For travelers plying the Kuala Pilah – Seremban route, Zaini Salai House is a household name, having been around for more than seven years. The simple open-air warung is bereft of air conditioning, but the beautiful view of paddy fields and lush emerald hills just across the road more than makes up for it.
The restaurant is known for its itik salai (smoked duck), a 30-year-old recipe the proprietor, Zaini, learnt from his grandfather that has been handed down the generations. The tedious process, which involves smoking the duck at a distance of about three or four feet away from the fire, takes up to four hours (sometimes more!) Smoking was used in the old days to preserve the meat, as there was no refrigeration back then.
We were invited to sample a variety of dishes, including the famous duck cooked in masak lemak cili api (coconut milk curry with birds eye chilli), rendang pucuk paku and beef with bamboo shoots. While tasty, everything was a tad too spicy for my Chinese palate, except for the cabbage which was in a mild, milky sauce lol. The flavours were good though, and the duck dish lived up to its reputation.
For dessert, there was ABC topped with a generous chunk of durian, cendol, red rubies and sweet corn on a bed of shaved ice and condensed milk with gula melaka (palm sugar).
And pulut tapai. A little ashamed to admit that in 28 years of life, I’ve never had one of these before. They’re essentially fermented glutinous rice cakes with a sweet aftertaste. Goes well with the Cendol/ABC dessert.
If you’re looking for unpretentious, hearty traditional food, Zaini’s Salai House is a stop you shouldn’t miss while on the way down to Seremban or up to KL!
ZAINI’S SALAI HOUSE
No. 33A Kampung Ulu bendul, 71500 Tanjung Ipoh, Negeri Sembilan
Open for breakfast / lunch: 830AM – 6PM (daily)