Nasi Padang Qin Garden

Façade of Qin Garden Kopitiam along Jalan Trus
If you have ever tasted good Nasi Padang, you will fondly recall the food from Ah Yong Nasi Padang that was synonymous with Nasi Padang in Johor Baru some forty years ago.  Locals can attest to how this legendary restaurant was the preferred place for a meal of steamed rice eaten with a variety of precooked dishes like beef rendang, vegetables and spicy sambal. 

When this restaurant closed, fans of this food were bitterly disappointed but they soon discovered another place for good Nasi Padang at Jalan Trus.

Adam Soroso serves up to 14 dishes in his Nasi Padang stall
Adam Soroso, 45, serves his Nasi Padang from a coffeeshop at Jalan Trus and customers quickly became his regulars as they simply love his food.  Adam who hails from Surabaya, Indonesia, is supported by a team of Indonesian cooks – the same since the first day he started the business about 25 year ago.  

A few months ago, he moved the business and continues to serve his famous Nasi Padang from Qin Garden Kopitiam, just a stone’s throw away from his previous location.

Adam [Left] with Tian Wai Ing [Right]
and her husband, Lim Choon Thang
While Qin Garden Kopitiam, run by Tian Wai Ing, 56, and her husband, Lim Choon Thang, 64, opened about 15 months ago, Adam’s partnership with the Tian family who owns their father’s coffeeshop, goes back almost 20 years. 

When he opened his Nasi Padang stall within their shop, this provided coffeeshop regulars with more meal options for breakfast and lunch.  From 7am, the stall will start serving a breakfast menu that includes local favourites like nasi lemak, mee rebus, mee siam, yong tahu and lontong.

“Customers can also pick a choice of beef rendang or chicken rendang to go with their breakfast meal,” said Adam, pointing to the chunks of beef stewed in spicy coconut milk and chili gravy.  He said that beef rendang, chunks of beef, stewed and simmered until all the flavour is soaked into the meat, is a favourite choice of regulars.  Beef and chicken rendang are also popular picks among the richly flavoured dishes prepared to serve for lunch.

Mussels fried with chili is a popular dish here
While tables in this airy corner coffeeshop may be limited, more seating is available under shady umbrellas in the adjacent footpath.  The affable Adam is a familiar figure in the coffeeshop as he welcomes customers, shows them to tables and even helps to take their drink orders. 

So it is not unusual to see Adam shouting the drinks order to the beverage maker at the rear of the shop in the tradition of old coffeeshops! 

Steamed rice is served on a piece of greaseproof paper placed
in a shallow basket as customers choose their preferred dishes
A range of up to 14 freshly cooked dishes are displayed as a veritable buffet in the Nasi Padang for customers to select their choices.  From as early as 10.30am, customers come in to buy takeaways or to savour their favourite dishes with steamed rice. 

Dining is casual as customers are served a portion of steamed white rice on a sheet of greaseproof paper that is placed in a shallow basket and they help themselves to meat, fish and vegetables from the variety of dishes and pay for what they have picked.

Spicy chili hard-boiled eggs with eggplant
The menu of dishes may vary from day to day but popular items like the beef and chicken rendang, fish curry, fish assam pedas, fried chicken, thick wedges of egg omelet and vegetable dishes like sohoon tempe, are daily staples.  Many regulars say that they head to Adam’s Nasi Padang to seek out their favourite shellfish dishes like cockle sambal and kupang or mussel sambal.  

Spicy chili hard-boiled egg with eggplant is another hot favourite and if you like an extra zing in your meal, don’t miss adding a dollop of the spicy chili sambal that you will find served in a deep Chinese bowl.

Qin Garden Kopitiam is at No. 12, Jalan Trus, Johor Baru.  Open daily from 7am to 6pm while the Nasi Padang closes at 5pm.  The coffeeshop is closed on alternate Fridays.  
A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 15 October 2013

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