The Best Nasi Lemak in Singapore, According to Local Chefs
Where do the chefs go when they need to satiate their nasi lemak cravings?
If there's one hawker dish that we could eat for the rest of our lives, it would have to be nasi lemak. It has everything we need for an indulgent meal—light and fluffy rice, potent sambal that elevates the dish and an assortment of accompaniments such as chicken, ikan bilis, fried fish, cucumber and peanuts. Singapore is home to many nasi lemak stalls located in most hawker centres across the island, but not all of them are created equal. There are just some names that stand out from the pack, so we asked five chefs which places they visit when they're looking to satisfy their nasi lemak fix.
Seow Tzi Qin, group executive chef, Brewerkz
Nasi lemak is my weekly comfort food, and I have been trying out different places for the longest time. I discovered Papparich when it opened an outlet at Novotel on Stevens three years ago, and I have been a regular ever since.
The main components to look out for in a nasi lemak are coconut rice, fried chicken and sambal; I feel that Papparich Novotel on Stevens has the whole package. The rice is light and fluffy, and the coconut flavour is not overpowering. It comes together really well with the chicken (which remains crisp outside yet moist inside) and sambal (which is well executed and served with specks of dried shrimps).
That said, Papparich is a franchise and quality tends to differ slightly across different outlets based on their location and traffic. The Stevens outlet doesn’t have much traffic and is manned by the same staff, so quality and consistency are maintained at the highest level.
Hany Moustafa, executive chef, Shabestan
If I'm being very honest, nasi lemak is a dish that is new to me. My Singaporean and Malaysian colleagues always bring me nasi lemak to try and my favourite so far is Nusantara Singapore's nasi lemak bunga telang.
I see how much effort the chefs take to prepare this, as there are many steps that go into making this dish. Nusantara Singapore's version uses blue pea flowers, chef's special rempah and fresh coconut milk just to cook their basmati rice. Their sambal is hand pounded using fresh ingredients, making it a little sweet and spicy with a hint of anchovy flavour. The best part about this dish is the chicken that is crispy and full of flavours.
Ponggol Nasi Lemak
Mano Thevar, chef and co-owner, Thevar
I came across Ponggol Nasi Lemak through friends who frequent this place, and you can now say that it’s my regular spot whenever I am craving for this dish—especially during supper. I like their fiery sambal and fried fish, which give your tastebuds a good time.
Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak
Nurul Ain Malek, chef, The Nomads
I first tried the stall in my late teens when my friends encouraged me to visit this place in the west. Since then, I’ve been visiting and ordering their nasi lemak for almost a decade now. What I like about the dish here is that it’s always served warm, no matter what time of the day. The rice is also fluffy and not overly rich (or lemak).
Of course, it’s even better with the ikan bilis, which are coated in batter first and deep fried for that extra crunch and texture. There are other sides, too, but I prefer to stick to the classic accompaniments. This means I will order the chicken set with an extra chicken wing and a side of sambal—which is not too spicy. I can handle my chilli but if it’s too fiery, it completely overpowers the dish.
Firdauz Nasir, chef, Permata Singapore
Aside from The Coconut Club, where I used to work at, my other favourite nasi lemak place is Nurul Delights at Block 217 Bukit Batok Street 21. I have been following them for the last three years since they opened and the queue never ends at their shop. I've even had to queue for an hour just to buy this hawker favourite, which is priced at $2.50 only. They have never increased their price and my entire culinary team loves the nasi lemak whenever I "tapao" for them.
Nurul Delight's Nasi Lemak brings back old memories of the Kampung days in Singapore. They wrap their nasi lemak with banana leaf and old newspaper. They pair it with sambal, which is slightly spicy and sweet with onion, as well as sides of omelette, old-school canteen fried chicken, crispy anchovies and peanuts.