Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar sets the record straight with honest food, immaculate record in quality and a faultless reputation that is forty-five years strong. Find out how Kayu got its name (the real story) and its pride in launching Penang’s best dish to the sky.
When someone utters “kayu” (Malay for wood), it is a norm for us to think of the Nasi Kandar brand, rather than a piece of wood instead. That is how we know the Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar is a household name in Malaysia and a serious contender in the business, serving decadence on a plate of steaming white rice and a medley of curries. We sat down with owner and managing director Burhan Mohamed at his oldest and well-known branch in SS2 where he shared the real story behind Kayu and what it takes to make it in this business.
“I am second generation in this line of business after my late father and in fact, Kayu had a humble start in this very spot where my father rented a stall,” says Burhan. That very spot has indeed been expanded to a couple more lots that is now the Original Penang Kayu restaurant in SS2. Nine branches strong, with one branch in Penang, I’m sure we all wonder where did the name Kayu come from.
“Actually there are two versions of this story—the popular version refers to the bamboo or the wooden pole yoked to carry baskets of rice and curry back in those days. However, the truth is, the word is from a funny memory of my childhood where I was called “kayu” (colloquial Malay for dim-witted) for being quite slow in service by a regular customer at my father’s stall. Since then, it just got stuck with me and even till today, I am still known as Uncle Kayu by my longtime customers,” laughs Burhan.
Burhan is certainly not “kayu” in our books as he proves to be a brilliant businessman who has built an F&B empire based off a bullet-proof model as a necessary measure in this day-and-age where viral videos thrive on bringing down F&B businesses on the regular.
“Transparency is key in this business, and I am a firm believer it should be a factor for any business. In our line of work, food hygiene is very important and it is evident in all of the Kayu outlets— from the front floor to the back burner of kitchen and preparation area,” Burhan affirms and adds that he would gladly take any naysayers on a tour of the kitchen if they have the slightest doubt on the cleanliness of his Nasi Kandar outlets.
Due to the current climate, it is becoming a norm for an F&B outlet (especially if it is a mamak restaurant) to make the headlines in social media for crucial matters encompassing quality, hygiene as well as price points. Speaking of prices, Kayu has its own fair share of backlash for their slightly premium prices compared to the rest of their counterparts. Thus, we asked Burhan for his take on the disparity in the prices at Kayu.
“Yes, I believe premium food comes at a slightly higher price to pay. Here, I let my outlets do the talking as we offer a comfortable environment for our customers. I have returning customers who are from five generations, coming in for the comfort of the amenities as well as our impeccable service. Also, we do not skimp on quality because we cook only the freshest of ingredients on a daily basis as well as keep our menu focused on authentic mamak specialties like Mee Goreng Mamak and tandoori sets, and of course Nasi Kandar dishes,” says Burhan.
Apart from that, did you know that Kayu was possibly the first Nasi Kandar brand to send nasi kandar in the sky? Not literally—however, Kayu was the first outlet to work with an airline to serve their food to flying passengers, and even till date, Kayu works with private charters from time to time. He also added that he makes it a point to visit all his branches every day to oversee the operations and visits Penang once a week to check on the northern region’s Kayu branch at Bayan Lepas. Oh well, we do believe him now when he says he works 400 days a year.
Now that Raya holiday is fast approaching, why not save a date to get that authentic Nasi Kandar craving sorted at Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar near you? Feel like having one for iftar? No problem, as Kayu offers a variety of dishes perfect for the iftar feast but do call in for a reservation if you are dropping by with family to avoid disappointment.
Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar
No.64, Jalan SS2/10,
47300, Petaling Jaya,
Selangor Darul Ehsan.
Opening hours: Daily 24 hours