Why blog about a casual nasi kandar chain? Why not? It’s not like the Internet needs another fucking review of The Magnificent Fish & Chips Bar anyway. Nasi Kandar Pelita only has 25 locations across Malaysia at the time of this post, but this has put them in the Malaysia Book of Records as the largest nasi kandar restaurant chain. Their signature royal blue and yellow sign is simple yet unforgettable. It gives Pelita the sense that they’re everywhere, but yet it’s hard to believe that there are only about a dozen locations in the KL/Selangor area.
Ambience & Amenities
Like most other nasi kandars, Pelitas are an open-air venue with no air conditioning, just fans to cool you down. The furniture will usually be no-frills metal tables and chairs.
The Desa Sri Hartamas location also had TV screens around the restaurant. If there was an interesting football match on, you could probably watch it here. However, during our visit, they were displaying a photo slideshow of their food and specials.
There were a couple of handwashing stations stocked with soap spaced out around the restaurant. Behind the nasi kandar station you will see the grill and tandoor with colourful menus above them. To the left of these is a hallway to the toilets. There is a sitting toilet on the left, a squatter on the right and one sink with soap. Neither of the two stalls have toilet paper in them, but you can grab some napkins at the dispenser that is located on a post at the nasi kandar station.
It is assumed that every Malaysian has been to a nasi kandar before, so by default, the menu is not automatically provided when you sit down at Pelita Nasi Kandar. They might do so if you look like a severely out of place foreigner, but there’s no shame in specifically requesting one.
The menu is a double-sided sheet. It’s new and easy to read, but it’s mostly in Bahasa with no descriptions and minimal pictures. For the Bahasa-illiterate, you will have to spend a few minutes Google Translating what “telur” means. All the food at Pelita is halal, and there will be more food than what is listed on the menu, which you can find at the nasi kandar station. Water does cost money, from 30sen for a glass of filtered up to RM2.40 for bottled mineral water.
The hot food station will be somewhere in the restaurant (sometimes it’s at the entrance next to the sidewalk, other locations have it deeper inside) where you can check out what curries and special dishes they have cooked up today. There are no labels on the food and prices are only posted for certain things, but Pelita always has lots of staff buzzing around. Eventually, a server will sidle up next to you to inform you what things are and give you the soft sell. For a frame of reference, I have ordered a serving of mutton curry on a different day, and it cost RM6.70. You can just point to what you want and a server will bring it to your table later.
The Deep Fried Bitter Gourd (RM3) was kiiind of hard sold to me when the server noticed me staring at it, and then later brought a plate of it to our table without me actually ordering it. We accepted it anyway since it just looked so damn tasty to me. Ribbons of bitter gourd are encased in a crispy, seasoned outer shell with thai basil leaves peppered throughout. I hate bitter gourd more than any other vegetable in this world, but I ate this up so fast. The spices in the batter completely negate the vegetable’s bitterness. With the gourd being sliced so small and thinly, its innate grossness simply can’t compete with salty, spicy, deep-fried goodness. Yes, this is more a plate of crisps than it is vegetables, but I am totally ordering this again next time I go to Pelita Nasi Kandar.
The Garlic Naan (RM3) is lightly salted and so satisfyingly chewy. There are huge chunks of garlic baked right in so hopefully you’ve got some mints in your pocket for later if you order this. The naan is paired with three dippables that come standard with all of their naans. Today there was a basic curry, a cilantro-based chutney, and a dhal curry. Although I’m a bit of a cilantro hater, I liked the chutney the most. It had a salty sharpness that covered up the worst parts of cilantro. The dhal had lots of chunky lentils and a thick texture that is a nice break from the other liquidy dips. I apparently enjoyed the dhal so much that halfway through the naan, a server placed an extra bowl of it on the table (free of charge) without me asking. The worst of the three was the basic curry, which was watery and a bit sour. It wasn’t terrible, but it felt like I was only dipping my naan into this so that there would be no wasted food.
The Chicken Tikka (RM8.90) is a big reason why we ate here. Mark has been going on about this chicken tikka for years. It’s pretty much his go-to order whenever he comes to Pelita Nasi Kandar. I was surprised by its size when it arrived: a small appetizer plate with 4 to 5 chunks of boneless chicken with raw carrots and red onions. There’s also half a lime which you should definitely spritz on to the chicken for extra depth of flavour.
Nine ringgit for such a small plate is a bit steep, but this dish was addictive. The outside is dry enough to handle so that you don’t have tikka sauce all over your fingers. Crispy char lines the edges of the chicken but yet the inside is so moist. I wrapped up my pieces of chicken in the garlic naan along with the veggies then dipped it into the chutney. It was so tasty that I could not stop eating – so much so that we got a second plate of this.
One thing about Nasi Kandar Pelita is that it’s a chain restaurant and chains are all about their consistency. Once you’ve been to a Pelita and found a dish you liked, you can expect the same food quality the next time you visit. Mark has been here many more times than me, and he has never had a bad chicken tikka or naan.
The only thing that soured me about our visit was the servers’… scatterbrainedness? After examining our bill after we left, half the items were mixed up somehow. We only ordered one iced lime for Mark, but they charged us for two (no we didn’t get any refills). I had asked for a mango juice, but they charged me for the more expensive mango lassi. We ordered a garlic cheese naan, but we received and paid for ordinary garlic naan. We didn’t notice these things at the time – my drink tasted like mango so I thought nothing of it, and we figured Pelita just severely skimped on the cheese on our cheese naan. We had already eaten the incorrect items so there wasn’t much we could do.
The servers also just tell you what you owe when it comes time to pay instead of presenting an itemized bill since the slip they write your order on is a jumbled, chicken scratched mess. Only once you’ve given the money will you get a proper receipt where you can check and hope that everything was correct. I’m not going to boycott this place over a couple of ringgit they took from me on this visit, but now I know to take the time to double-check the bill before I leave from now on.
Price for 2 Pax: RM35.75
Iced Lime Tea x 2: RM3.60 (overcharged)
Mango Lassi: RM6.30 (overcharged)
Deep-Fried Bitter Gourd: RM3.00
Garlic Naan: RM3.00
Chicken Tikka x 2: RM17.80
6% SST: RM2.03
Nasi Kandar Pelita
No. 24, Ground Floor, Jalan 25/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480, Kuala Lumpur (pictured) & various other locations across KL
Opening Hours: Daily, 24 hours
Alcohol Served: No