BY JAFWAN JAAFAR of FREE MALAYSIA TODAY

Mouthwatering, real McCoy Javanese cuisine isn’t necessarily an Indonesia-bound plane ride away – if you’re a captive of the Klang Valley, a rusty bicycle or cooperative water buffalo is all you need to get you to a gastronomic wormhole in Shah Alam which leads directly to a Javanese hawker cuisine holy site: Restoran Pecal Lele Padang Jawa.

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       The Venue

The nourishing bosom of the unapologetically rural, jungle-enclosed Javanese enclave of Kampung Padang Jawa (where else?), Restoran Pecal Lele is a sprawling, al fresco (but covered) eatery masquerading as a food court. In spite of its paunchy, plus-sized proportions and edge-of-the-earth boondocks location, the 24/7-operating establishment is perpetually crammed with patrons, comprising a riot of sated Padang Jawa folks, students from nearby UiTM and busybody outsiders wanting in on the great grub. In spite of its hawker stall guise, Restoran Pecal Lele is well-appointed, clean, well-organised, airy and comfortable, with a snazzy, fastfood chain-style front counter manned by rows of cashiers haloed by overhead blazing lightbox menu displays. But how the eatery lassoes diners from far and wide is through its now-acclaimed palatable, shockingly-authentic, expertly-prepared and alarmingly affordable Javanese fare.

The Place

        The Place

A Krakatoa eruption of old Javanese gastronomic standards (which began showering the local dining scene relatively recently), Restoran Pecal Lele overflows with vaguely familiar, but still ticklingly-exotic offerings. Dishes that orbit rice include the restaurant’s bling-blinged namesake, Pecal Lele (RM5.50); the ‘flat-out’ superstar, Ayam Penyet (RM4.50); Pecal Bebola (RM5); and Pecal Daging (RM5). Culinary sidekicks include Ayam Bergedil, Nangka and Pucuk Ubi (all RM0.50); 2 Bebola (RM1) and the world-renowned, paparazzi-pursued Tempe (RM1.50). Soup or gravy-oriented meals include Mie Ayam, Soto, Bakso and Gado-gado (all RM3.50 – not a typo, folks!).

Before grandly taking their seats, patrons collect their own rice and complimentary chicken soup, and within 5 to 10 minutes, their chosen main dishes arrive in a stately delegation. First up for Java-compliant me was the perpetually-spotlighted Pecal Lele, which (for the gastronomic barbarians out there) comprises deep-fried catfish, a slab of Tempeh, slices of cucumber, and the fatally-fundamental Sambal Terasi (a stellar, fiery concoction of dried shrimp paste, bird’s-eye chilies, tomatoes, shallots, garlic and palm sugar). The cat fish was scandalously-crunchy, yet succulent, tender and deeply flavourful; while the apocalyptically pungent Sambal Terasi, which was face-scrunchingly tangy, was essentially Malaysian sambal on steroids, Tongkat Ali and Viagra. The combination of fish, sambal, Tempe and rice was epic (though the pong of the Sambal Terasi stalked me for days).

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Next up was the Ayam Penyet, featuring a brutally-smashed portion of fried chicken (a violent, S&M method of preparation I’ve always looked askance at), and a chili dip similar to Sambal Terasi, but with the added unpinned grenades of anchovies, tamarind and lime juice. The chicken (tenderized gangsta-style), came off in strips and strings, and was surprisingly succulent and delightful; while the sambal was another zesty, molten steel slam-dunk.

My third degree-burnt palate capped its Javanese affair by getting intimate with Bebola – essentially, deep-fried meatballs which, strangely enough, tasted not unlike our Keropok Lekor. They were light, tender and tasty, and could be ravished all on their own (and ravish them I did).

Restoran Pecal Lele Padang Jawa
Lot 617 Jalan Berangan,
Kampung Padang Jawa, Shah Alam
Hours: 24 hours a day (Closes for a few hours during Muslim Friday noon prayers)
Tel: 019 206 8920
Web: Restoran Pecel Lele Facebook page

*Based on an article published by über blogger, food devotee and serial country-hopper KY in the online institution www.kyspeaks.com. Images are courtesy of kyspeaks.com.