Delightful D'Ambang

Signature dish - Nasi Ambeng
With five children – four of them boys – Masitah Mat Jan is used to cooking large portions to feed her family.  During their school-going years, her children often brought friends home for meals and Masitah had plenty of opportunities to exercise her passion for cooking.  Encouraged by the positive feedback on her food, Masitah then opened a stall to sell Nasi Ambeng at the annual Ramadan bazaar.

Some 10 years ago, her husband Zailani Kasmuri started working on a business plan and when the Skudai sub-station of the Singapore Public Utilities Board he worked with ceased operations in August 2011, he opted for retirement to start a food business. 

Zailani and Masitah at D'Ambang restaurant, Senai
Zailani, who is from Pontian, called his family together for a meeting to discuss his plans.  With ideas contributed by each family member, they came up with a business concept that reflects their Johor Javanese heritage and opened D’Ambang restaurant in Senai. 

“I started the family business to bring the children closer together,” said Zailani, pointing out that their daughter, Fazliniza, 26, takes care of the administration while sons, Mohd Ezrul, 24 and Mohd Fadzli, 21, help with restaurant operations and the beverage section.  One other son works in Singapore while the youngest is still studying.  The chief cook, Masitah, is assisted by several kitchen helpers, to cook an extensive menu of Malay specialties served for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper.

Facade of D'Ambang restaurant in Senai

Nasi Ambeng, a typical Javanese meal, is traditionally served on a large tray as a communal meal but you can enjoy a single portion of this signature dish on a plate here.  

It is usually made up of four parts: steamed white rice, a choice of meat – chicken, beef or mutton, sambal goreng (fried and fermented beancurd – tempe, long-beans and vermicelli) and serunding (spicy shredded coconut) and fried noodles.  The serving of nasi ambeng here also includes fried salted fish and a side of spicy sambal belacan.

Appetizing catfish dish - Ikan keli masak chili padi

Customers who discovered D’Ambang have become regulars because after they have tasted one meal, they had to return to savour the specialties served at different times of the day. 

For instance, if you had Roti Canai, Laksa Johor or Lontong Kuah Lodeh (rice cubes in a vegetable stew) for breakfast, you will be tempted to taste the lovely lunch spread of dishes like kupang masak sambal (mussel sambal), ikan assam pedas (hot and spicy fish) and ikan keli masak lemak chili-padi (spicy catfish dish) with steamed white rice.

A serving of Ayam Penyet or "crushed" chicken
with a spicy side of Sambal Belacan

Ayam Penyet paling top!” exclaimed Masitah in Malay, using a colloquial expression to describe the popularity of their freshly deep-fried-crushed-chicken meal that comes with a side of spicy sambal belacan. 

Some of the hot favourites in the dinner menu include spicy mutton ‘gear box’ bone soup and rice porridge sets.  There is an ala carte menu of rice and noodles to order from at any time of day and a variety of drinks and desserts, including ABC – Air Batu Campur, a refreshing heap of flavoured shaved ice!

Daughter, Fazliniza Zailani, serving customers

Kupang or mussel sambal

There is a special charm about the clean and cosy ambience in this family-run restaurant that keeps customers coming back again and again.  Maybe it is because customers can appreciate the beauty of batik that decorates each table-top or simply because Masitah does not use any artificial flavouring in her cooking. 

D’Ambang is also fast gaining popularity among travellers from the North en route to Singapore’s Changi Airport for their Umrah departures because this is an ideal destination for a taste of Johor cuisine. 

During Ramadan month, D’Ambang will be serving their popular daily specials for the breaking of fast and Sahur meals before dawn.  D’Ambang restaurant is located at No. 1769, Jalan Senai Utama 1 / 2, Taman Senai Utama, 81400 Senai, Johor.  For catering and enquiries, Tel: 607 – 5909 424 and 019 – 769 5640.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 13 August 2012

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