KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — When it is Hari Raya, it has been a tradition of mine to head to Ulu Kelang and grab my lemang from the stalls that open there.
I reckon this year it'll be different and easier. Instead, I'll be ordering my lemang via WhatsApp from the famous Lemang Daun Lerek Greenwood stall in Gombak. Started about 20 years ago, the place is run by Ariffin Zakaria and his wife, Zainab Rais.
I discovered the place via a friend who had received the lemang as part of a gift care package. A quick click to their Instagram page later, I managed to get their number for my order.
It is best to order ahead as they limit the orders per day. For me, that took a day in advance.
You just need to place your order on WhatsApp and pay via online bank transfer. Delivery can be arranged at your own expense.
They cover a wide area up to far flung places like Shah Alam, Putrajaya, Bangi, Sepang and KLIA. Depending on the proximity of your home, charges range from RM7 to RM50.
You get a choice of three sizes of lemang from small (RM16), medium (RM18) to large (RM20).
Once you choose the size of your lemang, order what you like to pair with the glutinous rice.
There's chicken rendang for RM5 and beef rendang for RM10, packed in a 300 milliliters plastic container. For the chicken rendang, you get two pieces inside. The beef rendang is pretty substantial with quite a few thick cut beef cubes.
As I love serunding with my lemang, I also ordered it. The stall offers a choice of beef or chicken serunding, which is RM16.
There is also a selection of salai (grilled) dishes, cooked in masak lemak Negeri Sembilan style, with creamy coconut milk tinged yellow from turmeric.
You get a choice of ikan keli salai (grilled catfish), daging salai (grilled beef), udang peria (prawns and bittergourd) and jering (dogfruit). I ordered the classic daging salai for RM8
There is also rendang ayam with kacang panjang (long beans), burung puyuh salai (grilled quail) with daun puding and itik salai (grilled duck) with daun puding.
I zoomed in straight for the daun puding dishes as it's unique to Negeri Sembilan and I've never tasted any dish cooked with those leaves.
Unsure which dish is nicer, I asked for a recommendation and they advised the burung puyuh salai is must-order, so a portion for RM7 was ordered.
What's exceptional about their lemang is how it is prepared compared to other places. The method makes a huge difference in terms of the texture of the lemang. If you're curious, head to YouTube to see how the cooking is done.
Unlike other lemang sellers, the rice here is wrapped in a huge, thick daun lerek. Most others use banana leaves to line their bamboo tubes so they need to split it before removing the cooked glutinous rice.
While you can get them to split the bamboo when you buy it, it keeps better within the tube as it doesn't dry out.
Usually you ask them to split the bamboo a little so you can pull it apart at home to extract the rice. It can get a bit complicated if they don't cut the bamboo properly. Believe me, I've struggled many times, trying to remove my lemang.
Here, it's literally like their hashtag #tarikjetakperlubelah, which means "just pull and there is no need to split (the bamboo)." You pull the leaf sticking out from the bamboo and it just slides out. So easy!
When you open up the leaf, you will find the top of the rice is topped with coconut milk curds. The best part is the rice is moist with the rich coconut milk and perfectly cooked.
I've often bought lemang where there's some uncooked parts hence it's always a big worry for me until I cut into it at home.
From the video, the cooking method involves mixing freshly squeezed coconut milk (they grate their own coconuts), pandan juice and soaked glutinous rice together.
The mixture is then poured into the bamboo tubes lined with the daun lerek. It is then cooked over an open fire, tended by their workers.
Even if your lemang is good, it needs to have the perfect accompaniments too. Most times, I buy the rendang made at the stalls and it's dry and slightly chewy.
I like how their rendang comes with lots of sauce since I love drenching my lemang in sauce.
It is thick, creamy and aromatic with the herbs. The chicken and beef are fork tender too. Another plus point is their beef serunding was fragrant and not too dry.
I was most curious about the daun puding dish. From what I read on the Internet, daun puding is usually used as a decorative plant but in Negeri Sembilan, they use it in their cooking as it has a lot of health benefits.
Most importantly I think the leaves add a nice taste to the cooked dish. Eaten on its own, there is a very slight bitterness but it pairs extremely well with the creamy coconut rich dish with the burung puyuh salai or grilled quails.
Absolutely addictive with a plate of rice. However, the daging salai came with a watered down sauce even though the sliced meat was tender. A plus point was the addition of ubi kayu (cassava) leaves too.
It was one of my most satisfying food deliveries. What topped that experience was they even WhatsApped me later to ask how my lemang turned out.
Not many vendors ask for feedback. That small touch definitely made me happy and turned me into a return customer!
Lemang Daun Lerek Greenwood, In front of Masjid Simpang 3, Greenwood, Gombak. Open: 12pm to 7pm. WhatsApp 012-9442741 to order. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lemang-Daun-Lerek-Greenwood-153950655185595/ Instagram: @lemangdaunlerek