While I was waiting for the rain to stop for my visit to the Singapore Botanical Gardens, I decided to explore the area surrounding the Garden’s Bukit Timah Gate and I came across Adam Road Food Centre (its just opposite the road from where the Bukit Timah Gate is located).
Adam Road Food Centre is famous for its Nasi Lemak offering having at least two famous Nasi Lemak Stalls: Selera Rasa and No.1 Adam’s Nasi Lemak. For my foreign friends reading this, Nasi Lemak is a rice dish infused with coconut cream and laden with deep-fried fish or chicken wings and is a classic dish a traveller should try when in Malaysia or in Singapore.
As No. 1 Adam’s Nasi Lemak store was closed for the day, I ended queuing for Selera Rasa.
While queuing, I decided to look up whats the stall’s claim to fame. Its “resume” is quite impressive:
Among many other accolades, it bagged The Straits Times Readers’ Choice award for favourite nasi lemak in 2008. The Sultan of Brunei requests it for breakfast each time he visits Singapore. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong served it to Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the Istana when the latter visited last November. Mr Lee posted a picture on his Facebook account. Straits Times, 31 March 2015
The story of how a Sultan came to patronise this simple dish goes like this:
[The owner’s father] initially made a living selling French loaves, riding on a bicycle in Telok Kurau.
“But one day, my grandmother told him she would make nasi lemak for him to sell, too. That’s how it all started,” says Mr Abdul Malik whose 86-year-old paternal grandmother is half-Japanese.
“Her father was a Japanese soldier who married a Malay woman. When he died, her mother gave her and her two sisters to another Malay family,” he says. “Her sambal recipe includes some special Japanese seafood ingredients. That’s why it is so special.”
His father gave up peddling after he found a job in the laundry department of the Hyatt Hotel. But he continued making nasi lemak to sell to his colleagues at the hotel, where he worked for 20 years.
That was how the Sultan of Brunei became a fan. Hyatt Singapore is a property of the government-owned Brunei Investment Agency.
“According to my father, the Sultan came into the laundry department one day and saw the packets of nasi lemak. He asked what it was, and my father gave him one to try,” he says.
The Sultan told Mr Hassan he should open a stall and that was exactly what he did in 1998. Straits Times, 31 March 2015
Wow! If it is fit for royalty, it ought to be good for me.
The stall offers a variety of different sets of varying portion sizes and combinations (from $2.90 (US$2) to $5.90 (US$4.33):
As it was around 3pm, there were only two options available: A (plain Nasi Lemak with condiments and a fried egg) or C (Nasi Lemak with a piece of fried chicken wing). I decided to go for C:
Although it looks plain and simple, the rice came through perfect for me being very fragrant and with a pleasant texture (from the unconventional use of the Basmati Rice). The chilli is also good. Some stalls tend to spice up their chilli but this variation is just enough to tease the tongue and suits a wider category of diners. One thoughtful consideration is how the chilli is separated from the Ikan Bilis (Fried anchovies). Some stalls tend to mix them into the chilli. When mixed, there is a likelihood of the Ikan Bilis becoming soft and I find a pain to chew. Here, the two are separate and it is up to the diner to decide. The chicken wing and fried egg are both good being fried on spot (just minutes before serving) and goes well with the chilli. The cucumber slices provide some relief from the chilli or helps cleanse the palate after the meal.
As a dish, I think its very good restaurant in its category and give it one star out of three. While good, it is not something worth a detour or a special trip. If you are headed to the Singapore Botanical Gardens or are around the area, its a good place to visit for a good plate of Nasi Lemak. For my foreign friends, why not consider dropping by to experience for yourself (however, please be prepared to queue if you come during peak hours) what Nasi Lemak is like and check it off your list of “must eats” while in Singapore:
Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak
2 Adam Rd, #01-02,
Adam Road Food Centre, 289876
Open daily from 7am to 5pm (Except on Fridays)
Having finished my plate, I decided to wash it down with both a dessert and a drink. A stall with a simple shop front (Teck Kee Hot & Cold Dessert) caught my eye with their old food recommendation posters from some bygone era (at least 8 years ago).
Thankfully, they also have a 2017 recommendation.
I decided to go for an Ice Kachang (loosely translated as Iced beans) for $2 (US$1.50). Ice Kachang is another regional classic made from ice shavings served with various syrups poured over the shavings together with read beans, palm seeds, sweet corn and chunks of jelly:
When they prepared this classic for me, I noticed two things. One, they are very generous with the ice shavings (it was actually a huge ball of ice shavings). Two, this has a home made feel to it unlike those you get at a food court as it has just the most basic of syrups (Reddish and Brownish syrups without the fanciful green syrups). While not the key highlight of today’s meal, this dessert is a good reminder of the simpler days in Singapore where a person’s respite from the heat lies in a bowl of ice shavings. While I will not give it any star (as it is just a normal Ice Kacang), if you are not full from your meal why not order this dessert to help top it off
Whilst waiting for the rain to stop, I also ordered myself a Kopi Halia from a drinks stall. Ginger flavoured coffee is a variant of the more popular Teh Halia (Ginger flavoured tea). While less popular a drink, I find coffee goes better with ginger than tea and I recommend you to try this unique drink for yourself:
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