Aliff Nasi Lemak: Fluffy basmati rice with shiok ikan bilis at Serangoon Garden

·5-min read

Aliff Nasi Lemak resides within Serangoon Garden Market and Food Centre, close to the ever-popular Chomp Chomp Food Centre that’s just a few minutes walk away.

Serangoon Garden has always been a food enclave, and I enjoy making the journey there via an obscure underpass that lies directly underneath the CTE expressway from Ang Mo Kio— not many know about this unless you stay around the area.

aliff nasi lemak - stall front
aliff nasi lemak - stall front

It’s been a really long time since I came to this hawker centre, and my jaw dropped to the ground when I saw the crowd situation— a vast difference from the last time I was here. All the sheltered seats within the hawker centre were taken up, and all that was left were the centre round seats with an umbrella to shield me from the scorching sun. Oh well, at least the lighting here would be better for my pictures— only my colleagues would get this!

What I tried at Aliff Nasi Lemak

I headed to Aliff Nasi Lemak and was faced with a long snaking queue in front of the stall. There were at least 7 people in front of me and more came behind shortly after. “wow this nasi lemak should be good I guess?” I thought to myself, as I patiently waited for my turn.

aliff nasi lemak - nasi lemak
aliff nasi lemak - nasi lemak

There were five sets available on the stall’s menu from A to E. It was already 11am and this was just my first meal of the day. I chose Set E (S$5.20), which was the priciest of them all. It consisted of a generous serving of basmati coconut rice, one whole piece of fried chicken wing, one otah, a sunny-side up, a pile of fried ikan bilis, one slice of cucumber and a generous pouring of sambal on the side.

As I was hungry, I topped up my nasi lemak meal with a piece of Tahu (S$1) and a piece of Begedel (S$0.60). Unfortunately, the Tempeh (S$0.50 for one) wasn’t available. Oh, bummer!

aliff nasi lemak - closeup of rice
aliff nasi lemak - closeup of rice
aliff nasi lemak - closeup of sambal
aliff nasi lemak - closeup of sambal

As a chef, I used to cook nasi lemak on a daily basis. So naturally, I dived in straight for the nasi taste test. I was impressed at how each individual basmati grain was fluffy and so well-cooked.

Usually, coconut rice would give off strong notes of pandan and coconut. Would you like to guess what additional flavour profile I picked up from Aliff Nasi Lemak’s nasi? The answer is ginger! It made the rice less ‘jelak’ and enhanced the overall aroma. The sambal had the perfect balance of sweet and spicy— the perfect accompaniment to the nasi.

aliff nasi lemak - chicken wing closeup
aliff nasi lemak - chicken wing closeup

I moved on to the chicken wing, which had a really crispy skin. I could taste the spices that were used to marinate it, but my dining partner and I felt that the skin was a little on the salty side. Strangely, when we got to the meat underneath, it was rather bland— probably not marinated for long enough.

aliff nasi lemak - closeup of otah
aliff nasi lemak - closeup of otah

The otah was rather normal and nothing to shout about. Fortunately, the texture was soft and there was a subtle spice to it. The fish to flour ratio was probably lower compared to other places where the fish taste is more prominent and flavourful.

aliff nasi lemak - closeup of ikan bilis
aliff nasi lemak - closeup of ikan bilis

I enjoy my nasi lemak with some peanuts which are usually paired up with the ikan bilis, so you can imagine my displeasure when the peanuts were missing. Surprisingly, the moment the first spoonful of fried anchovies entered my mouth, all traces of my disappointment vanished into thin air.

The texture was similar to fried silver fish— super light and crispy. I had to second-guess whether they were ikan bilis or silver fish. If only I had a bowl of congee with me at that time those lovely fried anchovies would have gone so well with them!

aliff nasi lemak - sardine epok epok
aliff nasi lemak - sardine epok epok
aliff nasi lemak -
aliff nasi lemak -

I also spotted my favourite epok epok being sold at Aliff Nasi Lemak and succumbed to temptation. The Sardine Puff (S$2 for 3 pieces) had green markings on its skin. The shell was nice and crispy, and the filling had a good balance of sardines and onions. The spiciness was also perfect, nothing too overpowering.

aliff nasi lemak - potato epok epok
aliff nasi lemak - potato epok epok
aliff nasi lemak - potato filling
aliff nasi lemak - potato filling

The Potato Puff (S$2 for 3 pieces) were similar in size to the sardine ones, bearing no marking on the skin. I took a bite of the puff and my mouth was greeted by the fluffiness of the potato chunks within. The spice of the curry potato filling was just right and there were a few pieces of curry leaves inside, which added a satisfying fragrance with every bite I took.

aliff nasi lemak - goreng pisang
aliff nasi lemak - goreng pisang

Upon reaching for the Pisang Goreng (S$2.70 for 3 pieces), my t-shirt was already drenched in sweat and beads of perspiration were forming on my forehead— it was a terribly hot day!

The batter had a great texture but I wasn’t a fan of the banana within. It was flat-tasting and did not melt in my mouth— perhaps the banana wasn’t ripe enough.

Final Thoughts

aliff nasi lemak - food overview
aliff nasi lemak - food overview

There were some hits and misses for me at Aliff Nasi Lemak. The rice had the perfect texture and the sambal was great. I was so tempted to get a whole box of fried ikan bilis— that’s how good they were!

 If I was in the vicinity, I’d drop by again to have their nasi lemak and epok epok, but I wouldn’t travel all the way here just for this.

They have another outlet located at Bedok North 511 Market & Food Centre.

Expected damage: S$4 – S$8 per pax

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