Nasi Lemak is one of the most common meals found in Singapore. You can get them in:
- $1 – $2: Factory packed in banana leaves from random food stalls (like around MRT stations) which comes with a tiny piece of omelette, a tiny deep fried kuning fish, ikan bilis and Nasi Lemak chilli.
- $3 – $4: Basic plates from hawker centers (Changi Village, Adam Road, Boon Lay Power etc) with choice of your protein from otah to fried chicken wing.
- $5 – $6: Shopping mall eateries (Crave, Lee Wee Brothers, Qiji etc) which is basically the same as hawker center offerings.
- $7 – $8: Chinese style which offers many accompanying dishes from standalone shops (Punggol, Chompang) where you can pile up various vegetables, meats and stuff like a regular rice stall, but with coconut rice and Nasi Lemak chilli, hence it is also Nasi Lemak
- And trending right now is plates from restaurants which goes at a price tag of $12 and up.
Of course each price range has a reason. The basic one is just basic and do not expect meticulous cooking or high quality ingredients. For the $7-$8 range you’re paying for all the meat dishes rather than the Nasi Lemak itself. For the $12+ price range, they typically serve it with traditional selections of sides but offer the best form of each aspect and I really appreciate that. Looking forward to having more good Nasi Lemak around!
For this post I will rate them according to satisfaction level taking into consideration the taste as well as how value for money it is.
This is an example of what you would get at Changi Village. There are 3 stalls selling the same stuff so just go wherever the queue is. I tried all 3 in one sitting and I didn’t find it particularly nice, nothing worth travelling down for if Changi Village isn’t your neighbourhood. This category would belong the to everyday food sort of thing if you live within 5 minutes walking distance, rather than Nasi Lemak of fine standards. (I mean I already expected this before coming, so just stating objectively.)
Satisfaction level: 3/5
- Changi Village Market and Food Centre #01-03, 2 Changi Village Road Singapore 500002
On the other end of the island you have Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak. I would never go Boon Lay just for this, but they have an outlet in Novena Square 2 which made everything possible. Assuming it’s the same (I wouldn’t know, have not stepped into Boon Lay for years), this one is indeed comparable to Changi Village standard (Westsiders! You have no good reason to go to Changi Village for Nasi Lemak when you have this in Boon Lay.). It’s basically of the same category – great for a everyday cheap meal, but nothing of fine standards. The flavours are pretty much generic of Nasi Lemak, but generic is a good thing. The rice was good, chilli was good, ikan bilis and peanuts really crispy and chicken wing was up expectations. I polished the whole packet and had no regrets over the calories. I even missed the taste enough to buy this a second time within 2 weeks.
Satisfaction level: 4/5
- #B1-125 Novena Square 2, 10 Sinaran Drive, Singapore 307506
- #01-106, 221B Boon Lay Place, Singapore 642221
This one at Revolution Coffee had some hype online because it’s supposedly really good, with recipe from a self-taught chef with special interest in Nasi Lemak. I had high hopes for this, going many lengths to get to this super inaccessible cafe just for the Nasi Lemak, but it was sorely disappointing. I seldom ever get disappointed with Nasi Lemak, but even those $2 banana leaf factory packed ones fared better. I would describe this one as “trying to hard but backfired”. They tried to hard to be different – using some different flavours for the chicken and the rice, but it just didn’t work. The rice had some spice flavour like ginger, which distracted the main flavour of coconut, and the chicken was way too oily and sweet. It was as though the kitchen just fried it up again to reheat. Don’t quote me, I don’t know what they really did, but that’s what I perceived from eating it. The proportions of ingredients was strange too – the chilli was way too little, eggs were too much(you can’t see it but those slices were really thick, as if it’s 2 whole eggs here) and ikan bilis was barely there. I am convinced that this place just has good PR done to get rave write ups done on various media hence the hype but you can easily find better Nasi Lemak anywhere else.
Satisfaction level: 0/5
- #01-03A, Infinite Studio, 21 Media Cir, Singapore 138562
The cafe version of Peranakan Inn is situated just a short walk down East Coast Road from their main restaurant. Tok Panjang’s menu is way friendly for small groups because you can order food for one, instead of having to order rice and communal dishes. Nasi Lemak here is decent but not really memorable. It is also on the pricier side too.
Satisfaction level: 2.5/5
- 392 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428992
This place is like coffee shop gone 10% hipster at Selegie Road. However it is still towards hawker style and prices are kept really low, almost as low as hawker center’s. The concept is interesting – you scoop any amount of rice you want (and their rice is very fragrant), choose your own ingredients from a buffet like counter and they charge you accordingly. This concept is very interesting to me as I seldom find such places. Do not expect any fancy cooking though – the ingredients has no fancy twist to it and is classic style (and very oily, very lemak). They have 2 kinds of chilli – one sweet and one spicy. Get the sweet one. The spicy one which was full of seeds was way too spicy to enjoy!
Satisfaction level: 4.5/5
- 229 Selegie Road Singapore 188344
I’ve been eyeing this one for a long time because it sits just opposite a yoga studio which I frequent and for CBD price, it’s pretty decent. I like that they give option of chicken drumstick instead of the usual chicken wing ($7.80) because I very much prefer having drumsticks. The batter was really oily but nice and crispy. The egg was supposed to be truffle sous vide egg but mine turned out looking like they boiled it at 61 deg or something instead of 62 deg. I’ve seen pictures from other diners and their sous vide egg was nicely served without being broken or too runny. I guess the kitchen just didn’t put in effort with the quality control to serve consistently prepared sets to every diner. The rice was average but at least still decent. If the egg was done with more effort, this would have been quite a good one but I now question their consistency.
Satisfaction level: 3/5
- 57 Circular Rd, Singapore 049412
This Nasi Lemak for Two at Sinpopo was probably one of the first around to have Nasi Lemak served in a cafe/restaurant setting, before all these other Nasi Lemak-centric cafes started popping up in 2016. This was more like coconut rice with a variety of side dishes. I liked how I got to sample many items in small portions from this set. Check out my review of Sinpopo right here.
Satisfaction level: 3.5/5
- 458 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427671
I saved the best for the last. This plate from The Coconut Club was my absolute favourite so far! The rice was not the usual sort you get. They probably did their research and experiments to get it to this level of fluffiness and flavour. The ikan bilis and peanuts here really crispy, chilli was addictive and got kick, and I appreciate how the chicken was coated in lemongrass and other spices. It was juicy and flavourful. Even though it’s $12.80, I thought it was worth every cent.
Satisfaction level: 5/5
- 6 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069787
Alternatively, you can choose to make your own Nasi Lemak! It isn’t as difficult at all. What I chose to do was to outsource my favourite otah and chicken for now, since I wanted to focus on getting the rice right. By no means is my recipe perfect for now, but it is definitely better than a certain one above in this post hahaha. I’ve only cooked this twice and is still in the midst of perfecting it.
Hungry Bird’s Nasi Lemak
- 3 cups of rice
- 1 cup of fresh coconut milk
- 2 cups of water/ pandan water*
- 2 pandan leaves
- 1 lemongrass
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Rinse the rice and soak if required, as per instructions of the type of rice you are using.
- In the rice pot, pour in water/ pandan water and coconut milk to rinsed rice with salt and mix well. Place knotted pandan leaves and lemongrass and cook it on normal mode of rice cooker.
- Halfway through, fluff and mix rice using a chopstick to ensure everything is even.
*If you wish to have green coloured rice, blend ~15 -30 pieces of chopped pandan leaves with water and strain to extract 2 cups of pandan water.