Great Nasi Lemak from where you’d least expect
Nasi Lemak is my all-time favourite Malaysian street dish. Period! However, finding a reasonably authentic version of it in Adelaide has not been an easy task. Most try to make it all East-meets-West fancy-like. All I crave for in Nasi Lemak is something like what I got from the school tuckshop at St. Johns Primary School in Bukit Nanas (translates as “Pineapple Hill” from Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia), Kuala Lumpur – coconut-infused rice, some sambal, ikan billis (Malaysian-style deep-fried anchovies), peanuts and cucumber and maybe a piece of chicken and some egg from time to time, wrapped up in newspaper, lined with either a Pandan leaf or some plastic. But as always, the foodie gods continue to be kind to me.
A gastronomic fluke of fortune
A couple of birthdays ago, Mum went out to get some pizza. Not really sure what part of “Let’s get some pizza tonight” got lost in translation so badly, but she returned half an hour later with a half-dozen packets of Nasi Lemak and it was just as I remembered it should be. This fluke of fortune is to date our quirkiest discovery here at Fooding with The Yeows – awesome Nasi Lemak from an awesome pizza outlet, Amigo’s Pizzeria, in my opinion, the source of some of the best pizza in town.
I had to get to the bottom of how this unlikely pairing of pizza outlet and the traditional Malaysian classic street dish came about.
Some Amigo’s history
Starting at the beginning. Amigo’s is part of a line of family-owned casual dining restaurants. Natives of Phillippines, the Navaro family migrated to Australia in 1988, choosing Adelaide as home base. Vinnie, the oldest of three siblings, started the pizza journey. First stop was Dominos, where he quickly learned the importance of systems, timely customer service, marketing, management, and goal setting. From there he went to St Georges Pizza in Rundle Street where he learned about quality and the art of making real pizza, while all this time working for Telstra. As if running two jobs wasn’t enough, how about adding one more? In 2003, Anthony, Vinnie’s younger brother decided to acquire a pizza store in Black Forest. This marked the beginning of the path of business ownership for the Navaros.
Fast forward a few more years, a number of restaurants started, built up and sold, and the purchase of the Magill store. At the time it looked every little bit like your typical local pizza shop. As with most successful business people, Vinnie always has a vision, be it one that took five years to realise – great pizza, exceptional customer service and something a bit different. The moment you walk in you can feel the amount of thought and planning that had gone into the place. It simply looks and feels good. You immediately get the feeling that anything you got from this place was going to be quality. BUT as great as the pizzas are, we’re not here to talk about them!
How Nasi Lemak at Amigo’s came to be
Enter Khairul bin Daud Anuar, former Malaysian Airlines steward. On one of his working flights here to Adelaide, Kahirul met Vinnie and his Mum at Vinnie’s sister’s restaurant. When Khairul expressed a desire for further study in Australia, and after numerous conversations, Vinnie offered Khairul the opportunity to do just that as well as be part of the business. Being too good an opportunity to pass up, Khairul resigned from MAS and accepted.
So how did Nasi Lemak end up on the Amigo’s menu?
Long story short, Khairul brought some homemade Nasi Lemak into work one day. Being the sharing caring type, he shared it with the rest of the crew on shift at the time. They all liked it. They liked it a lot! So much so that, after developing a system to ensure that they are able to cope during peak periods, they stuck it on the list. It was a good thing Amigos staff were open to trying new things. They’ve sold literally thousands of serves since, including many to native Malaysians, validating its authenticity. There was also the time where organisers of a large motorcycle event held in regional Australia asked Vinnie to provide catering for it. Despite not being your typical Nasi Lemak-eating demographic, revelers consumed up to 500 packs each day of the six-day event.
Mystery solved! If you ever get a snack attack and feel that a good Nasi Lemak will fill the gap, I have no hesitation in recommending Amigo’s, the pizza place on the South-Western corner of Penfold and Magill Road. Happy ‘Nasi Lemaking.’ It’s gonna be a thing. Go with me on this one. You won’t be disappointed.