleem’s Stall/Navvir Caterers
Lot 223/4, Lorong Ara Kiri Tiga, Lucky Gardens, Bangsar, KL
Open: 7am to 4pm
Closed on Sunday
Directions: The stall is located opposite the left hand side of AA Pharmacy and further down from the fruit stall at the corner. Look for the red coloured bamboo blinds sprayed with the Salim name in blue colour.