Kedai Omar: Serving everyone from Australian airmen to civil servants

Mohammad Nazaruddin Omar serving up nasi kandar at his stall. — Pictures by K.E.OoiMohammad Nazaruddin Omar serving up nasi kandar at his stall. — Pictures by K.E.OoiSEBERANG PERAI, Nov 12 — Back in 1954, an enterprising Omar Maydin Pitchay and his brother, Hamid, opened a small roadside stall selling simple Indian Muslim fare.

The brothers worked side by side for years cooking up delicious nasi kandar dishes, roti canai and mee goreng at a stall called Kedai Omar dan Hamid on Jalan Kampung Gajah.

When the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was based in Butterworth, they introduced the roti tawar telur, also known as roti Benggali telur; the local roti Benggali is sliced, dipped in eggs and fried.

Roti tawar telur which is local roti benggali fried with egg.Roti tawar telur which is local roti benggali fried with egg.“The Australian airmen used to eat at my father’s stall late at night for supper and their favourites were the roti canai and the roti Benggali telur as they were not very keen on rice,” said Omar’s son, Mohammad Nazaruddin Omar, who now runs the stall.

The roti Benggali telur is Omar’s own version of French toast with a difference, it is served with kuah campur, a gravy of dhal and fish curry.

Though the stall was called Kedai Omar dan Hamid, most locals shortened it to Kedai Omar as customers recognised and identified the stall with him.

Frying up a pan of roti canai.Frying up a pan of roti canai.“My father was the face of the stall and all our old customers know him from those days,” said Mohammad.

Mohammad took over the stall more than 35 years ago when he was just 27 years old.

“We have expanded the stall to what it is today... this is considered a bigger space now compared to last time,” he said, gesturing to the small shack with about 15 tables inside and outside on the pavement.

The making of the roti canai at Kedai Omar.The making of the roti canai at Kedai Omar.The eatery, now renamed OMH in honour of his father and uncle, continues to be known as Kedai Omar by old customers or kedai pokok kurma by those who didn’t know Omar.

This is because there was a kurma tree growing right next to the shack, lending a unique landmark to the restaurant.

“Most locals in this area will know if you tell them kedai pokok kurma just like those Australian airmen when they were told to try out the roti canai or roti tawar telur at Kedai Omar,” Mohammad said.

Kedai Omar’s famous daging cincang.Kedai Omar’s famous daging cincang.Other than the roti canai and roti tawar telur, the eatery’s other famous dish is the daging cincang (minced beef curry).

Mohammad said these were old recipes handed down from his father and he has continued serving most of the dishes that his father offered long ago.

The nasi kandar has a selection of other curries too including fish and chicken along with the usual steamed okra and fried eggs.

All curries are cooked from scratch using quality spices resulting in a traditional authentic flavour that’s different from most commercialised nasi kandar stalls.

Mohammad turned 62 this year and is considering retiring next year but this depends on whether his son is willing to take over the business.

Kedai Omar is also known as Kedai Pokok Kurma because of the kurma tree next to it.Kedai Omar is also known as Kedai Pokok Kurma because of the kurma tree next to it.“I’ve taught him some of the recipes, not all, but he is still studying in a religious school now so when he graduates next year, I will see if he wants to continue with this business so that I can retire,” he said.

The stall used to be open 24 hours a day during Omar’s time but after the Australian airmen left and the government administrative centre shifted away, Mohammad said business has been slow.

They were also short handed so they cut down the operating hours to just 15 a day.

Restoran OMH (Kedai Pokok Kurma)
Jalan Kampung Gajah,
Time: 6am-9pm
Closed on alternate Fridays