When I get totally bushed, as I sometimes do (while working on clients’ projects simultaneously), I crave for some out of routine thing to do.
It could be just getting out and wandering aimlessly. It could be suddenly developing a craving for nasi kandar.
Which reminds me, I met up with two lovely people two weeks back – Ling Suan and her husband, Dr Leong who had driven up to Penang for a short break.
For many of you, does the name Tan Ling Suan ring a bell? She used to write regularly for The Star and she still writes, but she now spends most time writing children’s books. (You can find these phonics books and more in most bookstores, published by Arowana Publishing House.)
I’ve known her for years now – maybe 5 or 6 years – and she used to live in Sungai Petani when her husband was working at the Strand Hospital. One of the best things about Ling Suan is that she’s always cheerful and optimistic, and possesses a young heart despite having children and grandchildren!
Often curious, open-minded and tranquil, Ling Suan is someone I aspire to be like when I get to her age. Dr Leong is very kind – he’s probably the kind of doctor you’d want to visit if you are sick. His friendly demeanour makes you feel better right away.
We agreed to meet up for some supper at Kassim Mustafa, Penang Street. Ling Suan has a good memory – she reminded me that Nic raved about some 2am duck curry in Georgetown many years ago. Could we meet and try the duck curry together?
So we decided to meet up at Kassim Mustafa at 1am, because the duck curry only makes its appearance at 2am (for the late, late night crowd’s supper). I’m not a late night person and staying beyond 1am is not my kind of thing.
But never mind, it’s for Ling Suan and Dr Leong.
When we arrived at 1am, the corner shop was packed. People were lining up for the curries. We asked for the duck curry but the waiter told us apologetically that it was all sold out. So we settled for some chicken curry and naan. And we had a good night, talking and catching up so much so that we left Kassim Mustafa’s around 3am!
We found out from the waiter that the duck curry now appears earlier – from 9pm onwards. But on Saturday nights only.
I kept asking why it makes a once-a-week appearance because it was a highly popular dish (going by the lines of people and the takeaways, or tar pau). Why not make it more often? Again I asked. I was not satisfied that I did not get my duck curry despite staying up late.
“Oh, the curry is very expensive to cook… must do the rempah and all,” the waiter said, complete with shaking head and hand gestures.
And two days ago, I finally managed to get my duck curry. Aaah, my ducky trail has ended. I finally got to taste it. Make no mistake, this dish is well-known among regular patrons. You won’t even find it on their menu! It’s THAT top secret. It sells out very fast too.
We arrived about 10pm and already packets of nasi minyak and duck curry were being tar-paued quickly.
We ordered the duck curry (a huge slab of duck thigh swimming in the most yummy curry gravy – RM6), some turmeric-infused stirfried cabbage (almost wilted, that’s the only thing I dislike about these nasi kandar places – RM1) and some beef curry (not bad but had a bit of a beefy smell, RM2) to go with our fragrant nasi minyak (RM1 x 2). And of course, don’t forget the scoops of spicy, sourish kerisik which really goes well with the duck and the nasi minyak.
This place sells a mean Ayam Negreo too or what I call ayam diesel… the chicken pieces sit in sauce so black it could only be diesel! LOL. Joke aside, it’s not too bad but take the duck. Nic has eaten here years ago and he says the duck back then was more tender. The huge pots and pots of curries come out of the kitchen all night. Imagine how many people eat in and take away, if going by the size of the pots.
Kassim Mustafa’s is a warm nasi kandar joint; either that, or the curries were hot. We both started sweating profusely as we gobbled our rice. Some half an hour later, we were absolutely sated, stuffed with duck and beef, and sat sipping our teas with relish.
Here’s a bit of history about this duck curry – a must-try if you are in Penang – the first generation owner of Kassim Mustafa’s started selling his duck curry from a small, nondescript shop opposite its current premises. Over the years, he grew wealthier and expanded business into the current shop lots. I suppose for nostalgia’s sake they still sell the duck curry, although now only once a week, on a Saturday night. I’m not sure if they have it in their other branches of Kassim Mustafa (there’s a branch at Bayan Baru).
But good marketing too – make something so good and so scarce that people from far and wide just have to have a taste of this dish!