Ah Nasi Lemak. Just the mere mention of it makes you want to eat some, doesn’t it?
I remember the first time I took a liking to the dish. It was during a Scout camp in my primary school days and we were served packets of nasi lemak for breakfast and they were wrapped in banana leaves. Up till then, I hadn't really eaten nasi lemak because I didn't like spicy food. But it was the only thing they served for breakfast. I remember just eating the rice and leaving the sambal tumis (chilli sauce) on the side. It was the most basic of nasi lemak with ikan bilis (anchovies), peanuts, egg, cucumber, and of course sambal. The packet was so small and being the hungry boy that I was, I ate most of the rice and tried to pick out the ‘untainted’ rice near the chilli. It was then that I tasted some of the chilli tainted rice and my eyes were opened.
There really are two schools of thought when it comes to nasi lemak: those who think that nasi lemak is a Malay dish and they like it that way, while there are others who like the Chinese style because they can order luncheon meat with it.
Traditionally, the Malay style nasi lemak is cooked in a steamer. It is also known as nasi lemak kukus and in general, they would use the local Malaysian grown rice instead of the Thai Hom Mali (Jasmine) rice. The Chinese style, on the other hand, uses Thai rice as we are so used to eating it.
In Singapore, we have a mixture. In Changi Village, International Nasi Lemak uses Jasmine Rice, while some of the other ones use the local variety. The bite and texture of the rice is a little different. The local rice tends to be lighter and more starchy and lacking that more chewy bite of the Thai variety (this is a generalisation as there are many types of Thai rice and not all of them are Hom Mali).
The quality of the rice used at Ponggol Nasi Lemak Centre was very good. They used Thai AAA Hom Mali (i.e. Jasmine) rice which has a good toothy bite and whose fragrance is accentuated by coconut and pandan. The sweet sambal tumis balanced very well with the rice and was not overly spicy. You can see the consistency of the stall by looking at how they have done the eggs. Each one was individually fried and the yolk runny with the edges just browned. They achieved this level of consistency by having one family member who does nothing but cook the eggs. If there is anything I would mark down, it would be that the chicken wings could be tastier. With the high turnover, they were very fresh, crisp and juicy. However, I thought they could be spiced up a little with tumeric so as to make it more like nasi lemak style chicken wings.
Some people might say that this stall is overrated, but personally, I think that Ponggol Nasi Lemak has managed get the basics of rice, sambal, eggs and ikan bilis right and managed to maintain consistency as the whole place is run mainly by family members. Great place for a night snack but the queues can be intimidating.
Rating – Food: 4; Value: 3; Service: 3
965 Upper Serangoon Road S 53472
Tel: 62810020, 97805597
Opening hours: Daily: 5:30pm-3:30am; closed on Thurs
Outlet: 238 Tanjong Katong Road, S437026; 62870020/63483383
Also check out two other hawker food recommendations by Dr Leslie Tay!
Find out why one Hainanese pork chop deserves such the name.
Find out which stall in Geylang offers the best of Penang and tze char favourites.