More Than A Family Legacy: HJH Maimunah

A familiar name to the Muslim community in Singapore, HJH Maimunah (pronounced as ‘Hajah’) has been around for almost 30 years. The restaurant was founded by Mdm Mahiran Abdul Rahman in 1992 and is named after her late mother, Mdm Hjh Maimunah. Now, Mdm Hjh Maimunah’s granddaughter, Mdm Mastura Didih, helms the family-owned restaurant. The business has blossomed from its first restaurant in Jalan Pisang to now having multiple outlets at Joo Chiat Road, City Square Mall, Tampines Mall, and Hong Leong Building, serving a selection of more than 40 Malay and Indonesian dishes at their stalls.

What is Nasi Padang?

Nasi Padang typically consists of steamed rice served with various choices of pre-cooked Malay and Indonesian dishes. One can typically order from a window display lined with trays of meats, fish, vegetables, and spicy sambals and curries.

This way of ordering food is called the ‘pesan’ way, where you get to choose the food you want from this display. Your choice of dishes will be placed on top of a plate of rice for an individual portion, or served in a few small dishes for sharing. It is easy to see why this Nasi Padang restaurant is a favourite upon first taste and why you will keep coming back for more. The ingredients are incredibly fresh, the food is tasty, piquant and absolutely delicious. Most of all, the prices are affordable.

A family restaurant

Mdm Mastura and her 4 other siblings share the responsibility of managing the family business. One of the biggest motivations for her to strive for HJH Maimunah is, undeniably, to continue with her family’s legacy. But what is equally important to her is that many livelihoods are dependent on the business. She explains: “My staff and my family—all of us now have our own families and [this business] is our rice bowl. Some of my staff have been with us for 10 years or more than 15 years.”

We have grown together and been through thick and thin. I feel fulfilled that I am able to provide a job for them.

Mdm Mastura Didih, second-generation owner of HJH Maimunah

Her sense of duty—to keep this business going for her long-standing staff—have spurred her and her siblings to continue along with the journey.

Mdm Mastura also shares that the key to their success lies in teamwork. She reckons that “we survived till this day because we adapted to the changing environment. Most importantly, we also work together with a lot of people to make it happen, and as such, teamwork is important to us.”

These are not empty words. It’s clear that the restaurant works like a well-oiled machine, with an unspeakable synergy between its staff. Serving, cashiering, preparation, cooking, and packing all runs smoothly without fail.

We don’t have secret recipes. We believe that if we train our staff, we can actually grow together.

Mdm Mastura Didih, second-generation owner of HJH Maimunah

The stars of HJH Maimunah’s menu

There are a few dishes that stood out to us. The Lemak Siput Siput ($8.80)—a type of shellfish called needle snails cooked in spicy coconut gravy—was an instant hit. And there is no mistaking why. The story of this dish dates back to Mdm Mastura’s mum and a trip to an Indonesian wet market. There, Mdm Mahiran found inspiration in a scene of siput being sold and cooked in a lemak-based yellow curry.

To eat it the right way, you suck the mollusk out from the larger opening. There is a sharp claw at one end which needs to be set aside. Overall, the coconut gravy complements the siput and it’s a must-have. Do be warned of how deceivingly mild the yellow curry might look, though. It might not seem all that spicy, but the yellow tint actually comes from coconut cream mixed with green chilli padi. Sedap and very, very pedas! So do prepare yourself for that kick of chilli (and for its unique flavours to linger in your mind till your next visit).

Another stunning dish is the Sambal Goreng Pengantin ($8.80). This offal dish is made by simmering beef lungs and liver until they are tender, and cutting them up into cubes before stir-frying them in a homemade rempah with fresh prawns. It is typically served at any Malay wedding, but instead of waiting to be invited to have this dish, you can have it daily at HJH Maimunah! A single serving of this left us craving for more.

Family first

The most important thing that my parents taught me is that you cannot be successful alone. You have to work in a team if you want to go somewhere.

Mdm Mastura Didih, second-generation owner of HJH Maimunah

In their years of serving Nasi Padang, the family’s legacy has gone beyond that of culinary excellence. From Mdm Mahiran’s time till current day, the culture of treating everyone like family still remains a key part of the restaurant’s culture. Behind the 40 selection of dishes is a lifetime of an A-team’s efforts in serving up delicious Malay-Indonesian cuisine, straight from their wajan to our table.