Nasi Padang: The Joys Of Small Plate Dining

Nasi Padang: The Joys Of Small Plate Dining

Ah nasi padang, the definitive taste of my childhood! Who needs mixed veg rice when you’ve this as an alternative? For those worried about getting ripped off, fret not — here’s a list of my tried and tested that you can start your nasi padang journey on.
Mystickal / Melly W
Mystickal / Melly W

[ Food Review – Hawker Food ] It wouldn’t be a proper list of hawker food without some nasi padang action, amirite? Presenting Kim San Leng Coffeeshop’s Nasi Padang!

Yes, I’m bringing this back yet again — for good reasons! — because how often can someone with as sensitive a stomach as me find nasi padang that I can eat on a d a i l y basis?? (And no, that’s not a hyperbole!) It’s especially telling when I find myself craving this stall’s nasi padang versus Sixth Avenue Nasi Lemak (which becomes nasi padang if you order the way I do!) despite having eaten the latter for more years of my life!

And hey, Bukit Timah is already sorely lacking in nasi padang stalls — let alone good ones — so I’m especially invested in keeping this stall up!

For the benefit of those who’ve not seen my previous posts, instead of the usual richer, heavier flavours that are characteristic of Indonesian nasi padang (also its place of origin!), this stall does Malaysian-styled nasi padang.The difference? The flavours are no less robust but the sauces are lighter, and the flavours more fragrant than trying to overwhelm you in intensity.

That said, their sambal belachan packs a heckuva punch. I remember eating it for the first time in ages, and even I felt a bit of the heat! 10/10 would recommend for a fellow spice connoisseur.

Can we just take some time to marvel at the gorgeous rainbow of colours on this plate? If you are a first timer, this is one good way to start: Adorn your plate in as wide an assortment of colours and textures as you can. That way you can properly sample the variety of spices and cooking styles the stall has to offer!

Don’t know where to start? Try this plate on for size!

Protein: Beef rendang (look at the size of those chunks!) or assam fish (if you prefer something lighter that you can ladle over your rice)

Veg: Stir fried fresh greens (they usually have at least 1-3 options available if you want something without spice) or sayur lodeh (surprise, surprise, theirs isn’t sweet!)

Sides (pick 1-2): Tempeh (look at how dense and beautifully coloured this one is!), fried egg (fluffy without being overdone), or fried fishballs (hey this is great with the sambal ok).

Selamat Hari Raya! Hope all of you are staying safe amidst the end-of-Ramadan celebrations, and hopefully the occasion is marked by a more peaceful and brighter rest of 2021! For families still keeping an eye out for dining spots for the occasion, why not grab a takeout/delivery from Tambuah Mas?

TM is to no exaggeration, my fam’s most visited Indo restaurant. Part of it is due to its convenient location in Paragon, but the more important reason is how we can get restaurant quality Padang cuisine that actually lives up to our taste memories of Indonesia!

Another thing my dad (and a certain someone) finds endearing about TM is its name, which can be translated as, “more please, server” or “more gold” (which my dad insists is either a play on the quality of food; no objections here!). Given how my fam tends to lay our entire table with way more than we can order, I’d say both meanings are pretty accurate.

Since my fam no longer dines out, this trip was made with a certain someone instead. We ended up getting one variant of my ultimate fav dish here, the Ikan Nila Goreng (I normally prefer Ikan Nila Asam, heh), sayur lodeh (super smooth and lightly sweet), Ikan Teri Belado (anchovies) for that added crunch, and a Sop Buntut Makassar (ox-tail soup) for a certain someone since it’s hard to find (and we all know TM does it well!).

If you’re a fan of Canto “yao zam” (or deep fried in oil) fried fish, time to toss that out the window because t h i s is the real deal: The fish is dipped in oil hot enough to burnish its entirety in brittle bronze, and left long enough to lightly curl its sides so that it creates the illusion of flight. This doesn’t mean the meat is equally leathery — oh no, the insides are still every bit as sweet and succulent! The flash-frying means the skin creates a taut, protective layer that prevents the flavours inside from escaping. If anything, it makes the fish even more delectable.

Everything else was lovely too, but no regrets spending a full post on one dish! If there’s one thing you need to get, it’s defo their Ikan Nila. It's not only a visual spectacle, it’s a gustatory one too!

[ Food Review — Happy month of Ramadan! Ft. my (nearly) daily nasi padang lunch spot ] Idk where my original draft for this went, which is why this got relegated to today instead of yesterday, welp. For those who missed my post last week, this beautiful spread is from the nasi padang stall at BKT’s Kim San Leng Coffeeshop!

A quick tidbit for my fellow neighbours: Remember the really good — and only — nasi padang stall in the other coffeeshop in Binjai Park a decade plus ago? (Where Peperoni Pizza, and now LINO is.) You don’t have to lament the loss of rendang and assam stingray anymore — turns out they to, you guessed it, Kim San Leng Coffeeshop! (Thanks for the intel, Dad!)

Alas, with every silver lining, there’s a cumulonimbus cloud. (That’s 100% how the saying goes.) A couple of years after, the macik sold her brand to another fam who’ve been running the place since. Don’t get me wrong, the flavours are still good, but old signatures haven’t quite lived up to their previous rep. But hey, their sambal got a fair bit spicier, they’ve kueh for sale, and there are many more veggie dishes now!

If you’re apprehensive about visiting, don’t be. Let’s adjust your expectations on what this rebranded stall offers.

Contrary to what many non-Muslim diners believe, traditional nasi padang here tends to be more Indonesian — which is also its place of origin! — than Malaysian, making the term “Malay rice” a little bit of a misnomer. However, this particular stall flips that, and serves Malaysian-styled nasi padang instead! Say bye to rich, heavy sauces typical of Indo food, the spices here are a lot lighter (but no less gentle!) — which is why I can eat this daily without feeling overwhelmed.

So what should you get from this “new” stall? Proteins: Get their assam fish (the mackerel is better) and their squid ink sotong for seafood; go for their lamb dishes otherwise. Veg: Yes, with a variety like that, you have to get their veg! You can’t go wrong with their sayur lodeh, spinach, tempeh, or eggplant. If you’re looking for a lil extra something, get a few fishballs, roll them in their belachan, and bam! That’s the ribbon you need to tie the entire meal together!

[ Food Review — Revisiting my ultimate fav nasi padang place! ] I’m not shy about my love for Pariaman, one of the nasi padang bulwarks that line Kandahar Street. (To jog your memory, it’s the place where the crown family of Johor used to drive down for takeouts pre-covid. You know it’s good if you’re dinin’ with royalty!)

If I adore Pariaman so, why haven’t I visited it more? (The last time I was there was in 2019, yikes.) Well, the place isn’t the most accessible with/without a car, and it tends to sell out just after noon.

Today, not only do I get to revisit Pariaman’s exhilarating flavours, I get to bring friends along as well! The downside? They aren’t big on spice. The silver lining? Compared to other places, Pariaman focuses more on taste curation than amping up the spice — in other words, chilli is but a facet of the kitchen’s spice mélange.

Wanna visit but feel intimidated by their sheer variety? To reduce your chances of awkward gawking and unintended gaffes, here’re two dishes you must try:

If you wish to taste the pinnacle of the kitchen’s prowess, this is it: Ayam Bakar. Wait, isn’t ayam bakar supposed to be red with a crust of sticky-sweet black sauce à la Taliwang’s?

Yes, and no. Ayam bakar translates as grilled chicken, and like with many other grilled dishes, there’s more than one way of doing it! Pariaman d o e s grill its chicken, but after that, they steep and cook the pieces in a golden turmeric sauce, letting the flavours suffuse and marinate the chicken until its interior is tender and juicy. It’s also suitable for those with low spice tolerance!

The 2nd dish you have to get is Ikan Goreng Belado. Don’t be tempted by the rich gulai alternative — if you’re a newcomer, go straight for this to full appreciate the heat control (fire and spice) and fish.

Keep the belado (chilli) on if you can handle the heat, if not simply scrape it off. It’s a nice complement, but what you’re really here to appreciate is the goreng (frying) technique. You won’t get any super bony pieces here — each chunk is made of supple flesh, kept succulent by the taut cover of rough and delectably briny skin.

Next visit: Nangka (jackfruit) curry! (Sold out today, sigh.)

Dishes ordered (clockwise from top): Sotong Kalio (Squid), Acar+Ikan Bilis Kacang, Begedil, Ikan Goreng Belado, Ayam Gulai (Chicken Curry), Ayam Bakar, Sambal Goreng + not pictured: Terung Belado (Eggplant)

[@meltingflavours on Insta] I ramble about food. A lot. 📝Long posts | ❌🧀🍷🥛 ⛔️Do not repost⛔️

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