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
Hello Makan Kakis! In recent weeks, our nation and its netizens have been all abuzz with opinions about MacDonald’s NASI LEMAK BURGERS, which, to the disappointment of many, sold out in 2 weeks. Personally, I think a nasi lemak burger should at least contain nasi (rice) so come with me as we follow the coconut-fragranced trail of one other worthy nasi lemak burger, that could fill that empty space left by said fast food restaurant! But if it’s the un-burgered, original form of Nasi Lemak you prefer though, then I have another recommendation for the purists.
Click the on the picture above to WATCH this latest video episode of Gold 905’s feel good food guide, in which I recommend two Nasi Lemak options – one hipster burger, one hearty tradition – on offer.
Click here to LISTEN to our aromatic on-air episode!
TRY THIS: With National Day on the horizon, a little tasty competition seems to have emerged amongst several makan places which have come up with their own versions of the new-fangled Nasi Lemak Burger. From the fray emerged one that stood out – in description, that is. I was delighted to hear that my Makan Guru KF Seetoh had persuaded the folks at HK St Old Chun Kee (Gluttons Bay branch) to bring back their Nasi Lemak Burger all this month of August. It sounded like an improvement on the fast food restaurant version, so I made it my mission to try it the very day it launched.
Caution: Sensory overload! Make no mistake, this is one dirty, decadent, minyak and lemak creation, featuring coconut rice mixed with otah (for extra umami and colour), shaped into “buns” using a ring form, then wok-fried till crispy and toasty brown on the outside, tender and fluffy on the inside.
These rice “buns” sandwich a breaded fish fillet, fried egg and a mellow-sweet smear of sambal scattered with crunchy ikan billis and peanuts. This Nasi Lemak Burger is delicious and definitely gives you all the taste and aroma of the rice dish. This is a novel re-imagining of a Singapore classic, with lots of punchy flavours and contrasting textures, but be warned though, you’ll probably find it hard to finish even one on your own.
It may be small in size, but this $7.50 Nasi Lemak Burger is hefty on your tastebuds and stomach. Bring a friend to share, or a takeaway container. If you’re looking for a uniquely Singaporean dish to feast on this National Day, you could do much worse than enjoying alfresco dining by Marina Bay, soaking in the views as you soak up the greasy goodness of the Nasi Lemak Burger here.
TASTE: HK St Old Chun Kee (Gluttons Bay Branch)
Makansutra Gluttons Bay
8 Raffles Avenue, #01-15H,
Esplanade Mall, Singapore 039802.
Open Daily 3pm – 1am.
OR THAT: If you’re thinking why go to the trouble of turning Nasi Lemak into burgers when you can have it the old-fashioned, traditional way, then you’ve got to try Nasi Lemak Kukus.
Kukus literally means “Steam” in Malay and this is the really old school, traditional way to cook the coconut rice. To save time and effort these days, most Nasi Lemak restaurants will just use a rice cooker to boil the rice and cook it. But steaming is what sets Nasi Lemak Kukus apart from others. A lot of care is taken to steam the rice, which means you get a more springy product, with a light coconut fragrance that permeates each and every grain. What you don’t get is an overpoweringly coconutty, sticky mush. This one has great texture that’s firm to the bite and beautifully flavoured with coconut milk, pandan leaves and salt. Honestly, it’s so good, you can eat the rice all on its own. Best of all, servings are unlimited!
Help yourself to as much of it from the large steamer they have set up at the buffet-style counter, along with the unlimited helpings of sambal tumis. Nasi Lemak Kukus has two types – a sweet and mild one and then there’s the “power” one – super spicy, but with just a touch of sweet to balance out the fire.
All-you-can-eat rice and sambal aside, another star item on their menu is the deep-fried chicken wing. Delicately seasoned with spices like turmeric that gives it its golden yellow hue, these are fried in small batches for maximum freshness and crispiness.
As an introduction to what’s on offer, try the Nasi Lemak Kukus standard meal set, which gets you unlimited rice and sambal, along with 1 chicken wing, 1 piece of egg omelet, 1 whole ikan kuning and a scoop of crunchy ikan billis and peanut mix. For just $4, this is one satisfying, value-for-money meal.
But with so many other dishes on display, you’ll be hard-pressed to resist naughty tidbits like the super-tasty deep-fried chicken skin and otah-otah.
You can also get other add-ons from their special pots bubbling away on burners, including lip-smackingly lemak sayur lodeh…
…savoury-sweet beef paru (lung) and the rich, tender mutton rendang.
Depending on your mood, wash down your hearty meal with a strong and sweet Vietnamese drip coffee, or a freshly squeezed home-made calamansi lime drink.
Nasi Lemak Kukus is a great stop for a quick lunch at its sun-drenched premises, but also pretty special at night in their courtyard complete with twinkling lights, hanging wall creepers and a gorgeous distressed spiral staircase.
What you get here is unpretentious quality food, friendly staff and a relaxed self-serve atmosphere in a charming old Selegie shophouse, its interiors charmingly adorned with the colourful scribbles and artwork of customers (a lot of who are Lasalle students). TASTE: Nasi Lemak Kukus
229 Selegie Road, Singapore 188344
Open Monday – Saturday 12pm – 10.30pm. Closed Sunday.
Tel: 8222-9517/ 91443764
SEE: This week, we introduce you to TWO new foodie friends who are avid and prolific cooks, soon to be seen in the Singapore International Arts Festival’s O.P.E.N. Kitchens, a series of interactive and delicious culinary performances, in which you get to prepare a meal with them, whilst enjoying stories and perhaps even songs! Please meet Asha Adnan of Asha & Co. and Oniatta Effendi of Baju by Oniatta, both with wonderful stories and dishes to share (Listen to the audio of them sharing above)! For today’s episode of Makan Kakis, we begin with self-confessed “Nasi Girl” Oniatta recommending a restaurant that ruined her for ordinary Nasi Lemak. She says this place turned her into a Nasi Lemak snob and no other will do. Nestled in a cosy part of Ann Siang Hill, Coconut Club has made waves with their instagrammable environment and food, but aesthetics aside, this is really a solid, outstanding plate of coconut rice and dishes. The brainchild of 3 friends who went to a Nasi Lemak convention in Malaysia, Coconut Club was opened with the best quality in mind. Nasi Lemak in itself is a basic comfort food, but Coconut Club really elevates the humble home dish with their expert handling of quality ingredients – from the otak-otak to the fried chicken, everything is truly sedap, says Oniatta. And on days their sambal lala is available, be sure to get your order in ASAP – soooo good! Be sure to leave room for their array of coconutty desserts, traditional kueh-kueh, from Kueh Salat to Kueh Bingka Ubi. Coconut Club lives up to its name with their Kueh Ko Swee or Kuih Kosui, absolutely smothered with grated coconut! Oniatta has since discovered that the intense coconut flavours that pervade all their dishes come from special coconuts they source at a secret plantation in Malaysia… Finally, wash all that coconutty goodness down with a excellent teh tarik or kopi, from Master Desmond, who usually plies his trade outside Changi Prison but was lured over to Coconut Club to serve up his fantastic drinks. All in all, Oniatta says whilst there has been a lot of hype about Coconut Club and their “atas” Nasi Lemak, the $12.80 price per plate is more than worth it!
TASTE: COCONUT CLUB
6, Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069787
Open for lunch: 11am – 3pm (Tuesday – Sunday)
Open for dinner: 6 – 9.30pm (Tuesday – Saturday)
Tel: +65 6635 2999
For more on Oniatta’s Batik fashion line, Baju by Oniatta, check this out!
This week, what a special treat! Fresh off the presses of eating guide Makansutra 2017, our Guru of Gluttony KF Seetoh reveals a recent gem of a discovery. This is a place recommended by a friend who also introduced him to the famed JB Ah Meng, so you better believe this is gonna be good!
Definitely a bit of a secret, off-the-beaten-track place, you’d never guess this simple, average, neighbourhood mama shop/ convenience/ provision shop/ minimart would be dishing out yummy old-fashioned local breakfast delights on a daily basis. You know the kind of convenience store in the void deck of your flat? This is what we’re talking about! And early every morning, you’ll see a rack full of hot, home-cooked packets of Nasi Lemak for sale at this Pasir Ris void deck. The food is prepared by someone who lives nearby and brought in fresh daily. The lemak is not too heavy, rice lightly fragranced with coconut and a little salt, so it doesn’t overpower the delicious fried fish (Ikan Kuning). This old-school delight also includes a little packet of ikan billis & kacang, as well as a fried egg on the side with a slice of cucumber for fresh crunch. Seriously, get there early to get it hot and when you unwrap the banana leaf, the smell of the Nasi Lemak will transport you! So good, so simple, so unadulterated.
But that’s not all, grab a packet of their Nasi Sambal Goreng and some Mee Siam too. In particular, Seetoh loved the latter. The Mee Siam isn’t much to look at, sitting in its plastic container, but he swears the moment he took that first bite with a squeeze of lime, he had a “Ratatouille” moment. 😀 You know in the movie where the food reviewer gets swept back to a moment in his past and has the most sublime taste experience (actually, watch it here – it’s such an evocative scene!)? Same experience for Seetoh – it took him right back to his SJI days, in his white shirt and shorts, tie double-pinned so nobody could flick it, standing on the field waiting to play football with his friends before heading across to the sarabat stall for Mee Siam.The flavour of the Pasir Ris Mee Siam gave him those memories and more! Its a distinctively nostalgic taste that he’s been searching for that he hasn’t been able to find till now.
Now you know why it’s sold out usually by 10.30am and people in cars line up to swing by and pick up breakfast on the way into the city for work! So if you’re hankering after a taste of the past, you’ve got to try these home-cooked delights (apparently, the minimart gets their supply from a lady who lives in the area and has her own home kitchen catering business). Read more about it on page 156 of Makansutra 2017, or online here.
Since this was published, we have returned a couple of times and discovered that the supplier of the nasi lemak to this minimart has changed and it is no longer the same one described by Seetoh. If you happen to go for the nasi lemak now, be warned, it’s gonna be a generic packet mass-produced by a factory that supplies many places.
There’s been crazy-enthusiastic response to this week’s makan recommendation – thanks for sharing it on your FB and telling your friends! But we did get a call from the lady who runs the mini mart because of the sheer number of people turning up for the home-cooked breakfast delights. She’s completely overwhelmed, so go easy on her, ok?
Just to clarify, she caters the food to sell, she does not prepare it herself!
Also, the food we mention in this post may not always be available, so visit at your own peril! Try your luck, you may get the Nasi Lemak or some other form of packet rice.
Seetoh was lucky enough to get a taste of all 3, but apparently, the Mee Siam may not be available currently.
TASTE: Pasir Ris Mini Mart
Block 773 Pasir Ris St 71, #01-380
Hot food available daily 7.30am-12noon (but usually sells out by 10.30am!)
Click this to hear all about the best eats in Boon Lay!
This week, co-author of local food guide Eat. Muse. Love. Toh Mu Qin wants us to check out the many delicious things on offer at Boon Lay Food Village. There, you get all-day dining at its very best. You’ll be spoilt for choice from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, to every other meal in between! Here are a few highlights of Mu Qin’s favourite things to eat there:
First of all, no Westie worth their salt wouldn’t be aware of Power Nasi Lemak (some say the best in all of Singapore), so let’s start here. This is one stall that takes pride in the quality of their food – freshly prepared ingredients, yummy flavours and everything kept piping hot. The deep-fried chicken is particularly good here – well-marinated, juicy and tender on the inside, shatteringly crisp and golden on the outside. The otak-otak (fish paste) is also a must-try, since it comes with a separate coconut milk sauce to drizzle over, cutting through the spice & adding to the creamy richness of the fish. The fried ikan billis & roasted peanuts are also worth mentioning, as is the sensational sambal chilli, which balances a mild sweetness with the heat of the chilli. Power Nasi Lemak is open till late, making it a perfect stop for dinner/ supper. In fact it’s usually open from 6.30am – 3.30am!!! Find it at #01-106.
And if you’re looking for something else to satisfy those dinner cravings, you might also want to try the stall serving up sizzling seafood on hotplates! Be warned – spicy to the max, but oh-so-good! Try the BBQ sting ray, sotong, lala and chilli kang kong at Sin Chew Huat Mei Xiang Hotplate Stingray #01-117.
If you happen to be at Boon Lay Food Village earlier in the day, Mu Qin also recommends the carrot cake or Wanton Mee for breakfast. The latter also comes with the option of stewed chicken feet and shitake mushrooms – yum! Check out Lian Yi Wanton Noodle at #01-161.
Final recommendation: Bak Kut Teh Bee Hoon in a claypot – simple, flavourful and comforting! Kam Hiang Food Stall is at #01-118.
TASTE: BOON LAY PLACE FOOD VILLAGE
221A/B Boon Lay Place