The other day, my girl said she was going to cook some nasi Arab. Well, I did not get my hopes up too high as I do know, for a fact, that it is not something easy to manage especially for someone who has never done it before.

I had some disappointing ones

…at a number of shops and so far, there was a good one here

…but it did not last very long and this one was good too but it was complimentary, not on the menu.

Ever so often, they call what they dish out nasi Arab or nasi biryani interchangeably and they even look similar…

…but based on the names alone, the former should be something from the Arabian countries while the latter is supposed to come from India.

I went and googled and found something called the kabsa, a rice dish that is enjoyed throughout the Gulf States of the Arabian Peninsula. Heavily influenced by Persian and Indian biryanis, the kabsa makes use of the water that is used to cook fish or meat and re-using it to cook the spiced, long-grain rice in it, perfectly blending all the flavours and spices. Aha!!! There is that Indian biryani influence after all so there should be some kind of similarity between the two.

My girl got down to work and work did seem like an understatement – it sure looked like there were a whole lot of things to do but she plodded on and on and on until finally, it was done…

For one thing, it was quite colourless but what it lacked in appearance, it sure made up for it in terms of flavours and fragrances.

I tried the rice – I could detect all the spices that had gone into the cooking. That reminded me of the biryani rice that the Indian chef at Payung gave me once. with “the overwhelming fragrances of the exotic spices used in the cooking“. His, however, was yellow in colour, the same as the very nice ones here, probably with the use of kunyit or turmeric (powder).

Peter, the boss of Payung, went to India, last year or was it the year before, before the pandemic outbreak and he said that he loved the biryani rice there. However, according to him, theirs was colourless, the meat was cooked in the rice but it was bursting with the flavours of the spices and the taste was simply out of this world – it was so very nice that he had to have it every meal the whole time he was in Delhi.

Personally, I felt that my girl’s nasi Arab that day…

…fit Peter’s description of the biryani rice he had in India but she did not add any seasoning – no salt, no msg so it was not salty. I could only detect the fragrances of the spices and the sweetness of the chicken used in the cooking. Personally, I wouldn’t mind it a little bit salty with the addition of a bit of chicken stock or the use of those chicken stock cubes or granules.

I was thinking that if she had a bit of the acar timun (cucumber pickle) by the side like the one in the photographs above, that would be very nice but no, nobody wanted the ayam berlada

…that the mum cooked. That would probably drown out all the subtle tastes and flavours in the nasi Arab so in the end, we left it untouched and saved it for another day.