Curry Laksa is one of the must-try Malaysian favorites at PappaRam
This Marikina hole-in-the-wall will keep you coming back.
45 J.P. Rizal Street, Kalumpang, Marikina City
Open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Monday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) Like many neighborhood food stops, PappaRam has a story as interesting as their menu, and owner and chef Ramzu Nasri, or Ram for short, is generous with it.
Chef Ramzu Nasri
It was by chance that PappaRam opened in their current spot in Calumpang, Marikina. After 12 years working as a chef for various hotels abroad, Ram knew he wanted to open a restaurant and felt the time was right when he turned 40. On his way home in a jeepney while scouting for places to set up shop, he passed by a room with a “For Rent” sign hanging out front.
Of course the space was bare, and PappaRam’s beginnings were humble. In the beginning, they resembled a hawker stall, with an open kitchen and a counter serving dishes Ram grew up with in his home country, Malaysia.
PappaRam is now cozier—it’s still al fresco with the open kitchen and the hawker-stall-like counter, but there’s an indoor dining area too. The walls are adorned with various knickknacks and framed photos. Ram shares that the renovation was actually done with the help of his regulars, who wanted to spruce up the space as a way to give back for the delicious meals.
It could be because we’ve heard the story, but PappaRam does give off the vibe of a favorite neighborhood haunt, with customers Ram knows by name, or at least by face, streaming in and out to order their favorites from the extensive menu. It’s a bit of a surprise, considering that Malaysian food isn’t that mainstream yet. But it helps that the food here is homey, like meals your grandma would make—that is, if she were Malaysian.
Nasi Goreng USA
Ram shares that all spices he uses in his dishes are shipped from Malaysia. Take for instance the sweet soy sauce and shrimp paste for the Nasi Goreng USA (P175), traditional Malay fried rice that is served with tender beef, krupek or traditional Malaysian fish crackers, and vegetables.
The Beef Rendang (P255) is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Those familiar with this dish may expect it to be spicy, but PappaRam’s version is surprisingly on the milder side with a hint of sweetness from coconut. This pairs well with the Nasi Lemak (P185/unlimited rice and choice of topping)—Malaysia’s national dish made up of rice served with dried anchovies, a hard-boiled egg, fish paste, and cucumbers.
Curry Laksa Power
The creaminess from the spiced coconut milk adds to the comforting flavor of the Curry Laksa Power (P165)'s broth. If you prefer a drier noodle dish, order the Cantonese Hor Fun (P165), flat rice noodles with shrimp and squid covered with a rich egg gravy.
For a dish with more intensity, try the Sambal Prawns (P255), or tiger prawns coated in a sticky black paste made with a blend of different kinds of chili, Malaysian shrimp paste, and a touch of tamarind juice.
Gong Bao Chicken
The Gong Bao Chicken (P235), made with thick and juicy chunks of chicken, is more sweet than spicy, helped by the crunchy cashew nuts used in place of the usual peanuts. The thick sauce makes it a great pair with rice.
Pineapple Fish Curry
Another dish perfect with steaming hot rice is the Pineapple Fish Curry (P235), with the familiar flavors of turmeric and ginger in the thick curry sauce given a fresh spin by the tang from the pineapple chunks.
Crispy Man Tao with Condensed Milk
The Crispy Man Tao with Condensed Milk (P135) is the perfect way to end your meal. These fluffly little buns will remind you of the fried donuts from your favorite neighborhood bakery, and go so well with the sticky-sweet milk. They also make the perfect complement to a warm mug of Teh Tarik (P65) or Malaysian classic tea made with black tea and condensed milk.
PappaRam is hard to find, but judging from the all the happy diners enjoying their food and casually talking with Ram, that’s no hindrance when there’s tasty grub to be had. And once you’ve tried this hole-in-the-wall, you'll see that it’s a gem you can’t keep just to yourself.
Photos by Majoy Siason