Rich in flavour, aromatic from the use of spices and herbs and often packs some heat – that's Malay food for you. With dishes that originate from the Malay Archipelago, it makes for one of the main cuisines in Singapore, and also one for adventurous eaters and those who don't shy away from spicy food. When it comes to Malay cuisine it's all about flavourtown. Rendang, lemak chili padi, sambal goreng, mee rebus, mee siam and more, we've got all the right places to go when the craving hits.
The queue at this nasi padang restaurant stretches out the door even before lunchtime hits. We can’t blame the crowd, though, as only the early birds get the worm. Or in this case, stellar beef rendang and sambal goreng. There are only limited quantities of each item, so hot favourites like the tauhu telor sell out fast. Aside from quintessential Malay dishes, there are also rarer ones like lemak siput sedut, or sea snails swimming in a coconut-rich broth. And be sure to scream ‘yes’ when asked if you’d like a dollop of sambal with your rice.
While nasi ambeng is currently enjoying a resurgence in the heartlands, Mamanda’s authentic version of this celebratory Javanese dish remains our pick. Located at the historic Sultan Gate, the restaurant’s palatial surroundings – it is housed in a mansion built in 1840 that was once home to Tengku Mahmud – befits this traditional meal of different meats and vegetables, like beef rendang, urap and sambal goreng served in a dulang (tray) and surrounded by a large mould of rice.
A popular family restaurant, Yassin Kampung had humble beginnings before branching out to a few outlets in Singapore. The menu has also expanded since, and now includes a lot of local favourites like hotplate dishes and even Mala, but also experimenting a little with interesting dishes like durian chicken. When dining out with the family, stick to classics like sweet and sour fish ($13), chilli crab ($38), crispy oat prawn ($18), hotplate beancurd ($13) and other family favourites.
Opened by Haji Isrin at the corner of Kandahar Street in 1948 – where it remains today – and now run by third-generation owners, the stall continues to churn out homely platters of authentic Malay dishes to a throng of people, including celebrities like former sports personality Fandi Ahmad and musical artist Dato Ramli Sarip. 'Generous' is Nasi Pariaman's middle name. Plates are packed with rice covered in gravy of your choice – there’s chicken curry and lodeh – and an assortment of side dishes such as sambal goreng, bagedil, ikan bilis, tofu and long beans. But the star here is the beef rendang, a tender hunk of meat that’s drenched in spices, chilli and gravy.
The queues form early and the tables upstairs are difficult to secure, but it’s all worth the effort. The spicy flavours are intense and vibrant. Seriously impressive is the tender barbecued chicken that is dropped into a sunny, coconut curry sauce, while the towering stack of tahu goreng is sweet, crunchy and peanuty, and the braised brinjal – coated with ruby-red sambal – deserves a plate of rice all to itself. Either show up really early or draw straws in the office for queuing duty.
Nasi ambeng is a traditional Javanese dish which is meant to be eaten communal-style and usually served at celebrations and festivities – so eating the dish comes together with the whole experience. But you can partake in a nasi ambeng feast without all the frills at Pu3 Restaurant where nasi ambeng is served in giant platters to be shared by two or more people. Rice is served with an assortment of meats and veggies in generous portions. More people with bigger appetites in the group? Choose to add on more sides to make it a feast fit for royalty.
This humble but very popular stall in Ang Mo Kio Food Centre may keep the menu small but the food speaks for itself. The queue never really dies down at any time of the day for their signature dishes: mee rebus (starts from $3), mee soto ($3), gado-gado ($3.50) and satay ($0.60/stick). There is also an extensive list of meats named on the menu and here is where the magic happens – it all can be added to your order of mee rebus. While stellar on its own, having a mee rebus with beef ribs ($6) and a begedil (potato patty) elevates the dish to new levels. We warn you, it’s going to be a sloppy affair sloshing around the bowl of egg noodles in the thick savoury broth.