Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Rich Rice at Nasi Lemak

NASI LEMAK, as Wikipedia would interpret, is a dish, for it's namesake, the best-selling dish (and Malaysia's national dish)  they serve from their menu.   Considered also as Malay's national heritage for its versatility and promising eating indulgence, which happened to be primarily a breakfast meal but as now considered served anytime.   Food-hawkers in Singapore serve this dish mainly on a banana leaf and have been one of the dishes which got famous in the same country as well as Malaysia, Brunei, and Southern Thailand.   

In Manila, Nasi Lemak is home to some of the best Singaporean cuisine. Nasi a Malay word meaning rice, Lemak, on the other hand means rich, consequently,  rich rice.   My husband would always boast about his dining experience when his employers invited him over at Singapore to sign some contracts, and he would tell me how much he liked the rice meal wrapped in banana leaves, never knowing it was the famed Nasi Lemak. 

Unfold the leaf to discover a portion of fragrant rice that’s been cooked in coconut milk, a small deep-fried fish, some fried anchovies, a slice of plain omelette, some fresh cucumber and the all-important sambal (a paste made from chillies, dried shrimp and spices). 

He probably have been searching for means for me to have this checked out, like planning to have our family visit Singapore, or getting a fine restaurant that serves Singaporean dishes.   But I had him first,  when I went to Hyphy's at Robinson's Galleria in Ortigas, I passed by an alley in the mall where restaurants lined up left and right, but one restaurant caught my sight.   It was Nasi Lemak, and what do you know, next day a deal from Ensogo came up for the same joint and i didn't think twice and immediately purchased two vouchers.   

It had been a long tiring month for us, we lost three employees but gained two better ones, we've been dumb-founded  but regained our stature, and still hanged on to our belief with faith and hope.   There is no excuse not to celebrate and talk things over with a nice Singaporean dinner.   So we decided to head on here and use the vouchers I bought.

Immigrants from China’s Hainan Island brought chicken rice to Singapore many decades ago, and in the years since then it has become a national icon in Singapore.  

It comprises poached chicken served with fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth with ginger and garlic, accompanied by a zesty chili-lime sauce, a pungent ginger puree, and thick black soy sauce.   Which the staff called their famous and secret arm, the authentic three-sauce.   Aficionados may argue for hours over which stall has the most silky-textured meat, the most sumptuous rice, or the most incendiary chili.  As what one of the crew who entertained us and thought us how to enjoy this exquisite dish, would boast, that theirs is the best and original in the Philippines, which others have tried serving but could not really capture the true Singaporean recipe.

Cantonese and Malay hawkers have adopted the dish too, making subtly different versions with different spices and also fried or roasted chicken. However, the glorious combination of grainy, aromatic rice, tender meat, and vibrant condiments remains constant. The fun comes in trying all the diverse variations to find your favourite! 

So I've thought, now a new quest sprung in my mind, I'll be off searching for the place that would serve the best-tasting Hainanese chicken in Manila.

So why rich rice, nasi lemak?  So called for its fragrant coconut milk rice, is a bit intricate to prepare, cause with it are hard-boiled eggs, fried peanuts,  anchovies or what they call sambal, sliced cucumbers, chili paste,  shrimp paste (with a hint of tamarind sauce) served with roasted chicken and in this restaurant is a fried fish.   The rice is steamed or cooked first with the coconut mild and pandan leaves with other ingredients.   When the plate was served to my husband, he said it was truly aromatic, he thought he smelled puto (rice cake delicacy), then served along with the other stuff I've mentioned.

Now for the dessert.   Cleansing out our palate with this icy-cold concoction, quite similar to our Halo-Halo.   Jokingly, Bhogs would always mention his Singaporean boss describing this with Hala-hala.   It's basically ice cones with red and green colored syrup and hides beneath the chunk are fruit salad, corn kernels and sweetened red beans.   It was good, but Bhogs said the ones in Singapore have finer ice shavings and the ice towers like an upside-down cone.

Okay the dinner turned out to be quite satisfying, however, it almost ruined my night.   They didn't allow me to use the two vouchers, although I contested that my husband will be the one to use the other voucher.    According to them, I am only allowed to use only one in one sitting.     If I could only have inspected well the details, I could have bought the other voucher under my husband's name.    But don't you think it was a hassle.   Good thing that a certain crew see us through and entertained us with chit-chats and was always at his best service.   He even thought us how to eat the nasi lemak and my hainanese chicken rice.

As seen on the picture, You have to mix up everything, specifically the condiments with the rice, so you get a rich and more flavor-  with the sweet, spicy and salty tastes and  the crunch from the peanuts -  going on in one spoonful.   It was so good.   One regular customer, a foreigner from Malaysia said the taste is much the same as what he would have in that country, and compared to other restaurants with the same theme, Nasi Lemak satisfies his discriminating taste.

Also a closer look of my Chicken Hananese rice.   I was told to mix part the thick black sauce to my sticky rice and dip the chicken on the ginger and the chili sauce.    To my surprise, it was awesome, the black sauce gives out a mild sweetness without being too salty and the combination of the exotic aroma and taste of the ginger spruced up the bland taste of the chicken.   The minced ginger was akin to be eaten wit the chicken, you'll be amazed how good it was, not spicy really but an enough kick to blend well with the orange chili sauce.

Well I guess, there's another reason to come back and try out other mouth-watering stuffs on the menu like the hakao, chili crabs and some best-sellers or maybe have another Nasi Lemak.

1 comment:

  1. I've always loved nasi lemak, though the more rustic, sambal belacan (bagoong)-infused nasi goreng is more of a favorite. It's great to see more restaurants specializing in Malaysian/Indonesian cuisine.


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