Over the past two months, I tried my best to explore the expansive culinary scene of Seattle. It was not always easy—I obsessively scoured the internet for the best restaurants, saved stipend money by skipping other meals and took hours of public transportation all around the city. Here, I write about one of the many meals that made my efforts worthwhile.
The first thing I noticed about Kedai Makan was its smell—a strong synthesis of spices, shallots and sambal. The second was the wait time. My friends and I were initially taken aback by the two hour queue, but we buckled down and committed to the wait. This was, of course, the right choice.
We started our meal with an order of fried shrimp chips. Light and crunchy, the chips were perfectly complemented by the accompanying sambal mayo—the leftovers of which we saved for later. Next came the roti babi, an egg-dipped flatbread stuffed with pork and mushroom and spiced with coriander, galangal and nutmeg. Shared amongst three people, the roti was consumed happily and quickly. The kitchen moved at a similarly feverish pace—almost immediately following our demolition of the chips and roti, we were served our entrees: the mushroom pan mee, nasi goreng kambing and ayam goreng merah mamak. The pan mee was served in a bowl, with the ingredients mostly separated. After mixing the noodles with a soft-poached egg, shiitake and crimini mushrooms, soy sauce, scallions, sesame oil, and fried shallots, we dug in. The savory amalgamation of flavors was robust and excitingly unfamiliar. I particularly enjoyed the hand-pulled chewiness of the noodles and the pungent warmth of the mushrooms.
While all the dishes at this point were delicious, the main events of the evening had yet to arrive. The first headliner was the nasi goreng kambing, which I can confidently say is the best fried rice I’ve ever had. After nearly two decades of enjoying different variations of fried rice, I did not anticipate being blown away by this dish. Fortunately, I was wrong. The rice was fried with lamb, curry powder, kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce), shallots, sprouts, long green beans and topped with a runny fried egg. I could taste every one of these ingredients—and while tasty in their own rights, it was their combined effect that proved to be the difference maker for me. Like another all-time favorite of mine—the Wu-Tang Clan—each member heightened the overall excellence of the group by offering a strong individual flavor. Some of these flavors or combinations of flavors were novel to me, which I found to be a welcome change of pace from my usual expectation of fried rice. Every bite featured different textures and tastes, resulting in a dish that was complex yet comforting.
Our final entree—the ayam goreng merah mamak—was the exclamation mark on an already sublime meal. Fried chicken is almost always good, but this rendition was special. Tossed in spices and curry leaf, the chicken was smothered with tomato gravy and coconut sambal. While the fried chicken was delectable on its own, the dish was completed by okra, cucumber and jasmine rice. The rice, especially, became a highlight in itself after being doused in the excess gravy and sambal. This dish was once again a familiar favorite—fried chicken—remixed with unfamiliar ingredients and flavors. The portion was also generous, which is always a plus in my book.
Kedai Makan left me with a full belly and a newfound interest in Malaysian cuisine. I was glad I had waited for two hours just to get into the restaurant—so glad, in fact, that I did it all again just a couple weeks later.