In celebration of the reopening of the land link between Singapore and Peninsula Malaysia, I went to pack nasi kandar, one of my favourite dish in Malaysia and a must-eat whenever I was in KL.
Established in 2016 and with several outlets across Singapore, ABC Nasi Kandar Restaurant is a casual eatery specialising in Malaysian style Nasi Kandar and North Indian Tandoori dishes. This outlet just opposite Geylang Serai market is constantly packed with customers and is opened for 23 hours a day – yes, 23 hours between 6am to 5am. But these days, they are opened 6am to 12am.
Nasi Kandar is a popular dish eaten throughout the Malay peninsular which originated in Penang. The dish is heavily influenced by the traditional cuisine of India. According to local folklore the dish was very popular amongst the workers in the busy docks of Penang Island during British colonial times, many of whom themselves were immigrant workers from elsewhere in British Empire, particularly the Indian Sub-Continent.
The name nasi kandar came about from a time when nasi (rice) hawkers would balance a kandar pole on their shoulder with two huge containers of rice meals. The name has remained today and Nasi Kandar’s word appears in most Tamil Muslim or “Malaysian Mamak” restaurants and Indian-Muslim food stall.
Nasi Kandar comes in lots of different varieties, however, the common feature is the mixture of steamed rice with several Indian style curries, usually with a chicken or beef curry and a vegetable curry of cabbage, okra or aubergine. In larger nasi kandar restaurants there can be a choice of up to 40 or 50 different dishes to add to the rice.
The way that Nasi Kandar is served is that a variety of pre-cooked curries are added to a plate of rice. The amount you are charged for dish depends on how many curries you add to the dish and what meats are in the curries. Even if you eat a very large plate of nasi kandar in Malaysia you will generally only pay a maximum of around 14 MYR. My seafood set order was $15, three times more expensive. And I added a portion of fish egg, that’s another $8.
It may be a mess to look at, but it was absolutely delicious. The portion was big enough for two to share, even if I was a big eater. Even though everything looked red, there were layers of flavours and heat. The chilli samba rempeh used for each one of the ingredients tasted different, which is important so that you don’t get get a packet of rice with chilli.
Nothing to shout about the environment, it was actually quite messy, hot and musky. That’s why I packed to go.
ABC Nasi Kandar
44 Changi Rd, Singapore 419703
Visited in Apr 2022