Nasi Lemak – which directly translates as “fatty” or “oily” rice in Malay – is simply rice soaked in coconut cream and steamed in pandan leaves, which lend an aromatic flavour to each grain. What completes the hearty meal is the sides that accompany the rice.
From the fierce sambal (spicy chilli paste) to crunchy cucumber slices, fried ikan bilis (local anchovies), roast peanuts, egg, and sometimes the additional chicken or rendang. The beauty of the scrumptious nasi lemak, alive and pulsating with complexity and spices, lies in its capability to answer any discerning tongue.
Ahead, we put together a list of places around Singapore that passed the test for that delectable plate of nasi lemak.
This stalwart has been a go-to comfort food haunt for not only the Northlanders and NSFs in the area, but also those from all parts of the island since 1973. The stall serves its signature Chinese-style nasi lemak from 5pm to 6.30am daily. They’re best known for the plethora of side dishes you can get – from crispy, well-marinated chicken wings, ngo hiang (five-spice chicken roll), a–zhar, sauteed sambal lady’s finger, to curry vegetables.
Walaku is a halal eatery that boasts three outlets – two hawker stalls and one bistro concept – around Singapore, so you can bet they know a thing or two about the beloved local dish. Northerners can now enjoy their extensive offerings at their Yishun outlet. Their signature ayam rendang is rife with the fragrance of coconut milk, while their crackling, crisp ikan kuning accentuates the overall savoury goodness of the dish. Opt for their succulent smoked duck or a slab of grilled salmon if that’s too mainstream for you.
Tired of the usual egg-and-fish or chicken combo? While there are signature sets available on their menu, Bali Nasi Lemak lets you in on an assortment of quintessential Indonesian flavours like kecap manis fried chicken (sweet soy sauce chicken), sauteed sambal petai and long beans with sambal belacan.
Other sides include otah, fish cakes and cuttlefish balls among many others. Pile these atop a spoonful of quality basmati rice, and scoop a dollop of the addictively piquant sambal to go with. Be warned though: that splash of chilli can pack a rather mean punch.
An exciting new venture by the team behind bakery-café hotspot Champion Bolo Bun, this takeaway-only kiosk serves authentic Malaysian-style nasi lemak along Joo Chiat Road. The nasi lemak here is said to follow the recipe of the famed Village Park Restaurant, whose rendition has been rated best in Kuala Lumpur.
Tuck into their signature, no-frills Ayam Goreng Berempah, which features a spiced fried whole chicken leg, hard-boiled egg, cucumber slices, roasted peanuts and anchovies atop fragrant rice infused with home-made coconut milk. Taking centre stage is, of course, the 18-ingredient sambal with its sweet-spicy zest freshly concocted in-house daily.
It’s hardly a succinct round-up of the best nasi lemak in Singapore without a mention of this powerhouse. And if you’ve ever had it for yourself, you’d know why. Operating from as early as 5.30am to as late as 3.30am, this spot is the answer to Chong Pang Nasi Lemak for west-siders.
Expect a distinct rendition of all the classic trimmings you need – a sunny-side up, fresh cucumber slices, roasted peanuts and ikan bilis, along with your choice of meat, atop fragrant coconut nasi and a splash of punchy sambal. If you’re game for something more, up the ante by opting for their best-selling fried beef lungs (paru) or beef liver (hati).
At Fong Seng, the rice served is the standard coconut milk-infused rice that is light and fluffy, and the stall operates on a cai fan – or ‘Economic Rice’ – basis. Take your pick from trays after trays of add-on dishes, such as the good ol’ chicken wings and ikan kuning, along with less common options such as sinful hash browns, luncheon meat and teriyaki saba fish. Prices here are kept low to accommodate students from the nearby National University of Singapore campus, so go pile up that plate like nobody’s watching.
Newton Food Centre is now home to award-winning Chef Shen Tan’s twice-steamed Nasi Lemak and signature sambals. The stall sees snaking lines of hopeful diners daily for its oh-so lemak fluffy rice. Prepared over the course of four hours, the rice is first steamed with ginger, lemongrass, onions and pandan leaves, before being soaked in coconut milk, water, salt and fenugreek, then steamed again. What you get is a plate of aromatic and layered nasi, complemented by Crispy Chicken, Beef Rendang, Chicken Rendang, or even Vegan sides of your choice.
Affectionately known as the Adam Road Nasi Lemak, Selera Rasa’s rendition of the scrumptious dish is often referred to as the best in Singapore. The stall draws snaking queues of both locals and tourists alike on a daily basis, which is telling of its ultra-delectable goodness. The feast is also a favourite of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Sultan of Brunei – so what’s more to say?
Go for the Royal Rumble, which is packed to the brim with sinful deep-fried goodies including a chicken wing, begedil (a deep-fried potato patty) and a deliciously smoked otah. Trust us: it’s worth every calorie and minute spent waiting.
Founder Aries Chan carved a name for herself with her home-based business Nasi Lemak Indulgence, most renowned for their show-stopping Nasi Lemak Cake. Her flagship stall at Tiong Bahru Market brings with it a total revamp of her menu and recipes, and is all about natural ingredients without any added MSG.
Here, the rice is infused with blue pea flowers that lends a mildly tangy floral flavour to the grains. Choose from five sets – Sambal Lady Finger and Fried Tempeh Bean Curd, Fried Whole Chicken Leg with Herbs & Spices, Fried Fish with Sambal Kicap Chilli, Sambal Prawn with Petai, and Rempah Fried Chicken Wing.