Back when the pandemic started, Singapore saw growth in Home-Based Businesses (HBB). One such business is Ah Miao’s Kitchen— located at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre. Previously working in the events industry, Colyn, owner and mother of three children, found herself in a fix after her husband’s sudden passing which occurred at the time Singapore announced the Circuit Breaker period. It was only when she decided to hop on the HBB trend and started selling S$1 mini nasi lemak that she found her calling. This is her story.
When Singapore went into lockdown, many became homesick. Colyn, who’s from Sungai Petani, Penang, shared that she started her HBB by accident, and it wasn’t until she shared it on Facebook did the orders start flooding in. It was overwhelming at first, but the warmth and support from fellow homesick Malaysians who compared her nasi lemak to what they can get back home gave her the confidence to push forward.
I’ve heard of nasi lemak and nasi kandar however, not both as one dish. When I asked Colyn the inspiration behind the dish, she replied, “I’m from Penang and I love nasi kandar but I realise it’s still relatively new in Singapore. So, I decided to fuse both dishes and start from nasi lemak. Customers have the option to pair their nasi lemak with a medley of gravies or with sambal. Most of the time, customers will only choose sambal but since I’ve opened, a lot (of people) have been coming back for the former.”
What I tried
Before I begin, nasi kandar is essentially a messy plate of gravy and rice which originates from Penang. Imagine a slab of steamed rice with a side of fried chicken, egg, and papadam, topped with a medley of several Indian-style curries to give it an explosion of sweet-spicy flavour. Yes, it tastes as good as it sounds.
I arrived at the stall an hour or two after noon only to find out that they were out of curries. It still didn’t deter me from trying Colyn’s popular nasi lemak, though. I started with the triangle-shaped Mini Nasi Lemak (S$1.50).
Inside, I found the nasi lemak staples: coconut rice, half an egg, a slice of cucumber, roasted peanuts, and my weakness, ikan bilis sambal.
I took a spoonful of the rice with ikan bilis sambal and was immediately blown away by the intensity of the flavours. It almost felt like I was eating at a rest stop in Malaysia. It was simple yet complex, sweet yet subtly spicy, and had a homely touch to it. Now I understand why customers keep coming back for more.
Next, I tried the Chicken Wing Kandar (S$4). The only difference from the Mini Nasi Lemak is the addition of a crispy fried chicken wing, a mixed salad that consists of cucumber, pineapple and carrot, and being of a larger portion. Apart from having the option of having it drenched in a medley of Indian-style curries or sambal, over here, you can also choose your choice of rice: steamed white rice or turmeric rice. I opted for the former.
Let’s get on to the fried chicken wing. Normally a drumstick or breast meat person, I made do with what I had. One bite into the crispy chicken wing gave off an ASMR-worthy crunch coupled with an explosion of chilli powder, salt, and turmeric. The well-seasoned and perfectly cooked piece of fried chicken wing that rested on my plate was almost too perfect to be eaten and should be on display in a ‘fried chicken wing museum’ instead.
The sambal used here is the same as the one I got from the Mini Nasi Lemak. Pair it with the crispy ikan bilis and roasted peanuts to receive a pleasurable dining experience. Personally, I would prefer for the sambal to be a tad bit spicier for a full Malaysian experience. However, Colyn shared that she had to tone down on the spice to cater to everyone else; we all know how Malaysians love their spice (and I’m all for it).
The rice, however, lacked the aromatics and flavour of coconut and pandan— which was a bit disappointing. Despite that, a touch of sambal along with ikan bilis or a piece of fried chicken did elevate each spoonful, for me. I guess less coconut isn’t too much of a bad thing if you’re looking for a healthier plate of nasi lemak.
Still, I can only imagine how it would’ve tasted when doused with several Indian-style curries.
Ultimately, I love how the sambal at Ah Miao’s Kitchen reminds me of home. Considering how I live only four bus stops away from Pasir Central Hawker Centre, I can definitely see myself dropping by more often; especially when craving a plate of nasi lemak.
Note to self: Head over before noon to enjoy a proper plate of nasi lemak doused in several curries.
If you’ve not had Penang-style nasi lemak, I’d recommend you make your way down too!
Expected damage: S$1.50 – S$4 per pax
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