In­tro­duc­ing Malaysian fare to Marik­ina

Au­then­tic Malaysian fare adds color to the grow­ing restau­rant scene in Manila


Stand­ing along the long stretch of J.P. Rizal, Pap­paRam Malaysian Kitchen is a non­de­script es­tab­lish­ment. If you are not at­ten­tive enough, you might miss the restau­rant. In­side, how­ever, it has a max­i­mal­ist ap­peal, the walls adorned with lit­tle ob­jects from Malaysia: a por­trait of the coun­try’s fa­ther of in­de­pen­dence Tunku Ab­dul Rah­man, Malaysian stamps, and a photo of the pop­u­lar Fed­eral Court of Malaysia.

A brain­child of chef Ramzu Nasri, Pap­paRam started in Novem­ber 2015 in Pasig as a small home-based busi­ness. Back then, Nasri would just cook and sim­ply give the food away to his neigh­bors. Early this year, Nasri and his wife Mar­i­anne de­cided to op­er­ate in Marik­ina.

Malaysia is 1,477 miles away from the Philip­pines, but Nasri sug­gests that Malaysian cui­sine is not too dif­fer­ent from Filipino cui­sine. “You use a lot of co­conut milk, we use a lot of co­conut milk, too,” he il­lus­trates. In fact, he al­ready finds al­most 80 per­cent of the spices he needs here. The rest are im­ported from Malaysia.

Nasri presents a se­ries of dishes akin to Filipino fa­vorites as well. The Mee Jawa Spe­cial is an egg noo­dle dish swim­ming in gravy made of sweet pota­toes. It re­sem­bles pancit pal­abok, and while on the sweeter side, it is not cloy­ing. He also presents Malaysian-style inasal, which, un­like the usual inasal, has the chicken mar­i­nat­ing in 15 dif­fer­ent spices overnight be­fore hit­ting the grill. The re­sult is meat that is a bit dry out­side, but ten­der and sa­vory in­side.

The Roti Boom, on the other hand, is a sweet of­fer­ing de­rived from Malaysian cui­sine’s In­dian in­flu­ences. It’s a chewy, but­ter-filled flat bread served hot and meant to be dipped in vanilla ice cream. The bread is a re­minder of me­rienda fa­vorite en­say­mada.

Nasri re­calls grow­ing up in Malaysia amid an abun­dance of hawker stalls that serve his fa­vorite dish Nasi Le­mak, con­sid­ered their na­tional dish. Cu­cum­bers, peanuts, an­chovies, sam­bal, and chicken sur­round an im­mac­u­late mound of rice cooked in co­conut milk. As it is at the cen­ter of the plate, the rice is truly the star of this dish. It’s sticky and sweet, sim­i­lar to our suman. For Nasri, the goal is to bring that sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence to Manila through Pap­paRam.

Although Nasri caters to dif­fer­ent din­ers now, he doesn’t want to change the recipes just to ap­peal to the lo­cal palate. “When cus­tomers come in, I want them to ex­pe­ri­ence real Malaysian cui­sine,” he says. “My phi­los­o­phy is that we can­not do fu­sion. This is part of our his­tory and it should be passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion.”

My phi­los­o­phy is that we can­not do fu­sion. This is part of our his­tory and it should be passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion.”

Pap­paRam’s Curry Power Laksa is the Malay laksa known as Ny­onya laksa. It’s in­fused with spiced co­conut milk.

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