Chow down at High Chaparral
Writer: Lin Zhen Yuan
Published: Fri, 01 Mar 2013
BACK in the late 1960s, when I was a mere slip of a lad, there was a TV series which caught the imagination of many Malaysians. It was called “High Chaparral”.
Lunch hours are a busy time for restaurant workers.
The show ran for five years (1967-1971). By the time, it finished its last season, young boys like me had already named some friends after its main characters.
For example, Manolito, Big John and Blue were common. The TV series, as most did, died a natural death.
Recently, somebody brought up its name again – High Chaparral – and jolted my memory.
I asked the person who uttered the familiar name: “Do you know that ‘High Chaparral’ was a popular TV series back in the 60s?”
Apparently, this person said it was a Malay restaurant which was nicknamed by her office colleagues.
It seems that High Chaparral has a sterling reputation for excellent Malay dishes.
The shop which bears no name has its own loyal following among residents and nearby office workers in Section 17 of Petaling Jaya.
After two weeks, I couldn’t contain my curiosity and sought details as to its exact location.
The newspaper write-ups about the stall-under-the-tree more
than 15 years ago.
It is located in Jalan 17/47. It is a middle-corner shop. It might as well be called Restaurant-With-No-Name because that would be reminiscent of a famous cowboy with a similar non de plume (The Man With No Name).
The Italian term “Oomo senza nome” (Man-With-No-Name) refers to the character played by Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western films.
However, like some oriental Sherlock Holmes possessing dubious skills, I found out that this shop actually had a name about 20-odd years ago.
The middle-aged woman proprietress said she and her husband were operating under the big tree opposite the shop for 27 years. Then it was called “Gerai Firdaus Chahaya”.
Its customers just called it “the stall under the tree”.
For almost three decades this stall served its loyal customers a wide variety of Malay dishes during lunchtime from Monday to Saturday.
Then in October 1993, the hawkers who had stationed themselves in a small plot between Sections 17 and 19 were ordered by the PJ Municipal Council to upgrade their stalls.
This turned out to be a minor blip in the hawkers’ radar. Business went on as usual.
Then three years ago, Gerai Firdaus Chahaya decided to move with the times since development was encroaching from all corners.
The owners decided to relocate to its present premises. According to its business card, Nasi Campur Nasional was printed in bold letters.
This former stall-under-the-tree is also well known for its
The man-in-charge is Abdul Rashid Sultan. His wife is Nor Chahaya.
The second-in-command seems to be “Boss Dg”. It is reasonable to assume that one is not called “boss” without a reason.
In this case, I assumed that it was that lady at the counter with the lovely smile.
With an array of about 40 dishes, High Chaparral has proven to be quite popular with the Malay community.
There are a number of Chinese and Indians who patronise the shop after hearing about its above-average cuisine.
What makes this shop stand out from others in its genre is that it also sells used or old items displayed in cabinets with glass panels.
A cursory glance reveals that portable cassette recorders, digital clocks, watches, keychains and handphones are on sale to supplement the establishment’s main income.
The goods are strategically placed throughout the shop and they enhance the interior décor of this charming outlet with its breezy and bright persona.
I reckon these items on sale are open to haggling by customers. It is more of a second-hand goods trade than a flea market styled business.
As for the quality and standard of the dishes, I can say without fear or favour that they are better than many “gerai” found all over PJ.
The woman at the cashier’s counter told me that the Malay cuisine came from different states of Peninsular Malaysia.
Earlier, I had asked if the Malay dishes were of Kelantan origin which I knew quite well that they weren’t. I particularly liked the sotong cooked in curry and chilli. They were soft and crunchy at the same time.
The sambal petai also worked itself into my good books. Not many Malaysian cooks know what to do with petai. But I normally zero in on sambal petai if I spot them in a Malay eatery.
Its popular dishes are pajeri nenas, ayam goreng, ikan pari masin, rendang daging and kerabu mangga.
High Chaparral has an inner section which seems to be more appropriate for a small private party. The interior has a cozy ambience which is markedly different from the brightly-lit main dining area.
This part of Section 17 has long been the byway for those who want a short-cut to Section 19 and SS2. I have personally used the route in front of the shop for more than 20 years but never really noticed its existence, until recently.
The decades since the 80s have not really changed the outlook of this quiet spot which is greener than other PJ sections because of its tall trees and its wide spread of branches.
The exterior atmosphere is congenial and its neighbourliness is an asset to restaurant owners in the vicinity. Lunchtime crowds generally prefer a more sedate residential area to have their meals.
Nasi Campur Nasional, Restaurant-With-No-Name or High Chaparral, whatever you want to call it, will be around indefinitely as long as customers continue to walk in after 2.30pm as they did when I was there.