I’m impressed…

Peter, the proprietor of Payung Cafe

Payung Cafe decor

…read my recent post lamenting about how I just could not seem to find some decently-good nasi lemak here in this little town so he gave me a call and invited me over to try his. He added that I could bring a few others along so my missus came with me…and I also asked Philip who is currently home from the US, my old friend and ex-classmate, Robert and also my very young friend and ex-student, Alex, to join us.

I don’t know about the rest but on my part, I certainly was not expecting much – I thought perhaps Peter would serve us a plate each of his nasi lemak and that would be it but when this…

Payung ulam

…was brought to our table, we were all stunned, speechless!  There was an assortment of raw stuff in that huge rattan tray of ulams with three different types of sambals. The red one to the extreme left was a special sambal with tomato in it and the one furthest away was our usual local sambal…while the light-coloured one was, in fact, a recipe from Myanmar. I enjoyed all of them but my missus loved the Myanmar sambal most of all as it was hotter than the rest.

The presentation was breathtakingly beautiful…

Ulam presentation

…and look at what was in the oval bowl…

Jantung pisang

jantung pisang, literally translated as banana heart, our local name for the banana flower. I’ve always known that it was edible but this was the first time trying it myself…and I loved it! It went absolutely well with any of the sambals and in fact, all of us enjoyed everything that came in that tray.

We didn’t eat the flowers though – they looked too good to be eaten but we did get the petals in my favourite Payung rojak

Payung rojak

…and that was the first time my three friends tried eating the buah kedondong (umbra) leaves that came in it and they were amazed as to how good they were.

And talking about the fruit, we were served the drink…

Kedondong drink

…to go with the dinner, ice cold and absolutely perfect for the warm weather we’ve been experiencing lately. Initially, we thought that was durian Belanda or soursop as it did not look as green like the rest that we had had before – it turned out that they removed the skin before blending and that was why it did not have that green and siap-siap taste that I do not quite fancy. This was just perfect!

Now, on to the main business of the evening – the nasi lemak

Payung nasi lemak 1

It was served with the very delicious Payung otak-otak and a bit of omelette by the side. As always, the otak-otak was oozing with its exquisite flavours so much so that it would be great even if we were to have it with plain rice.

The nasi lemak..

Payung nasi lemak 2

…was very good, not quite as lemak (rich with coconut milk) as I would like it to be but a lot more lemak than all the rest. I could detect the fragrance of the santan in it and I was pretty sure that there was something else though I could not put my finger on it. There were some light hints of the fragrances of some other ingredients which certainly drew the line between this and all the rest – it was special in its own subtle ways.

Everybody loved Peter’s special beef soup too…

Beef soup

– there was a bit of santan in this as well and in each bowl, there was a piece of lengkuas (galangal) but don’t ask me what else went into it to make it so deliciously flavourful – any chef would surely not reveal all his trade secrets, we all know that only too well.

We were also served his special paku masak lemak (jungle fern cooked with coconut milk)…

Paku with santan

…that I had had a few times before and loved a lot but unfortunately, it is not on their regular menu.

Peter even went through the trouble of creating this special dessert for us – fresh banana spring rolls with vanilla ice cream…


…and like all their superb desserts, this one was very good too.

At the start of the dinner, we were given a basket of this fruit – in Melanau, we call it bua’ alung

Bua' alung

…and this is one fruit that I have not seen for a long time, so much so that I was thinking it had already gone extinct. I never liked this sour fruit so when I was younger, I would help my mum to get rid of the inside so she could dry the skin…and use it to cook her masak kunyit – this would give the soup its sourish taste, something like asam keping but needless this say, this is nicer. The rest of them did try and they actually liked it – they said it was something like manggis (mangosteen).

That certainly was an awesome and truly delightful evening for all of us…but the sad thing is that other than the otak-otak and rojak, everything else is not available on their regular menu. Perhaps they can consider having a special package, something similar to this, upon request. It would be nice, for example, when one has a small group of friends coming to town, to host such a gathering, enjoying the unique delights they have in store…or perhaps, they can put up their nasi lemak or the ulam as a once-a-week special – on Fridays or during weekends perhaps.

We were there till quite late that night – enjoying all that we were served and chatting away, basking  in the unmistakable ambiance of the surroundings that is uniquely Payung! It certainly was a special dinner…right down to the colourful sarong tablecloth used exclusively for our table alone.

Thank you so very much, Peter, for that superb treat. Words cannot describe how much my missus and I and all my friends enjoyed the scrumptious dinner you had prepared for us and I would state in no uncertain terms that we were truly very very impressed by it all.