Rose Fatimah


These days, I hang out for quite a bit at a training provider located in Danau Kota. The strategy is simple: if they see me often enough, they’ll hopefully assign me to a training job or two. The good news is that it seems to be working. The better news is that Danau Kota is dead smack next to Taman Ibukota – the place where I grew up and learnt the things I should and also a few things I shouldn’t have as well. So, it’s sort of a trip down memory lane.

The drive to Danau Kota takes me past a row of shops (just past Past Pasar Besar Gombak) along Batu Lima Jalan Gombak. It’s been a few decades (yes, I’m a decrepit old git) since I’ve been this way. I was surprised to find that the old Malay coffee-shop called “Rose Fatimah” still exists. It no longer stands on the old site but is now a few units farther down the road – all spruced-up and solid-looking (well, as spruced-up and solid-looking as an old Malay coffee-shop can be).

I remember the days when it was my duty every morning to cycle on the old Raleigh Chopper to get my dear grandma her daily dose of nasi lemak from Rose Fatimah. Looking back, I recall how I used to hate this chore. But it did have its high points: while waiting for the nasi lemak to be packed, I had the chance to enjoy a teh tarik and my first cigarette for the day. I was seventeen (or so) then – smoking in the house would have got me killed.

Now, thirty years later, when I look back at all those trips to Rose Fatimah – regardless of how much I hated doing it at the time – I could not think of a greater honour than to cycle the four kilometres to get my grandma her nasi lemak. Heck! Today, I’d gladly cycle a hundred kilometres to get her her nasi lemak from Rose Fatimah. Isn’t it funny how we are all too willing to do things for people only after they are dead?

So, on a lark, I pulled-up at Rose Fatimah one fine morning to sample their legendary nasi lemak. Nothing has changed. The clientele is pretty much the same: old Malay gents wearing baju Melayu, sarongs and white skull caps talking amiably with each other – obviously just out of the nearby mosque after performing solat subuh. However, these are probably the sons of the same old gits wearing baju Melayu, sarong and white skull caps, who used to leer disapprovingly at me as I lit-up my cigarette thirty years ago (I was seventeen at the time, remember?).

And surprise of surprises, the owner is still alive. He sat quietly at a table near the service counter, serene as any dignified any old man could be, overseeing operations and smiling courteously at all the patrons. I smiled back, too. But it is obvious he didn’t remember me. Maybe one of these days I should drop by riding a Raleigh Chopper, dressed in faded Wranglers and a Fruit of the Loom T-shirt, and lighting a Benson and Hedges with the arrogance of a seventeen year old. Maybe that would jog his memory; then again, maybe it wouldn’t – he looks as if he is just a few days short of his 100th birthday.

But the magic came when the youngish Indonesian girl served me up my plate of nasi lemak. It was as if time had stood still at Rose Fatimah. It was as savoury, piquant and mouth-wateringly delicious as it was thirty years ago (I am talking about the nasi lemak, not the female Indonesian worker, OK?). If you are ever in the area at about breakfast time, do you self a favour – park your car, waltz in and order your nasi lemak. I would recommend the rendang daging. And if you don’t take beef, you can’t go wrong with their sambal sotong. Do this and then look me in the eye and tell that that wasn’t the best nasi lemak you’ve ever had in your entire life. I’m betting the two twenty sen coins I am rubbing together in my pocket that you will not be able to do this. In a sentence, Rose Fatimah serves the best nasi lemak in the world!

As I paid for my food it struck me that in a world where everything is changing (and going to pieces at the same time), it is comforting to know that some things remain the same – like this old Malay coffee-shop known as Rose Fatimah.


21 thoughts on “Rose Fatimah

  1. sold!

    matb, ‘rose fatimah’ has been added to my list of ‘must go’ when i’m back home.

    judging fr yr account and the empty daun pisang, i’m sure u’ll keep yr 20 sen. 😀

    p.s. congratters on landing the trg gig near memory lane. should be doubly sweet.


    Yes, ma’am! I don’t think Rose Fatimah will disappoint food-wise.

    And thanks – the company assigned me to a gig to facilitate some polytechnic lecturers in the finer points o PHP and MySQL. It’s a start Alhamdulillah.

  2. MatB,

    The bet is on. I have a sister-in-law who stays at Danau Kota so I’m quite familiar with the area. One of these days, I might just pop over to Rose Fatimah and sample their nasi lemak. If it doesn’t taste good as you say, I hope the sight of the young Indonesian girl makes up for it, heheheh…


    Actually, sir, Rose Fatimah is along Jalan Gombak; it is not in Danau Kota.

    Between you and me, I think I prefer the nasi lemak to the Indoesian girls there – the girls there are not exactly in the same league as Christine Hakim or Widyawati 🙂

  3. Mat-san,

    It`s queer, isn`t it?How things which we thought were the “best in the world” during our wonder years, stil remain the “best in the world” in the current phase of our existence which I call completing the “circle of life”(plus minus one or 2-decades).

    Still reminiscing of how nasi lemak was sold in those days.Pure white oval grains of rice so wonderful they will just fall silently on to the banana leaf wrapper ,grain by grain, when you spread open your fingers.Sambal you could die for, ultra thin , almost transparent slices of cucumber, a few stalks of fried kangkung, and tiny little anchovies, fried just right to a golden yellow, which would just melt in your mouth.And all that for 5-sen a bungkus.

    Aaah! Those were the days!


    Absolutely, sir! I go ga-ga when the nasi lemak is berderai. And yes, I remember when people used to sell nasi lemak for five sen. Funnily enough, it also tasted better then.

  4. Hi MB
    First time leaving my mark at your indelible blog. Recently, I’ve been to Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa in Kg. Baru and Ampang Park. Overated and a huge let down. I’m quite familiar with Danau Kota, but have not heard of or seen Rose Fatimah. Since you’re so bankable, will make a beeline there the next time we are in KL.


    It is an honour to have you here, sir.

    Rose Fatimah will be along Jalan Gombak – not in Danau Kota. And I am sure you will find their nasi lemak better than the one in Kg Baru. Of this I am certain

  5. Mat

    You lucky fellow smoking at 17. I had my first cigarette only at 18.

    But as a Prefect I sent one boy to the HM for smoking and he got the caning. He happened to be the “bodyguard” of a royalty and they became rather nasty.

    At MCKK I was told one expat HM allowed the Form Six to smoke. He was transferred out and the boys no longer went broke.

    Look what you have done to me, Mat. Often trying to rhyme these days. Not that it pays. Stop it, she says.

    Haven’t figured out what to do yet this Saturday night. Wish you better and better luck, and gooten nacht.

    Dry Humour

    Actually, sir, I started smoking at 15 – and have never looked back since. I got caned countless times for it, though.

    And I was the equivalent of an MCKK prefect while I was at MRSM. Never sent anyone for caning though. Just caught the culprits, confiscated the fags – and kept them for myself! They are happy they don’t have to see the principal and I am happy I have an endless supply of fags. Win-win situation, eh? 🙂

  6. My curiousity is completely piqued. Thanks for the heads-up! Will head there once I’m done with confinement!


    Have a go0d rest, ma’am. Rose Fatimah will still be there when you get out of confinement.

    The very best to you, the baby and your hubby!

  7. Salam bro,

    I’ve never heard of this place before though I work in that area for the past 4 year.

    Can you be a little bit more specific?

    Is this place located along Jln. Gombak?

    Appreciate the info bro…


    It is located along Jalan Gombak. If you are from KL, look out for Pasar Besar Gombak (on your left) as you approach Batu Lima. Farther up (about 200 metres, or so) you will find Rose Fatimah (also on your left). If you go past the Batu Lima mosque, then you would have already terlepas the shop – double back and you will find the coffee shop.

    Hope this helped, sir. And thanks for visiting.

  8. What a good advertising effort you have here! Hehe. Nothing can beat our old traditional nasi lemak. It’s like tasting our motherly cooked version with lots of passion going on. Modern day nasi lemak has been evolving a lot, but that’s okay for me because they’re still nasi lemak. As long as this wonderful Malaysian (it’s not ‘malay’ anymore) cuisine still exists in this world, I wouldn’t ever think to substitute it with Tuna Sandwich and baked beans. Of course, diet activists will frown for its saturated fat content for being a factor of our modern-day Malaysian’s diabetic dilemma. But hey, I thought we should take a slight adjustment to the rule.

    Pok Deng

    As they say here in Malaysia – nasi lemak is the breakfast of champions! Champions of what, I don’t know 🙂

    Ah! If only Rose Fatimah will give me a cut of their sales…

  9. Salaam Mr MB,

    Could the Masjid you mentioned be Masjid Jamek Sg Mulia? When i was young, i used to hang out at my sis’s place (Jln Ibukota 5). Like you, i had to do a pit stop at a burger joint just further up the Masjid for my nicotine fix.
    Since we are on the subject of food, there was a stall selling all kinds of soup (mutton, beef, chicken etc) just in front of Masjid Jamiul Ehsan along Jalan Setapak. The stall has recently shifted somewhere to the back due to widening of road. It has been there for ages, ever since the 70’s, if my memory doesn’t failed me. For ex-kutus like me, i had lots of fond memories in Setapak and Gombak….


    I think officially the mosque is known as Masjid Zaid bin Harith nowadays. Used to be a delapidated building – but not anymore! Hey, how’s that for serendipity? I used to live in Jalan Ibukota Kiri (near the cemetery)

    Bro, considering the places you mentioned, I think we have probably met before (in our younger days); we just didn’t know each other then.

  10. Salam Mat B
    I have nothing to contribute, just to say hello and glad to know you are faring a lot better than a few months back. Chin up, always…

    Puteri Kamaliah

    Always good to have you here, ma’am

  11. Hi Matt,

    What! No Nasi Lemak & Tehtarik? Heheh, I can live without your scones, muffins, crepe, crumpets, bagels, croissants, cereals, toast with jam but how can I live without the old favourite NL! Yes, Nasi Lemak, the breakfast of Champions!

    Hmmm, somehow, the last line doesn’t seem correct?? Now what’s the actual breakkie of champs? (Scratching my head).


    P/S – It’s refreshing to go down memories lane, them good old days!


    The real breakfast of champions? Sex!

  12. Salam Mat Bro.,
    Will check it out when I’m back in Malaya next week inshaallah… sounds worth the trip!

    Dharan Sea

    Check the place out, bro. Good stuff going on there.

  13. “Rose Fatimah” – what an interesting name for a nasi lemak joint. Sounds so P.Ramlee-ish.

    BTW, do you have the address so that I can key it into my GPS for directions?


    Gulp! I don’t know their address. But the place is just past pasar besar Gombak (if you are from KL heading towards Gombak)

    P Ramlee-ish, eh? In my younger and more vulnerable days (to borrow a phrase from F Scott Fitzgerald), I dreamed of owning a pub called ‘Mengapa Derita?’. How’s that for P Ramlee-ish? 🙂

  14. klasiknya nama kedai ! interesting. must go jalan gombak one of these days despite living in PJ. 🙂


    ‘Cool’ kan nama kedai tu. Worth the trip from PJ, ma’am

  15. Yummm….delicious entry!
    Am putting Rose Fatimah on my list of things to do next time in Malaysia.
    Are you sure you’re not getting a cut from all these promotions? 😉


    If only (they gave me a cut): I’d be rich!

  16. oo i just realised i’ve been missing lots of bfast bro

    Dak Ah Bau

    They say breakfast is themost important meal of the day. I guess it depends on what you have for breakfast, tho 😉

  17. Mat

    Am tempted to join in visiting the place.
    But must resist the temptation of eating fattening foods and falling out of grace.

    Or foods not so fattening but taken in quantity.
    Because of being bloody tasty.

    Among the few comfort levels I still have
    is the ability to see my toes standing up.
    Must preserve it lest I go bottom up.

    I’ll just imagine the sheer enjoyment of you folks eating up.
    The kukus style rice grains and daun pisang must have made it one up.

    Enjoy it folks.
    I’ll just gigit jari
    and don’t mind me!

    Dry Humour

    I am tempted to reply in verse
    but fear it will all sound very terse
    so from now on I will stick to prose
    and hope I refrain from being verbose

  18. Bro MB,

    For a kick-off, glad you’re back.

    I surely am going to check this place out myself, preferably getting there on my SC Superlight decked with full XTR’s, all the way from my neck ‘o woods, unless of course, the metal missiles don’t get to me first, ha ha.

    Raleigh Chopper, you say? In my time, possession of such ostentatious display of two-wheel grandeur will automatically denote the owner as an “anak lord”, and the owner will be the object of envy. Ridicule, even. But heck, my son rides a Swiss made Comencal jump bike that costs about the same as a Modenas, so I shall refrain from further comment.

    Taman Ibu Kota bro’? I spent many a carefree time there simply because my cuz hailed from those parts as well. This was in the late 1960s and 1970s where the pong of Lee Rubber permeates the soggy evening air. Did you perchance, happened to ever bump into Atan? He of the Tenaga scholar who went to the New York. Frankly, I’ve lost touch even with that cuz of mine, bro’

    Was in your former hunting grounds recently and it wasn’t foxes that I was hunting. I believe the council put a stop to that. But really, the floodgates opened MB, and you are most welcome to visit to see what I mean.

    Unbelievable how certain places brings out long dormant memories bro’, and now there’s a veritable treasure trove to mine and turn into some sorry piece of semi-fictional narrative.

    Mat Salo

    Anak lord? Haven’t heard that kutu phrase for yonks! No, I was no anak lord: I bought the Chopper with my winnings at billiards – at Pertama Complex’s billiard tables.

    When you mentioned the pong from Lee Rubber I know you weren’t making things up – local knowledge, that!

    Good to hear from you again, bro. I envy you for having had the chance to be in London. But that’s OK, I’m always there, too – but always in spirit (sigh)

  19. They sold Fruit of the Loom tees in Malaysia before? I never knew that! And with a name like “Rose Fatimah”, it’s hard to imagine it not having a delectable nasi lemak. Now if only I knew where Danau Kota is and am brave enough to make my way there.


    Yes, ma’am! They cost RM14 a pop back then. In those days I’d rather walk around starkers than wear any other brand. They are mighty hard to find nowadays, though (one that would fit me, anyways) 🙂

    You don’t have to know where Danau Kota is; all you need to do is head for Gombak. Look out for pasar besar Gombak and you should be able to find Rose Fatimah – its an institution in this part of the woods.

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