Seremban : An Unlikely Food Haven

I grew up in Seremban, the capital of Negeri Sembilan state. The town was originally named Sungai Ujong, after the river that flows through it. It flourished from tin ore mining and eventually became an important trading center. Getting around the town is relatively easy, with new roads connecting the town center to numerous residential areas. Buses and taxis are quite reliable- I can attest to this because I went to school by the public bus.

Seremban is an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and Malacca. The Seremban railway stop conveniently links to KTM Komuter, the Malaysian electrified commuter network. Thus, Seremban is becoming a popular spot for folks who work in Kuala Lumpur but want a less busy city life.

Seremban is known for its rich Minangkabau heritage. This ethnic group, originated from West Sumatra, is famous for its traditional homes that reflect its culture and values. The homes have dramatic curved tip roofs that mimic the horns of buffalo. Old buildings were built with wood but without nails. Floral designs were carved out to blend in with the surroundings. You can visit a Minangkabau palace in Seremban, located off the main Seremban highway exit.

Like any major towns in Malaysia, Seremban is famous for some of its food. Ask any Malaysian foodie and they will tell you to hunt for the delicious bowl of beef noodles and flaky pastry siu pau (baked pork bun). The beef noodles is assembled from glutinous rice noodles, tender beef slices marinated in an unknown heavenly sauce, pickled cabbage, fried peanuts and topped with a dark, starchy sauce, toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions. You can opt for beef noodles in broth. Seremban has many vendors vying for the best beef noodles in town but my favorites can be found on the second floor of Pasar Besar Seremban or the old wet market. Since you are there, sample the Penang-style rojak, a fruit and vegetable salad with a thick, black toffee-like sauce.

Siu pau or baked pork bun is a tasty, flaky pastry filled with sweet pork filling. I'm fortunate to live close to the bakery that makes these popular treats. My fav is located near Blossom Heights, a few kilometers away from the Seremban-Port Dickson highway exit. The bakery also makes yummy dragon balls (aka Tambun biscuits or tar sau peah), regular and Portuguese eggs tarts. It's OK to leave the bakery with bags filled with goodies. While you are there, walk next door and discover my recent fav spot to eat yong tau foo. Literally means stuffed tofu. These days, you can find an assortment of stuffed vegetables with fish and meat paste. You can pair the dish with a bowl of noodles or rice and wash down with assam water, leung cha (aka cool tea) or freshly made soybean drink.

Locals will tell you to try the Indian Muslim cendol, a delightful dessert comprising of shaved ice, palm sugar, coconut milk and worm-like jelly. It is a definite hit on a sweltering hot Malaysian afternoon. There are two locations run by the same family that one can visit. If you like an authentic feel, check out the classic cendol stall near the new KFC in Seremban. If you prefer a restaurant atmosphere, then check in at the shop painted in green on Jalan Yam Tuan. Entice by the smells in the restaurant? Then try out the mamak rojak, a fruit and veg salad with a sweet and sour sauce.

Another must stop to visit is the banana curry leaf place along Jalan Rasah. Traditional Indian vegetarian dishes and rice are served on clean banana leaf. You can pick your meats from a large selection. My fav are the lamb and fish head curries. Don't miss out on their endless supply of crispy papadums. Besides banana leaf, you can order Indian breads like naan, chapati, dosa and roti canai (or prata). Feel like eating with hands? Use your right hand and scoop with your finger tips. Right hand is considered polite as the left hand is customarily used in the bathroom. Wash down your meal with mango lassi or teh tarik, a Malaysian twist on chai or rasam, a tangy Indian juice. When done with eating banana leaf, it is polite to fold the leaf into half towards you. It tells that the food was delicious even though you might get leftovers rolled off the leaf and dumped onto your lap.

For Kajang-style satay, visit the corner lot restaurant with an adjoining grilling hut in Taman AST. The grilled, skewered meat is so delicious, you can pack in by the dozens because it is cheap. Dip the chicken or beef satay in chunky peanut sauce and you won't regret eating in the rather dingy neighborhood densely populated by sleazy nightclubs and pubs.

There is indeed many great places to eat in Seremban. What I really like about eating in Seremban is that all these places are near to my parents' house. Hardly 20 mins drive at most. My list can go on and on to include the best places to find stir fried ostrich meat, black pepper crabs, curry laksa, fish head noodle soup, rice porridge and bubur cha cha. But alas, I've reached the end of my alloted writing space. I hope I've convinced you to try out Seremban food.

Happy Eating!

Minangkabau palace

Seremban beef noodles and mamak rojak


Makings of Seremban siu pau

Yong tau foo

Satay on the grill

Date Modified: 2/12/11

Banana curry leaf lunch - it's a family affair!