Nasi kaku: Tantalising curry rice ‘behind bars’

Nasi kaku: Tantalising curry rice ‘behind bars’
Customers dine at the Nasi Kaku restaurant in Ipoh. ― Pictures by Marcus Pheong

IPOH, Aug 18 ― Ever wonder how it is like to dine in a prison?

Well, you don’t have to commit a crime to experience that courtesy of the Nasi Kaku restaurant in Ipoh.

It provides a somewhat similar prison atmosphere, as you will be eating “behind bars”.

But, this is no prison loaf food as you are served mouth-watering curry rice with boiled egg, fried anchovies, and stir fried long beans, with a choice of fried chicken, fish, squid or prawn.

A man prepares packets of Nasi Kaku at his restaurant in Ipoh.
A man prepares packets of Nasi Kaku at his restaurant in Ipoh.

Located in Taman Kencana, Bercham, the restaurant is the franchise of the famous Nasi Kaku in Jalan Penjara Lama, Alor Setar, Kedah.

The owner of this restaurant Jacky Loh Eng Han, 32, said the word “kaku” means “prison” in the Hokkien dialect.

“The founder of the dish decided to name it as Nasi Kaku (prison rice) as the restaurant was in Jalan Penjara Lama in Alor Setar,” he told Malay Mail.

Since nasi kaku simply means “prison rice”, the owner wanted to have the shop with a prison inspired decor.

Food is served at a counter with bars on it while the grill at the entrance is half closed.

Rice with a piece of chicken drumstick will cost RM7.
Rice with a piece of chicken drumstick will cost RM7.

He said the decor would attract customers as they are attracted to unique food places.

It was also to distinguish it from others and even the original in Alor Setar doesn’t have the interior look.

Loh said the restaurant only sells nasi kaku, but added there a few types to choose from.

Rice with a piece of chicken wing or mackerel costs RM6, while rice with a piece of chicken drumstick or squid will cost RM7.

Rice with prawn is at RM8.

“The fastest selling is rice with chicken drumstick. Customers love it and that’s my favourite too,” added Loh.

The restaurant sells about 500 to 600 packets of rice per day.

“We start our business at 9am and will close at 3pm. However, the rice usually finishes by 1pm,” said Loh.

He said the restaurant in Bercham also serves as the central kitchen as they distribute the dish to other restaurants and stalls around Ipoh.

“We have dine in customers and supply to other restaurants and stalls. At the moment, we send food to six restaurants and stalls.

“This is a new concept as the food will be cooked and packed with papers. We don’t sell the dish separately,” he said.

Loh said they get the ingredients of the dish from the main branch in Alor Setar.

“Initially, we decided to have the Nasi Kaku delivered to Ipoh from Alor Setar. However, the owner told us it will affect taste and quality control.

“So we decided to get the ingredients from them and cook the food here daily. The cooks here are also trained by the people at the original outlet,” he said.

Loh said cooking and preparation work start at 3am everyday.

“We have about six cooks and helpers in the kitchen. The cooking process starts at 3am and the packaging will be done at 5am.

“The food will be packed while it is hot so it is still warm when customers have it a few hours later.”

Loh also said he is planning to distribute the dish to other districts and towns such as Kampar, Sitiawan and Teluk Intan.

Loh, who opened the restaurant two weeks ago, said the response from customers was overwhelming since the first day of opening.

Customer Jet Wong, 20, said he got to know about the restaurant via Facebook.

“Lots of my friends shared about the food in Facebook, so I decided to give a try as well.

“The food is nice, especially the special curry which they make. It goes well with the rice,” he said.

Another customer, Vivian Yap, 20, said the price of the dish is affordable.

“All the dishes served at here are below RM10 and the taste of the food is also superb.

“The chicken is evenly cooked and the curry is not really spicy,” she said.

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