The CoCo Rice @ Punggol is one of the newer stalls that has sprung up at One Punggol Hawker Centre. It sells plates of nasi kandar, a Penang dish of steamed rice combined with an array of curries and side dishes.
I’ve had the privilege to travel to Penang a couple of times, where I was introduced to this particular dish by my ex-colleague who lives there. I remember seeing nasi kandar being sold at every nook and cranny of the Little India district over there.
The CoCo Rice has another stall at Tiong Bahru Food Centre, where they sell blue pea nasi lemak kukus.
The stall’s decor was eye-catching and stood out from the rest, featuring an old-fashioned yet contemporary design. It reminded me of my primary school’s canteen stall with its wire mesh on top.
There were 5 kinds of platters to choose from, and every dish had its components clearly described in illustrations and words. I had my hopes up and couldn’t wait to start eating.
What I tried at The CoCo Rice @ Punggol
I got the ball rolling with the Nasi Kandar Curry Fish Steak (S$8.90). It had a pile of rice with curry gravy poured over it, a piece of fish steak, half a salted egg, a piece of papadam, one whole steamed lady’s finger, cabbage and cucumber slices.
The fish steak was firm and tasted fresh without any unpleasant fishy smell. However, that being said, I would have preferred if it was braised in the curry sauce. This felt to me like the curry was just poured on top, leaving no room for the aromatic flavours to penetrate the meat.
It was interesting to have salted egg appear on a plate of curry as opposed to the usual omelette or fried egg. According to my Malaysian colleague, Reena, who is originally from Penang, it isn’t usually used over there.
Another item that isn’t used in Malaysia is papadam, which was also found on my plate. I think that it was added to better suit our local palate, which makes people like me delighted.
My dining partner and I went ahead and snacked on the papadam, only to mutually agree that it felt like it had been exposed to the air for some time, and wasn’t crispy enough. What a bummer!
We also ordered the Nasi Kandar Fried Chicken With Herbs & Spices (S$7.90). The accompanying elements of this dish were identical to the previous one, the only difference was the large piece of fried chicken drumstick.
The chicken was fried to golden-brown perfection, with a tasty spiced marinate which permeated both the skin and flesh. The meat was also moist and tender. Score!
The plain rice had taken on a sunset-kissed sky hue due to the various curries being poured on it. It had bits of mustard seeds, curry leaves and tomato bits.
The first thought I had when I put the rice into my mouth was how smoky it was. The spice hits you towards the end, and there was a hint of tangy-ness similar to fish curry.
Although there was a significant amount of curry on the rice, I felt that the rice was a little on the dry side. It would be better if the gravy wasn’t that diluted, allowing the sauce to be less-absorbed by the rice, and thus making the dish more flooded with curry.
The cabbage was crispy but unfortunately, the raw taste of it was off-putting. If it was braised a little while maintaining its crunchy texture, it would’ve been much better.
The lady’s finger was steamed, and mine was nice and soft. However, my dining partner’s wasn’t. I’ve dealt with this vegetable before and some of it could be older and tough to chew on. Perhaps it would’ve been better if it was sliced thinly and sauteed instead.
The CoCo Rice @ Punggol has a great concept. The meal didn’t blow me away as much as I wished it would. There were definitely some hits and misses and I’m confident that they’ll do so much better with some adjustments… till next time!
Expected damage: S$8 – S$12 per pax