Being susceptible to sore throats, I try to cut down on hot, heavily-spiced, and deep-fried foods. Living in a land where delicious spicy dishes are in abundance, it takes a ton of effort to exercise self-restraint.
Imagine being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and being surrounded by all that fabulous candy, but able to have only one Wonka Bar. Isn’t that pure torture?
So, every once in a while, I indulge in some of my favorite Malay dishes. Malay cuisine in Singapore and Malaysia are very similar, due to the proximity of these two countries. Rice is the staple, accompanied by various meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes.
In Malay cooking, chilli is extensively used, along with aromatic fresh herbs and dried spices, and creamy coconut milk. Actually, many of the spices fundamental to Malay cuisine were introduced by early Javanese, Sumatran, and Indian traders. Look closely, and you’ll see that Malay food has strong influences of Indonesian, Indian, Thai, and even Chinese food.
Take mee siam, or “Siamese noodles”, for example. Originally a Thai dish, it was probably adopted by Malay natives in northern peninsular Malaya, where intermarriages with Thais were common.
The version we are now familiar with is beehoon (thin rice vermicelli) in a spicy, sweet, and sour gravy, served with boiled egg, beancurd, Chinese chives, beansprouts, and calamansi limes.
The other day, I happened to be in the mood for mee siam. Turns out that the one at Sambal Chilli Nasi Padang was quite decent. Not that I have much mee siam-eating experience, but I thought the gravy was a pleasing balance of spicy, sweet, and tart. But where were the beancurd cubes?
Originally an Indian dish, briyani is now as much part of local Malay food as it is Indian food. In fact, “nasi” means “rice in Malay. Here, the spiced rice was served with curried chicken, spicy pickled cucumbers, and a pappadum. Overall, the nasi briyani was average.
The mee siam and chicken briyani here weren’t stellar, but relatively decent enough for tourists visiting Orchard Road to have a taste of what local Malay food is like. Nasi padang and other Malay dishes are also available.
Sambal Chilli Nasi Padang
435 Orchard Road
#04-00 Wisma Atria