A Malaccan mother's cherished recipes, handed down to her son and daughter-in-law, form the foundation for Kampung Contemporary Dining, one of PJ's favourite places for a meal rooted in family traditions.
We enjoyed our most recent meal here in March, but Kampung Contemporary Dining remains open for takeout and deliveries - expect honest, time-honoured cooking, with sauces made from scratch, buoying local produce of antibiotic-free meat and wild-caught seafood received fresh everyday.
Kampung Contemporary Dining first opened in Section 17 in December 2018, but its seeds were planted in Malacca's Merlimau mukim nearly three decades ago.
Raised in a Peranakan-Hokkien village family, head chef Derson is a proud kampung boy who bonded with his mom through cooking ever since he was five years old, seated on a stool pounding herbs with a mortar and pestle to prepare sauces.
Derson and his wife Alicia (who also grew up in Malaysia's south, in Johor) preserve that passion at Kampung, with splashes of Nyonya know-how in a collection of culinary creations that would be the pride of any cookbook.
Derson's childhood memories include plucking fruits like belimbing and nanas and vegetables and herbs spanning pandan leaves, curry leaves, galangal and lemongrass in his backyard - ingredients to help his family make a meal with fresh fish that his father purchased from the market.
Those starfruits of his youth convey a special sweetness to Kampung's Claypot Starfruit Assam Fish, with a natural, mellow zest, not too spicy, a unique assam that marries elements of Malacca's Baba and Portuguese cuisines.
The assam paste has a lovely aromatic depth, courtesy of candlenut, galangal, ginger flowers and lemongrass, lively with limau kasturi and lime leaves, tangy with tomatoes and tamarind, for a balanced burst of flavours. It's vibrantly bright-coloured and richly textured but relatively wholesome, with starfruit replacing any added sugar.
This is a wallet-friendly feast - two or three customers can share a steamy pot comprising half a siakap, thoughtfully sliced from head to tail so you can enjoy every part of the fish, with fleshy chunks to relish (RM40).
Red snapper is also available if you prefer a different fish. The claypot fish can be ordered a la carte or as part of a family set meal with plenty of side dishes and dessert.
This is our favourite Nasi Lemak so far in 2021: Kampung's kitchen took three months to fine-tune the Pork Lard Nasi Lemak with Crackling Siu Yuk (RM25), which fragrantly fulfils our wildest Nasi Lemak fantasies.
The fibre-loaded basmati rice, with a lower glycemic index, is steamed with fresh coconut milk, yielding a scent-sational Nasi Lemak with brownish hues. These super-grains would be captivating on their own, but a shower of crunchy pork lard - slow-fried in low heat - makes them defiantly, deliciously decadent.
If you want to indulge, Kampung makes the experience less guilty with the use of organic pork for its crisp-skinned siu yuk, kampung egg for the hard-boiled egg, an in-house sambal, and premium anchovies for its giant ikan bilis. Every component is excellent.
We like the Pork Lard Nasi Lemak with Babi Cili Garam (RM25) even more - the stir-fried sliced pork is absolutely addictive, slathered with a shrimp-based sambal that's thankfully less fiery than the Nasi Lemak's primary sambal, a blend of belacan with cili padi, large red chillies and dried chillies for a nuanced chilli paste with plenty of firepower.
Malacca's Pork Satay (RM19 for five sticks) is deservedly one of the southern state's signatures - Kampung does justice to that legacy with its rendition: Chunky skewers, mouthwateringly marinated with ginger and turmeric, paired with Mom's invention, a luscious pineapple peanut sauce. Why pineapple? Kampung explains that the fruit is a natural meat tenderiser that helps make the pork feel even juicier.
The menu insists that one stick is never enough - we have to agree.
Vegetables are often only an obligation at many restaurants, but Kampung's Charred Cauliflower (RM18) is a shining star that commands its own spotlight. Even veggie-loathing kids might delight in this, tossed with a gentle garlic sauce and fresh pomegranates that complement the cauliflower with a nectarous high.
Bringing it all back home to Malacca is Kampung's Gula Melaka Cendol (RM10), which every generation will savour. True to Kampung's ethos, extra effort is poured into this bowl - the green rice flour jelly is crafted in the kitchen every morning, with a delicate, wobbly softness that rivals tofu, while the 100% pure gula Melaka is sourced from a family who make it at their home in Merlimau, gracefully and generously sweetening the shaved ice with coconut milk and red beans.
Kampung's drink recipes are adapted from the founding family's kopitiam in Malacca's Durian Tunggal. The cracker-crowned Kopi (RM4.50) is completely old-school, with coffee beans sourced from the Malacca kopitiam's roaster, while the Kedondong Assam Boi (RM8) is the ideal zippy thirst-quencher to pair with Kampung's top temptations.
Kampung Contemporary Dining is currently offering several attractive MCO exclusives (images below courtesy of Kampung):
1. A value Nasi Lemak range (in smaller portions with no lard but with the same premium ingredients). This includes the Pork Rendang Nasi Lemak (RM12.90), perfect for patrons working at home who crave a casual meal of reliable value and quality.
2. Gift box - the Ultimate Snack Box comprises all of Kampung's bestsellers and a Nyonya Kuih Set.
3. MCO Family set meal for 4 pax, with complimentary two large-sized cendol.
4. Kampung's new Siu Yuk Pork Lard Nasi Lemak cake is a unique creation, ideal for celebrating at home or for sending as a very special gift to friends.
Customers can order via kampungcontemporarydining.beepit.com or WhatsApp 012-737-2085
Kampung Contemporary Dining
11, Jalan 17/45, Seksyen 17, Petaling Jaya, 46400 Selangor.
EMCO operating hours: Daily, 10am-330pm; 430pm-730pm (last call 7pm). Tel: 012-737-2085