Singapore’s latest food trend: fancy nasi lemak

We’ve definitely had our fair share of food trends here: salted egg yolk everything, freakishly huge milkshakes that need at least two people to finish, the “raindrop” cake and the gooey raclette cheese, just to name a few. We’ve predicted what we can expect next year, but we didn’t see this one coming.

A dish close to our hearts (and stomachs) is starting to become more atas. A usual plate of nasi lemak would cost around $4, depending on the ingredients you’ve added, but recently, we’ve noticed two establishments that are offering rather avant garde versions of the hearty dish. We’re definitely intrigued, but staying cautiously excited about these two places.  

The newly minted Coconut Club, located amidst upscale bars, pubs and eateries of Ann Siang Hill, dishes out a plate of nasi lemak at a whopping $12.80, which sounds almost ridiculous. But when you realize what goes into the dish, you’ll probably want to try it for yourself. For their coconut rice, they use Malaysian West African hybrid (MAWA) coconuts that are imported three times a week from Selangor. Then they spend about nine hours to clean and juice them by hand and use it to cook the jasmine rice (the one they use is indigenous of the north-eastern region of Thailand). The chicken used for the ayam goreng berempah that comes with the dish is from Malaysia, and the ikan bilis, from Pangkor Island, a Malaysian resort island. That’s a lot of effort for a simple dish, but it’s details like these that really make it stand out. It’s currently the only thing on the menu (besides beverages and beer on tap), but they’ll be adding more coconut-based dishes soon. 6 Ann Siang Hill, 6635-2999.

And then there’s chef Shen Tan’s legendary nasi lemak, which needs no introduction. She started off selling the dish at a stall in Maxwell Food Center and afterwards, at the now-defunct Wok & Barrel on Duxton Hill. As of late, she’s been travelling the world to get more inspiration and ideas for dishes to create. And now that she’s grounded in Singapore, she’s come full circle and found a home in Revolution Coffee, where she was a consultant during the development stages of the kitchen and the cafe’s menu. Here, you’ll be able to order her signature twice steamed nasi lemak with their crispy fried boneless chicken thigh or deep fried pork belly, both marinated in their secret marinade; pork confit that’s marinated with coffee gorunds and five-spice powder; or their super tender beef shin or boneless chicken thigh braised in coconut milk, spices and herbs (aka rendang!). Each option comes with ikan billis, an omelette, cucumber slices, her homemade sambal belachan and an espresso-infused sambal. A plate can go up to $9.90. #01-03A, 21 Media Circle, 6777-2110.

Both of these establishments have their own merits, but it really depends on how curious you are. We say, go for it and indulge. So what’s next for Singapore? Could we see $10 char kway teow cooked with freshly shucked oysters instead of cockles in the near future?