Recently I read an online rant about how ulu (remotely located) the Punggol residential area is, boring without much dining options, and the famously yummy Ponggol Nasi Lemak is not even situated in Punggol!? Well, for the last point, it's both right and wrong.
Right, because Ponggol Nasi Lemak's 3 outlets are located at Upper Serangoon Road, Tanjong Katong Road and most recently, Jalan Besar (opposite Hoa Nam Building).
Wrong, because the family-owned business did started out 35 years ago at what was known as "Ponggol" back then, until the area was re-zoned and renamed.
Wherever it's located, Ponggol Nasi Lemak still remains the same old Ponggol Nasi Lemak as I fondly enjoyed throughout all these years. Ooh that fragrant coconut rice!... Ooh the moreish savory-sweet-spicy sambal chilli!... Ooh those hot and crispy chicken wings!.... Oh no, the queue!!! -_-;
If there is one thing that holds me back from digging in the rice dish more often, the perpetual queue at its Upper Serangoon and Tanjong Katong outlets could possibly be it. The heat of coffeeshop-style setting comes a close second. But strangely, therein lays a certain laid-back charm which endeared the strong following of regulars to it, besides the delicious food. No denying about that.
The branch at Jalan Besar which is comfortably air-conditioned and opens at a much earlier hour at lunch would probably appeal to the younger generation of customers, or office workers in the vicinity, or those who simply can't wait till dinner or supper time to indulge in the carbs-worthy goodness.
Stepping into the eatery, its bright and contemporary look in a theme of red and white was easy to like. The ordering counter with an open kitchen right behind reminds me of a fast-food restaurant, which is actually not too far from the concept that Edmund Ang, the 3rd generation owner of Ponggol Nasi Lemak wants for this outlet.
For an even faster food experience, just choose from the four Set Menu ($4 to $5) offerings.
I started with Set Menu 2 which comprises of a Chicken Wing ($1.70), Crispy Anchovies with Peanuts ($1.10) and fried Egg ($0.80) with a serving of Coconut Rice ($1.70). Then I added crunchy Homemade Achar ($1.10) to my order, then Fried Fish ($1.30), then Spicy Otah ($1.50) haha.
But I did managed to quickly stop myself before I lose my waistline to further orders of Luncheon Meat ($0.80) or Long Beans ($1.10) or Curry Vegetables ($1.10). Oops all these are my long time favourites, and it's easy to get overly excited and too carried away when happily "pointing".
Admittedly, I wasn't too excited when I saw the fried egg. Too perfectly round and executed to characterless boringness, it was a soulless victim cloned by the automated machine, much like those you find in fast-food chains. Please give me a rugged, messy "da bomb" egg with crispy edges anytime.
Thankfully that was the only thing which I don't like. The automated fryer did good to the chicken wings though, giving it a delightful crispiness on the outer with a most tender and juicy inner. Several items on the menu, such as vegetables, are still cooked by experienced cooks.
Edmund personally undertakes the task of preparing the secret recipe sambal chilli and oversees the cooking of the coconut rice which uses only the best Thai Hom Mali grain.
Not to be missed are premium house specialties which are available only at the Jalan Besar outlet, such as Signature Ngoh Hiang ($1.50), a delectable roll of minced pork, water chestnuts and chives wrapped in beancurd skin, as well as Crispy Battered Whole Prawns ($3.80, 2pcs) and Crispy Battered Fish Fillet ($3.80, 2pcs). The housemade minty aioli dip which accompanied the prawn and fish provided a refreshing note, cutting through any greasiness that is typically associated with deep-fried food.
I guess my dining companion would not be surprised if I highly recommend the Grilled Japanese Squid ($7.50) as a must-try item, for I was practically loading pieces after pieces of it unabashedly into my mouth. There was nothing to fault of the squid's succulent texture, and the kicap manis (Indonesian sweet sauce) dip only served to elevate its flavorsome taste to another level.
Another item which I would unreservedly spend my calories on is the Crispy Chicken Skin ($1.50 per serving) tossed in a piquant mix of curry leaves, kicap manis, black pepper and local spices. Sounds rather sinful, but as the fat was carefully removed from under the skin before it's triple-fried, it kind of lessen the guilt. This was way way way too addictive. My advice: Get the "upsized version" ($4.70 per tub), be selfish, don't share!
Haha, you know I'm just kidding, because food taste even better when shared. It would be a good idea to order several cups of the Homemade Ice Cream and Sorbet ($2.50 per cup) to share too, as the variety of interesting flavors including Milo, Peanut Butter Milk, Raspberry Mango, Lemongrass Lime and Pink Guava could make it a tad difficult to decide if you are to settle on just one.
It would be unfair to compare the ice cream's texture to those of premium gelatos, but all were splendid as aftermeal palate cleanser, and so was the Homemade Hibiscus Ice Tea ($1.90). Brewed fresh daily with carefully selected dried hibiscus flowers, the drink is high in anti-oxidants and is attributed to helping with digestion and improving blood circulation. I think my TCM practitioner friend will approve of this healthier beverage too?
Well, one thing is for sure: Ponggol Nasi Lemak certainly got my stamp of approval as one of the better nasi lemak places in Singapore.
Ponggol Nasi Lemak @ Jalan Besar
Address: 371 Jalan Besar, #01-01, Singapore 208998
Contact: +65 6293 0020
Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm Daily / Closed on Thu
Upper Serangoon Road
Address: 965 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534721
Contact: +65 6281 0020
Opening Hours: 5.30pm-3.30am
Tanjong Katong Road
Address: 238 Tanjong Katong Road, Singapore 437026
Contact: +65 6287 0020
Opening Hours: 5.30pm-2.30am