Say you’re starving but you still want variety – something quick, tasty and wallet-friendly. Say those hunger pangs hit hard whilst you’re in the Orchard Road area. Nasi Padang might not be the most obvious choice to fulfill those criteria – unless your Makan Kakis Farah & Claudinho de Morais (behind Brazilian home business Claudinho’s Kitchen) recommend you try one of their favourite hidden gems, tucked away in a quiet fourth-floor corner of Far East Plaza.
Mansor D’Cafe is a mini makan place that can barely fit more than 12 diners (thanks, safe distancing!) in its compact premises. But what it lacks in space, it makes up in masses of flavour and choices. There, classic Malay lunch plates are served cafeteria-style (just get in line and point at what you want) by a charming couple, Mr Amin Mansor and his wife Jamilah Md. Daud.
“Our Nasi Padang is Singapore style! You really cannot find this in other places. All home recipes,” said Mr Amin, affectionately calling Madam Jamilah the “chief chef” and main pillar of their restaurant. Home and heart were never far from his lips when Mr Amin spoke. Respectfully named for Mr Amin’s father, they’ve been keeping Mansor D’Cafe in the family for more than fifteen years at Far East Plaza.
The whole Mansor D’Cafe experience – from the kampung spirit, through which customers were warmly welcomed and treated as more than friends, to the delicious home-spun recipes using fresh ingredients and celebrating local flavours – was like a home-coming.
This week I’ve discovered excellent halal food you can order in or takeaway quickly with just a budget $20 & enough to feed 2 – 4 people. At Tanglin Halt Food Centre, I found Warung O.M.C., which stands for Oh My Chicken! And Oh Yes, their Ayam Penyet, or deep fried, smashed chicken is yummy!
Their standard rice set comes with a big piece of chicken, plus lettuce leaves, fried tempeh and fried tau kwa on a bed of what I thought was steamed white basmati rice. But one bite & I realised it was far from plain. It was actually tasty chicken-flavoured rice that complemented the ayam penyet, which was a gorgeous golden-yellow colour from turmeric – very crispy on the outside, moist & juicy on the inside, with an extra topping of battered shards for lots of added crunch.
What really pushed things to the next level was their excellent chilli sauce, which will have you seeing stars! It’s very spicy and you’ll feel the searing heat nibbling on your tongue and lips long after you’ve finished your meal. But the extreme chilli is tempered by a soothing sweetness that just goes so well with the entire plate.
If you want to really treat yourself, go all out with their Ayam Penyet fried rice. You’ll get the same chilli sauce and massive piece of crispy chicken, usually the wing & drumlet portion attached to the breast. These sit on a mountain of nasi goreng.
I reckon the fried rice was made with the same flavourful chicken rice, seasoned bright orange with chilli and fried with red cabbage onion, fish cake, peas, sweet corn and carrot. Hot and fragrant from the wok, this ayam penyet fried rice was decadent and delicious.
Both rice sets were enough to feed 4 people comfortably, but you can also supplement your meal with their mee rebus or mee soto.
The Mee Soto ($3) was characterised by the flavours of clove & coriander, with shredded chicken, bean sprouts, coriander and fried onion topping yellow noodles. If you’re not keen on the alkaline taste & smell of yellow noodles, you can opt for Bee Hoon. Same for the Mee Rebus (also $3), which was pungent with spices. Thick and sweet, I think I detected ikan billis in the gravy. Bean sprouts, lime, fried onion and tau pok completed the dish.
Warung O.M.C. serves their noodles first thing in the morning, but keep in mind you’ll have to wait for later if you want the Ayam Penyet. And I would definitely wait for it – that’s the star dish, after all – they’re not called Warung Oh My Chicken for nothing! I was able to get the standard Nasi Ayam Penyet from around 9am, but the fried rice was only ready around lunch time. You can order via most food delivery apps (see below).
However, I popped by to takeaway this time because I had to collect a rare treat from a neighbouring stall. Popular for their lontong, mee rebus and mee soto, Queenstown Lontong actually shuts down all other food sales to concentrate on their Ramadan specialty – Kuih Jongkong. It’s so in-demand, you can’t just rock up and take away – you have to pre-order by what’s apping them in advance.
Made from a thin batter of rice & tapioca flour, coconut milk, pandan and gula melaka, this traditional kuih jongkong is wrapped and steamed in banana leaf to yield a smooth, creamy, savoury-sweet paste. To me, it looked and tasted similar to hot hoon kueh (sans banana and corn), if it was served in soup!
These beautiful parcels were wrapped in a distinctive style, held together tightly by a couple of strategically placed toothpicks. I did a little research and discovered that in Malay, jongkong could mean ingot, so maybe that’s why they look like wallets or purses, containing treasure within! But I read that jongkong can also mean canoe. Again, it could be because the wrapped parcels look like little boats!
Unwrapped from its green jacket, you’ll see a mound of bright green paste, pudding-like in consistency , swimming in a pool of gula melaka, coconut, pandan and banana leaf infused sauce.
Taste-wise, it’s so reflective of our tropical Asian flavours, delicately flavoured by the earthy gula melaka and creamy coconut, but thankfully not too sweet. When I picked up my pre-order, the kuih had just been removed from the steamer and were still warm in the bag.
They continued to retain their heat so when I got home, I was treated to a truly comforting, belly-warming afternoon tea snack. I chilled the other one in the fridge and it made for a really sublime dessert later on.
All in all, I spent $17.70 on the 2 Ayam Penyet rice sets and 2 Kuih Jongkong, plus parking!
Here’s the breakdown:
Nasi Ayam Penyet – $5
Ayam Penyet Fried Rice – $5.50
(add $0.30 for takeaway containers – bring your own containers to save $ & the environment. I reuse the takeaway containers at home for leftovers and when I give food to friends and family)
Kuih Jongkong – $6 (each $3)
From home to the food centre for takeaway and back, I was done in less than 20 minutes flat. No Joke!
I have to say my trip to Tanglin Halt Food Centre was a double winner with Ayam Penyet from Warung O.M.C. and Kuih from Queenstown Lontong! If you’re popping by for your takeaway, the best time is in the afternoon before 3pm during this circuit breaker season.
TASTE: Warung O.M.C.
Address: #01-17 Tanglin Halt Food Centre
2A Commonwealth Dr, Singapore 141002
Open: 8am–7pm (closed Sundays)
Order via: foodpanda.sg, deliveroo.com.sg, bungkus.sg
Tel: +65 98958581 (call in advance to order then pop in quickly to pick-up. Ample parking available).
Address: #01-21 Tanglin Halt Food Centre
Tel: +65 9182 2189 (WhatsApp Kuih Jongkong pre-orders only)
Opening Hours during Ramadan: 11am – 5pm.
Babas and Nyonyas, stop me if you know this one: What do you get when you cross a herb salad with rice? Any true-blue Peranakan will tell you the answer is nasi ulam. The combination of aromatic Asian herbs, rice and, sometimes, seafood, is what makes nasi ulam such a wonderful, cool dish for our Southeast Asian climate.
Found all over southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and here in Singapore, recipes for nasi ulam differ from location to location, family to family, but this Peranakan version was recommended to me by KF Seetoh, the founder of renowned food guide Makansutra.
Chendol Melaka at Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop along Upper East Coast Road is run by the irrepressible Daisy Tan and her husband Colin Yam. Once the regional director of a shipping firm, this self-confessed “200 per cent” bibik is now wholly dedicated to preserving her Peranakan culture through her culinary delights, like delicious chendol, kueh-kueh and her signature dish, nasi ulam.
TASTE:Chendol Melaka is located at Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop, 15 Upper East Coast Road, Singapore 455207.
It’s open 10am-5pm (Tuesdays to Fridays) and 9am-5pm (Saturdays and Sundays). Closed Mondays.
To “reserve” your nasi ulam, call Colin Yam at 9777 6471.
As a Southeast Asian staple, there are few things as comforting and versatile as rice. From biryani to economical “point-point” rice and nasi padang, as well as nasi goreng or yangzhou chao fan, I thought I was familiar with them all, until my Gold 905 Makan Kaki, batik fashion designer Oniatta Effendi, told me about two rice dishes I’d never heard of before.
The avid home cook and self-confessed rice-mad “nasi girl” said when she wanted something a little more extraordinary, she indulges in her favourite nasi jenganan and nasi rawon. Nasi what? A casual poll among friends and colleagues confirmed that these Javanese dishes are, indeed, little-known. Feeling slightly vindicated for my ignorance, I hurried over to Bedok Corner for a little rice re-education.
TASTE: Nasi Jenganan is only available on Sundays, Nasi Rawon available daily. SATAY SOLO
Stall 9, Bedok Corner Food Centre (opp. Bedok Army Camp)
1 Bedok Rd, S(469572)
Open: Tues – Sunday 7am – 10pm (Closed Mondays)
Tel: +65 97110116
Taufik fills us in on what else is in store this month for Chix Hot Chicken & also shares where likes to go for his favourite steak and Nasi Padang! Scroll down for descriptions, pictures and locations!
These sliders are arguably one of the BEST things on the menu! Huge, juicy pieces of boneless chicken, coated with a super crispy batter, sandwiched between two small, pillowy buns and slathered in their house-made tangy pink mayo. You can order the chicken in the level of spice you prefer and it packs a powerful flavour punch. So, so good!
Masterchef Singapore Guest Judge & Executive Chef of Alma by Juan Amador, Chef Haikal Johari used to work in Bangkok full time – his returns to Singapore occurred once in a while and only for a couple of days, so the one thing he craved was always Nasi Lemak. In particular, the popular Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak at Adam Road would fill his mind on the plane all the way home. Those in the know will recognise this stall for its illustrious patrons, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and even the Sultan of Brunei! Also, you can’t miss Selera Rasa’s uniquely-named sets inspired by the card game of Poker, like the Royal Flush & Full House!
Greetings, Makan Kakis! This week, we welcome a new foodie friend to our rolling panel of culinary personalities and she is someone you might remember from her Maxwell Market, Wok & Barrel or Ujong days – she is Mod-Sin Chef Shen Tan, who’s also Culinary Directory & creator of bespoke gastronomic experiences with Gastrogig.
She’s currently serving up a menu of her “greatest hit” dishes at Revolution Coffee over at Infinite Studios – in particular, her fantastic Nasi Lemak with decadent toppings! Do scroll all the way down for more.
In the mean time though, we’re talking about her first foray into cooking, childhood culinary memories, Grandma’s cooking, her approach to food, what her perfect meal would be (hint: it’s spiky, pungent and absolutely fruitiluscious!) and where this Nasi Lemak aficionado goes for her own Nasi Lemak fix (promise, it’s not her own kitchen – haha).
Click for Part 1 – we talk about her own Nasi Lemak and taking that leap from Events Management to Cooking.
Click for Part 2 – Chef Shen’s memories of Grandma’s cooking, her food philosophy & what her perfect meal would be.
Click for Part 3 – the Friends of Mitzo collaboration!
Ok, so we’ve established that Chef Shen is well-known for her Nasi Lemak and it’s no surprise she likes to eat Nasi Lemak too, but not necessarily her own! That’s because when it comes to Nasi Lemak, everyone has a different style, so there’s no real need for comparison. When the mood strikes for a super-comforting Nasi Lemak meal strikes, Chef Shen heads to one of her favourite places in Tanglin Halt. Located in a charming, retro coffeeshop, Maria’s Corner is a quaint little stall run by a cute Makcik, where you get rustic, good old home-style cooking. It’s so good, she sells out very out very quickly. You get a heap of her fragrant coconut rice, then you choose from the array of delicious dishes to pair with your rice. Chef Shen particularly likes these:
Urap – spicy wing bean salad with grated, toasted coconut with lime & beansprouts, all tossed with Tempeh chips.
Paru (beef lung)
Sambal Telur (egg)
Sambal Goreng – spicy-fried tau kwa, tempeh and veggies
Dollop Sambal Belachan all over and you have a satisfying, truly tasty meal!
TASTE: Maria’s Corner Nasi Lemak
Guan Kim Coffeeshop
47 Tanglin Halt Rd, Singapore 141047
Only open for breakfast & lunch, or till she sells out
CHEF SHEN’S NASI LEMAK
In the picture above, you see twice-steamed coconut rice that’s been seasoned with 8 different herbs and ingredients, crunchy Ikan Billis, fried egg and a sinfully crisp deep-fried pork chop. The 2 types of chilli takes thing over the top – one is fresh and tangy, the other is a super-umami coffee sambal! Also must try: her rich beef rendang! Also available, deep-fried chicken chop and chicken rendang.
Get Chef Shen’s Nasi Lemak here: REVOLUTION COFFEE
21 Media Circle, #01-03A, Singapore 138562
Tel: +65 67772110
Open Daily: 9am -6pm