NEX is the largest mall in Singapore’s North-East as well as one of the largest in the country. ‘NEX’ is the acronym for North-East Exchange as it is the nex-us (haha) between Serangoon Bus Interchange and the Serangoon MRT Station, which links the North-East Line to the Circle Line.
Over its 7 floors, there are 2 food courts and no less than 69 restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets. Coincidentally, the end of that sentence marked the first 69 words of this article. Viola! Word magic completed, let’s get into the food magic at NEX.
Here’s my list of the top 10 food spots to explore when you’re at NEX.
1. Monster Curry (#B1-08)
Turning 10 in October 2022, Monster Curry is one of my favourite places to eat at in any mall. Their delicious Japanese demi-glace curry is made from no less than 14 different vegetables and spices and prepared over 2 days. The result is a delectably fragrant curry, rich in taste and bursting with flavour. They earn their ‘monster’ name by presenting meals in 2 plate sizes— 35cm and 41cm.
If you are in a group of up to 3, it’s hard to go past the Monster Combo Curry (S$32). You get Pork Katsu, Pork Shabu-Shabu, Shrimp Tempura, Fried Fish and Cheese. Prefer seafood? The Sea Monster Curry (S$32) with Fried Fish, Fried Shrimp, Fried Salmon Fillet and Shrimp Tempura is the easy solution.
Dishes are available in 5 different levels of spiciness. Only go for the ‘Monster Spicy’ one if you have a fire extinguisher handy.
2. Penang Culture (#B1-76/77)
Penang is known for its vibrant and eclectic street food scene and Penang Culture brings that unique taste to our shores. While there is no shortage of the quintessential traditional favourites, they also feature a range of creative new dishes that keep customers coming back for more.
The menu is divided into 5 categories: Penang Wok Fried, Penang Noodle, Penang Specialty Rice, Penang Western and ‘Other Penang Hawker Delights‘.
Their signature dish is the Penang Assam Laksa. Created with noodles specially imported from Penang and cooked in traditional Assam gravy, this dish also contains sardine, ginger flower, laksa leaves, assam (tamarind), shrimp paste and a host of herbs and spices. Let’s just say that this is their signature dish for a host of good reasons!
One of my favourites on the menu is Kuih Pie Tee (6 pcs). These Peranakan may be bite-sized but they pack a truckload of flavour. Pull them apart and you will find stir-fried turnips, shredded omelette, garlic and carrot with a dressing of black sweet sauce and chilli.
3. Hui Lau Shan Singapore (#B2-62)
The NEX branch of Hui Lau Shan is the only one that remains of the 3 that the Hong Kong dessert chain used to operate in Singapore. While the JEM and Chinatown Point outlets closed within the past year, this one sees no shortage of customers hankering for an affordable sweet treat.
They still sell their famous Mango Sago, which became a phenomenon in the 1990s and inspired innumerable copycats. Most items on their menu— both the solid and liquid desserts have mango in them in some form, and almost all have some fruit or another as an ingredient. Quite healthy!
Hui Lau Shan uses Carabao mangoes, which is supposedly the sweetest variety in the world. With the takeaway option, these desserts are definitely a great way to make your NEX visit a lot more enjoyable. Just remember to not leave your order until too late— they often run out of the most popular items before closing time.
4. Idaten Udon (#B1-02)
Idaten Udon bills itself as the udon specialty concept restaurant where diners become the head chef. It’s an allusion to their approach of letting you choose each element of your dish as you create your meal at the self-serve stations.
They have a selection of udon noodles, with flavours that include tomato, pumpkin, matcha and yuzu, as well as interesting sides, tempura and soups. Another reason for their popularity is that the mains change regularly. You will probably be met with quite a different menu every time you visit, and I love that sort of culinary experimentation and creativity.
Idaten Udon is a good option for both affordable meals, for example, the Curry Rice (S$5) and premium ones such as the Beef Curry Udon (S$9.50). Among the sides, one of the most popular options is the Fried Enoki (S$1.50) but I prefer the Prawn Tempura Onigiri (S$2.80) and the Deep-Fried Chicken Onigiri (S$2.20).
+65 6509 0881
Daily: 11am – 9.30pm
5. Jinjja Chicken (#B2-60/61)
Jinjja Chicken is one of the most successful Korean chain restaurants that have flourished in Singapore over the past few years. Part of the reason is that inexplicable (to me) wave of loving everything Korean but I have to admit, the Korean fried chicken and Jiajag Myeon (black bean noodles) (S$8.90) here is pretty good.
This NEX outlet opened in the last week of October and ran out of chicken on the first day due to overwhelming demand!
For the uninitiated, Korean fried chicken is different from other versions for its lighter and almost paper-thin crispy skin. It’s probably just an excuse for me to eat more but this chicken goes down easy! (You won’t feel so guilty when you learn that they minimise the amount of preservatives and additives in their food)
Try the 6 Pcs Jinjja Wings (S$8.30) if you’re a noob. Meanwhile, they also have the slightly-insane 100 Pcs Jinjja Wings (S$100.90) on the menu.
6. Ramen Kiou (#B1-80B)
Coming straight to you from Osaka in Japan where it operates more than 20 stores, Ramen Kiou brings with it the authentic taste of Japanese traditional cuisine. The chain of restaurants was established in 1995 and uses original recipes based on the ‘Taste of Kiou’, a concept that focuses on the harmony of the 3 essential elements— Noodles, Chashu and Broth.
Some of the dishes that you should try are the Signature Kiou Ramen, Signature Kiou Chashu, Shoyu Tonkotsu Chashu Ramen, Riki (Garlic) Tonkotsu Ramen, Spicy Mentai Abura Soba and the Roasted Beef Tomato Ramen.
Their chilled ramen is light and springy and comes with you choice of dipping sauce. I haven’t tried it myself but you can apparently get a top-up of your rice with garlic or cheese. Besides noodle dishes, Ramen Kiou also has donburi bowls.
+65 6634 0051
Daily: 11am – 10pm
7. Shabu-GO (#B1-80A)
Right next door to Ramen Kiou is Shabu-GO, which distinguishes itself with a menu replete with Japanese-style hotpot set meals. The name is a take on shabu-shabu, which refers to hotpot dishes of vegetables and thinly-sliced meat. These ingredients are boiled in water and the name ‘shabu’ itself is a reference to the sound the ingredients make when they are moved through the hot water.
Shabu-Go focuses on the solo diner as well as couples rather than the communal shared meal typically seen in this setting. If you are dining on your own, the affordable Value-GO (S$9.90) set is a safe option for a full tummy. It comes with meat, a veggie platter and Japanese vermicelli.
For something more special, try the Signature Pork & Beef Set, that is served with pork collar, beef short plate, mini GO-Special cuttlefish paste with corn, a veggie platter and Japanese vermicelli.
Both sets also come with your choice of soup base that includes options such as Healthy Clear Dashi, Chicken Chintan and the ever-popular Sukiyaki. Add another S$2-S$4 for premium soup bases, including Refreshing Yuzu Dashi, collagen-rich Paitan and Ginseng Tonkotsu.
+65 6634 0029
Daily: 11am – 10pm
8. Beauty In the Pot (#02-01)
Beauty in the Pot is one of my standard choices whenever I am having a hard time deciding where to eat. That’s definitely not a criticism— that statement makes me realise that this restaurant has been consistently good for all the 11 years it has been operating in Singapore.
I love my tomato soup base at any hotpot restaurant and here, the Vitamin C Tomato Sweet Corn Broth (S$18.80 single pot) is my favourite. Number 2 is the Spicy Nourishing Broth (S$24.80 single pot). It is a pork bone broth of Chinese herbs noted for both their flavour and their nutritional value, such as red dates, wolfberries, ginseng, dang gui, dang shen and more.
If you want to splurge, the Assorted Pork & Beef Platter (S$60.80) is the way to go. It has US Wagyu Beef, US Kurobuta Pork, Nagano Pork Belly, Sliced Spanish Pork Collar and US Marbled Beef Cube.
9. Graffiti Café (#B2-62)
Graffiti Cafe at NEX surprised me but not in a bad way. From the name, I assumed it would probably be a western-style hipster cafe with burgers and fries on the menu. It was quite a nice surprise to turn up and see a buzzing cafe serving traditional Chinese fare instead. The place does live up to its name, though.
Apparently, their Wanton Noodles are their best-selling dish. Served with crispy wantons, they also contain a decent amount of egg noodles, delicious slices of pork and a side of crunchy greens. I personally prefer the dry version.
There is also a range of side dishes; I always choose one from the Fried Carrot Cake, Fried Yam Cake and Chicken Nuggets. For dessert, look no further than the Mini Ah Balling with Longan Soup.
+65 6634 5909
Daily: 9am – 10pm
10. Go-Ang Pratunam Chicken Rice (#B1-05/06)
With over 60 years of history, Go-Ang Pratunam has come a long way from a small stall specialising in Hainanese Chicken Rice in Bangkok’s Pratunam district. Its Bangkok restaurant has won the Michelin Bib Gourmand award every year from 2018. In that same year, it brought that tradition of culinary excellence to Singapore.
Go-Ang Pratunam is the obvious choice for any chicken rice connoisseur. We have all tried our local versions but this Thai concoction called Khao Man Gai is another serenade to your taste buds. It is presented with a secret chilli sauce that is made by them.
Choose between the Single Portion Chicken Rice and the Single Portion Chicken Thigh Rice. Both feature chicken meat that is supremely tender and delicious but it’s the alluring fragrance that always gets me.
They also have a pretty extensive range of Stir Fried Vegetables and Thai-Style Whole Fish and Thai Desserts and beverages.
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