Aunt Ooi’s Kitchen: Underground Malaysian Lunch Delivery Service Take 2
Ever since jenjfen first reported on Mami PG’s Cooking (Mami Penang) last Fall, I had been wanting to find a time to organize a group Malaysian lunch at the office, but with the onset of the winter holidays, I couldn’t round up a team (minimum of three for an order) to satisfy my hankering. When I finally came back around to thinking about Mami’s last month, I was disappointed to learn that they were taking a short hiatus to regroup, as their Facebook page stated that their business had expanded and they were soon going to be operating from a commercial kitchen with a more “challenging menu.” Looking at their FB page today, it does appear that they’ve teamed with Mamak House and will be continuing delivery service soon!
However, as I waited in eager anticipation for the return of Mami PG, my Facebook browsing led me to Aunt Ooi’s Kitchen, another Malaysian lunch box delivery service! I didn’t even think there could possibly be another underground Malaysian lunch box delivery service in Midtown, but apparently, the trend is here, people. And thankfully, we have Aunt Ooi’s Kitchen to pick up where Mami PG left off.
For those of you familiar with Mami PG, the concept is similar with Aunt Ooi’s Kitchen. You can text, call, or Facebook message Aunt Ooi for the menu and likewise, place your order through any of these channels. I would definitely recommend keeping the number on your cell phone (you’ll see why later). Monday through Thursday, you must order a minimum of five lunches and it must be the same entrée. However, earlier in the week, Aunt Ooi will disclose the Friday special and there is no minimum to order it. Although Aunt Ooi does deliver in Manhattan, in Midtown there is also an option to pick up your order on the southeast corner of 57th and 7th Ave (in front of Carnegie Hall) for what jenjfen so appropriately described as the “Exchange.”
The particular Monday I ordered, the Friday special was the Nasi Lemak Combo with Ayam Goreng Berempah (Kampung Style Fried Chicken) & Sambal Sotong (Spicy Squid) for $10. I placed the order through FB message and also gave Aunt Ooi my cell phone number earlier in the week. I received a text message on Friday at 11:30am saying that my lunch was ready. I wrote Aunt Ooi back saying that I would come pick it up around 12:30, and she replied that I should just let her know when I was close by.
I’m going to be honest, I’ve never gone on this kind of limb here for a lunch in Midtown (I made sure my coworkers knew to start a search party for me if I wasn’t back in an hour), but for the authenticity and delicious flavors experienced, this is completely worth it. I got to Carnegie Hall and called Aunt Ooi, who ended up being a man on the other end of the line. Surprising, yes, but the man said that he would be down in a few minutes, and sure enough a few minutes later, Aunt Ooi’s friendly nephew, Ray, came to meet me with my lunchbox packed in a yellow plastic bag with my name on it.
The Nasi Lemak Aunt Ooi serves is nothing short of authentic. The coconut and pandan flavors of the rice are subtle, but enough to make it known that this is not any ordinary white rice, especially when eaten with the accompanying sides. The usually accompanying sides for Nasi Lemak are present, as you can see in the picture – fresh cucumber slices, a hardboiled egg, roasted peanuts, sambal ikan bilis (spicy fried anchovy paste) – which all come together for an amazing meeting of spicy, salty, and sweet flavors. There are a lot of anchovies here, and personally, I was really into that.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Friday special also came with a big drumstick of fried chicken (Ayam Goreng Berempah) that was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and seasoned in a way I had never tasted before. The chicken had a bit of heat to it, too. After reading through a few recipes for this dish online, it seems like any combination of lemongrass, galangal (looks like ginger, but has a more peppery taste), turmeric, coriander, or chili powder can be used to season the chicken, so I’m a little bit stumped at what Aunt Ooi is doing here, but whatever it is, she’s winning.
I wasn’t as big of a fan of the Sambal Sotong (spicy squid). The squid was a little chewy to me, and tasted too similar to the anchovy paste except with the added chewy squid, so if I were to order this again, I’d probably stick with just the chicken. I think the squid just doesn’t transport that well, either. The other thing to be noted here is that though my food was packed with all sorts of flavors, it wasn’t piping hot temperature-wise and I could’ve probably nuked the whole thing in the microwave a little bit before I ate it, but I was just too excited to dig in. Ray did tell me that he keeps the lunches with him at his office, and that they are brought in in the morning from his Aunt’s kitchen in Flushing, so, my suggestion to other Midtown Lunchers would be to either get the food as early as you can, or take it out of the Styrofoam tray and microwave it before feasting.
Regardless of that small hindrance, I can’t wait to try other Friday specials and will totally be going back once they have the Nyonya-style chicken curry again!
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- This is authentic Malaysian home-cooking
- It’s a totally unique lunch experience and you will have a story to tell your friends
- The flavors – ahhhh!!!
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Deciding what you’re going to eat for lunch on Friday before Friday happens
- Needing a minimum order any other day except Friday
- Meal wasn’t hot, could use some microwave help
Aunt Ooi’s Kitchen, (718) 808-3087