Ramly Burgers and Why You Need To Go to Kuala Lumpur Right Now and Eat One
After years of globetrotting, I pride myself on being a bit of a junk-food connoisseur. I’d like to claim that the hours frittered away in departure lounge food courts were forced upon me — but it would be a lie. I love junk food, from the rice-porridge of Jakarta to the crispy coronary event that is Philadelphia Scrapple. I love the huge spiced street burgers of Novi Sad; the dark & heavy heft of Guarulhos SP Burgers; and I mourn the lost legendary Kitchen Burger of Copenhagen Airport Terminal A.
For me, a great burger is one thing: dirty. I seek the juiciest, sauciest, sexiest, junkiest of junk food — the quintessence of filth, if you will — and, having found it, I lovingly devour it & possibly stuff down another.
So. For 200 years, Chinese junks and their pirate crews haunted the Straits of Johor — the waters that separate the gleaming city-state of Singapore from the sweltering Malaysian forests. But as I looked down from a flight to Kuala Lumpur, I had junk of a different sort in mind. A fast food so tasty that smugglers risk jail time to bring it into Singapore, where it is banned to this day. I speak of the Ramly Burger.
12 hours, 1 gig & 7 vodka limes later, a gig promoter and I entered a deserted square at 4am to queue for a Ramly.
The first surprise was the venue: not a shop or bar, but a handcart. The Ramly empire, it turns out, is a simple franchise of the key ingredient (meat patties) and official packaging. The exact preparation is left to individual chefs; which explains the fierce loyalties that rage around specific Ramly stands.
We ordered two Daging Specials (the most famous version) and watched our somewhat wizened burgermeister set about his art. With nothing more than a fish slice, he deftly slit open a beef patty and squirted numerous sauces inside — Maggi-Würze seasoning, sweet chilli, ketchups, mustards, mayonnaises. I began salivating like a French mastiff, pawing fretfully at the ground. I may have whimpered.
Having stuffed a tidal wave of condiments inside the patty, our chef sought to prevent it bursting back out again by cracking an egg onto the hotplate, beating it into a large thin omelette, adorning it with yet more sauce & then, before my astonished gaze, encapsulating the burger & its contents in a neat parcel of egg. And when I say ‘neat,’ I mean ‘immaculate’ — this thing had hospital corners. Chopped onions, cabbage, carrot & cucumber flashed across the hotplate & onto a bun that’d been quietly crisping for the past minute. The creation was handed over and, with a certainty born of experience, my promoter passed me a fistful of paper napkins, saying, “You’re going to need these.” I took the first bite.
The Ramly is an experience. The overload of vinegar & sugar I’d been expecting from the torrent of ketchups never arrived. Pepper & chilli combined with egg, meat & Maggi to create a monumental savoury taste, yet balanced by the sweet sauces. The vegetables, far crunchier than Western lettuce & tomato, made for a more satisfying bite. Subtle it was not: this was a great Hollywood blockbuster of a burger that threw everything at me.
I’m not surprised Singapore banned the Ramly. Friends — the Ramly is the dirty junk-food triumph of Malaysia.
Matt DJs, mixes and plays keyboards. Marvel at his work on kingunique.com