I love Nasi Lemak. I think if I had to introduce just ONE die die must try local Singaporean dish to a foreigner, I may choose Nasi Lemak. You may notice that on my blog, I do not really talk about our local hawker fare, but Nasi Lemak actually has a whole post dedicated to it.
So what makes a good Nasi Lemak? Like other local dishes (eg. wanton mee, ba chor mee, rojak etc…) deciding factor of whether it is good or not, is actually a combination of various factors and not just one single aspect. It is not as straight forward as for example, good steak, where it’s just all about how good the beef is cooked. For most of our local dishes, there may be like 5 components and to be the best, they have to outdo their competitors in all 5 components. Take Wanton Mee for example, you need good noodles, sauce, wanton, and char siew. Often times I find good noodles at Stall A, but better sauce from Stall B. Or perhaps Stall C got the noodles, sauce and wanton right, but they use factory supplied char siew and ruined it all. (Digressing, I haven’t found a single Wanton Mee stall which got everything right yet.)
This is why I find it difficult to find really good local dishes -it’s not easy to get each and every aspect to perfection! And it’s even more impossible to get them at hawker price (like $2 – $4). It’s kind of sad that many people expect hawker food = cheap food, but those which are that cheap usually do not aim to be the best and are not nice? Want cheap = don’t expect good. I’d rather pay more for perfection and for the good recipe live on. But that shall be a discussion for another day.
For Nasi Lemak, it is essentially all about that coconut flavoured rice and the self made chilli sauce. These two components are the ones which will either make or break the overall dish. There are many areas which could affect the results – type of rice, method of cooking rice, freshness of coconut milk, proportion of coconut milk etc. I did attempt cooking Nasi Lemak before so I know how delicate it is! One small mistake and it may turn out different. The chilli is just as important, if not more important. Everything on the plate will go with the chilli so the flavour will be everywhere. It has to be slightly sweet yet spicy. Making the chilli is the part which intimidates me most and the reason why I’m willing to just pay for a good Nasi Lemak meal outside. I don’t even know how to get started on finding the right chilli recipe and technique. This kind of things only the old cooks knows best.
Next comes the basic accompanying ingredients of crispy fried ikan bilis and peanuts (sounds super simple but trust me, some places can’t even get it right and it could turn out hard instead of crispy). It typically comes with egg (either sunny side up, omelette or hard boiled) and sliced cucumber. The choice of protein is usually fried kuning fish or otah, but indulgent options includes fried chicken drumstick or wing. Some places do not put in effort for this last part and I usually feel that KFC makes better chicken than the Nasi Lemak stalls.
So anyway, today I’m back at The Coconut Club, a place which I’ve tried before and was impressed by their Nasi Lemak as written in my previous post about Nasi Lemak in Singapore. I brought along my new camera today and now I have nicer pictures which does the food justice!
Nasi Lemak – $12.80
I love the rice and chili here. It was good enough for me to forget about the Paleo diet for a day. I could really just eat the chilli and rice without anything else, but the accompanying ingredients on this plate was good too. The ikan bilis was very crispy and so was the egg. I like how they used a lemongrass crust for the chicken which makes it different from the usual battered fried chicken we get, but to my dismay the chicken today seemed to be marinated not long enough and parts which are inside were kind of bland. However, this is where chilli comes to the rescue. Even bland chicken can tastes flavourful when eaten with good chilli. I remembered to the chicken to be more tasty the first time I came though.
The price tag of $12.80 may be 3 times of what you pay for at hawker centers, but as mentioned, you can’t find top notch quality for hawker price tag. I can taste the effort that went into perfecting the recipe here and I’m sure the effort of doing so is not the same as a $4 version.
Chendol – $3.80
I made an awful mistake the first time I came here by skipping dessert. This time I made it a point to try their chendol even though I only had an hour to digest this and that whole plate of Nasi Lemak before my yoga class in the afternoon!
I was never a fan of chendol based on the options we have in Singapore, but I tried it once in Jakarta from a home cook and it was SO GOOD. The version in Jakarta was not overwhelmed by unnecessary ingredients. It just had coconut milk, gula melaka, and the green stuff (for the lack of a better term I shall just refer it as so for this post). Because all these 3 ingredients were done right, the whole thing tasted heavenly. I had multiple refills of it even though I was having food poisoning at that time. It was that good. So basically, I couldn’t find anything similar when I came back to Singapore, despite chendol being a very common dessert here as well. In Singapore however, the chendol desserts usually uses factory supplied green stuff and that makes the whole thing gross. I even tried making it by myself because I wanted good quality green stuff! Here’s the recipe if you’re interested. It wasn’t difficult, but it was not something I would want to make often because it can get messy.
Long story short, this chendol was good! The green stuff was legit, the gula and coconut milk was fragrant enough, and I truly enjoyed it as much as the Nasi Lemak. It’s great to have both of my favorites from the same place! It was a small bowl for $3.80 but take my money. My only regret was that I agreed to share my dessert. Never again…
Overall: Really good Nasi Lemak and Chendol
The Coconut Club
6 Ann Siang Hill
Tues – Sun: 11am – 3pm
Tues – Sat: 6 – 9:30pm