Mention nasi lemak to Singaporeans and the first few names popping up in the heads of food enthusiasts would either be Adam Road, Chong Pang or Ponggol, amongst others. But what about Pasir Panjang or even, Jalan Jurong Kechil? Helmed by the same man who started the House of Traditional Javanese Massage and Beauty Care chain (located conveniently beside each of their eateries in the two latter locations), Hot And Spicy Nasi Lemak is set to take part in the battle of nasi lemak supremacy. A visit to their newly-opened outlet along Jalan Jurong Kechil showed that these guys are no pushovers when it comes to this humble dish usually associated with breakfast.
A couple of wooden tables and stools rest outside the ground floor of the shophouse-like unit of the building, with a wall of potted flora acting as a shield against vehicular fumes from the adjacent parking lot. Step beyond the glass door and reminisce at the interior resembling an old kampung house; complete with attap roof-lined ceilings. Framed black and white photographs of various places in olden Singapore fill the walls of the restaurant and add a further touch of “old school” feel. 2 to 3 tables of four-tops were a pleasant surprise for my parents and I (note that it was a public holiday – Deepavali – and also lunchtime), which made us feel at ease and ensured we could enjoy our fare with some peace of mind.
A pudgy, but soft spoken, lady presented us with a laminated menu complete with photographs and prices of the nasi lemak variations (more than 20) on offer. I settled on the beef rendang set, while my folks strangely ordered somewhat similar items; sambal cuttlefish and sambal squid. Interestingly, the signboard above the main entrance suggested they serve an array of other delicacies such as satay, Thai-inspired fare and a variety of rice and noodle dishes. In spite of that, it was apparent they were focusing on their forte – nasi lemak – on this particular day. I vaguely heard the next table being apologetically told by the staff that the restaurant wasn’t serving a certain soup dish (which the guests claimed to have had on a previous visit).
Our dishes were presented to us on round wooden plates, lined with a rectangular strip of banana leaf and brown waxed paper cut to mimic the shape of a flower. The same offerings (other than the 3 aforementioned specialty items) on each of our plates were a portion of rice – molded into the shape of a little dome – which was surrounded in a circular fashion by;
- deep fried ikan bilis and groundnuts,
- a thick slice of cucumber,
- a generous dollop of sambal (which served as the base for the two cephalopod dishes),
- a hard-boiled egg; halved,
- a piece of deep fried ikan selar kuning (yellowtail scad), and
- a deep fried chicken wing.
Hands down, the rice was the star of the dish; soft and fluffy, each grain of rice absorbed the flavour of coconut cream and spices beautifully – without cancelling each other out – and oozed perfection. The flavourful sambal was executed with near perfection, albeit slightly lacking the “hot and spicy” part as suggested by the name of the eatery. Chicken wing aficionados are in for a letdown; for the domesticated fowl fell flat in the flavour scale. No real “oomph”, other than a predictable crunch coming from the lightly flour-dusted skin.
Despite that, each of our specialty choices did not disappoint. The cuttlefish and squid were both tender (perhaps a little too tender in the case of the squid, as it reminded me of tofu), with the former having a slight “bounce” to each bite. The beef was equally tender and flavourful, accompanied with a coarse-textured gravy brought about from the slow stewing process. While I consider myself as one who is not a rendang fanatic, I exhibited a cheeky smirk upon sinking my teeth into what I would call a piece of bovine excellence.
There was, however, somewhat of an issue. Having all of those items, plus our respective choices of protein, made eating a problem – to a certain extent. Too much was going on within the constraints of our plates, akin to cramming a football team into a shoe-box apartment unit. Led by the man paying the bills, we opted to share an additional serving of rice to compensate for the lack of it versus the mass remainder of other items on our plate. I also placed an order of bergedil (deep fried potato cutlets), which turned out to be dry and uninspiring.
As with roti prata, nasi lemak isn’t restricted to a food item only available during breakfast in these modern times. While the (supposed) sacrilegious act of pairing a ton of other ingredients has angered some traditionalists (think of nasi padang but with nasi lemak as the rice base), the younger generation of this food-loving nation grows fond of breaking the barriers of the norm of everyday food, while being gingerly careful not to go overboard. As for Hot and Spicy Nasi Lemak – regardless of some minor setbacks – I would probably return for another serving (or two) if I happened to be in the area. With a few tweaks, the formidable pair of rice and sambal can easily be the LeBron James and Dwayne Wade of the nasi lemak world; scoring never-ending 3-pointers, for sure.Hot And Spicy Nasi Lemak 102C Jalan Jurong Kechil Singapore 598602 Tel: +65 6467 5948 Fax: +65 6734 1681 (prices are subject to a 10% service charge) https://www.facebook.com/HotSpicyNasiLemakFamilyRestaurant https://www.facebook.com/hotandspicynasilemak (the links above mostly show activity in their Pasir Panjang outlet)