Nasi lemak is one of those foods that has seen plenty of iterations in recent years. With more and more places around the island offering the delicious dish at various price points, we decided to find out if it’s actually worth shelling out extra cash for a “better” quality dish.
Wan Xing Nasi Lemak and Economic Bee Hoon ($2.50)
Wan Xing is known for their cheap food – they have a couple of outlets, if we recall correctly – so it’s no wonder their stall frequently sees snaking queues. The nasi lemak incorporates all the ingredients you would expect – from the spicy sambal to sunny side up – but you can add various dishes from their selection. The rice is supposed to have a green tinge but ours was quite faint. Taste-wise, it had a mild pandan flavour and wasn’t particularly fragrant, but blended perfectly with the sambal, which, to be honest, tasted like most other sambals from the hawker centre. The peanut and ikan bilis mix was crunchy and salty, but relatively sparse. However, for the low price point, this dish was filling and rather delicious, something we would buy again if we were in the neighbourhood and craving nasi lemak.
Find it at 270 Queen Street, Albert Centre #01-62, Singapore 180270
The Coconut Club ($15)
The Coconut Club has been popular among the lunchtime crowd in the city for a while now, so we were curious to see how it held up against the low, low price of $2.50. This spot pays careful attention to the quality of their dishes – think using old crop Thai Jasmine Rice and coconuts from one specific plantation in Sabak Bernam to create fluffy, fragrant rice.
When the dish arrived at the table, it certainly looked impressive, from the colours to the amount of each component. We tried the rice and that was good, fluffy and not drenched in oil. We tried the homemade sambal and that was good too, a balance of sweet and spicy. But then we tried the chicken and forgot everything else; it was definitely the highlight of the dish. Unlike the generic fried chicken of the other two, the chicken here had a spicy, uniquely Asian flavour and featured a delightfully crunchy skin. Would we come back? Yes (after payday), if only to eat that crisp chicken skin again.
Find it at 6 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069787
Click here for more information on The Coconut Club.
Given the price tag, this must have been the best of the lot, right? We hoped it was, we wanted it to be! The excitement was real, but dampened a bit when the dish was laid before us. The sambal looked legitimately crafted and there was the addition of prawns, but the rest of the components looked like any nasi lemak joint out there. Nevermind, we thought, it’s all in the taste. But while the tangy, spicy prawns did leave us satisfied and the otah was undeniably flavourful, neither the sambal nor the rice left us in gastronomic heaven. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, however, the dish as a whole was fragrant and recognisably ‘nasi lemak’, but lacked a real punch that would elevate it to legendary status. On the whole, it’s a great place to bring someone you’re looking to impress with classy local faves, or for people who prefer less spice and more subtle flavours.
Find it at 333 Orchard Road, Singapore 238867
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Ultimately, we’re happy to keep our nasi lemak expenditure below $7 on the regular (why the odd number? Because we admit to having a soft spot for Qiji), but willing to fork out that extra bit of cash for The Coconut Club’s hearty offering.