Although Singapore is a food paradise, a good nasi ambeng is difficult to find. Nasi Ambeng is said to be originated as one popular food in Javanese Cuisine. Often eaten in parties of 4 or more and traditionally served in large trays. This became sort of a feast culture (kenduri food) in our Malay community.
I was told that it is not easy to create Nasi Ambeng. There are many traditional steps that need to adhere to. And the cook/chef has to have an in depth knowledge/background of Javanese cuisines or ancestor link to Javanese families before they can cook them properly.Recipes are often handed down from generations to generations.
There was one popular nasi ambeng stall in Bukit Batok called Sri West Coast Nasi Ambeng. Although the name of the stall is still there, the rightful owners are not there. I was updated recently that they are unwell thus they are not even able to sell their much-awaited Nasi Ambeng in the Ramadan Bazaars (Let’s dua that they will recover soon and always be in good health.amin)
Anyway, I was told by someone in facebook that there is a Nasi Ambeng specialist in Novena area (thks!). Did not heed that advice cos it’s too big an area to snoop around. Thus when they actually invited me to join them for lunch, I was ecstatic! Somehow,there seems to be a divine intervention connection.
Located at Goldhill Centre (next to the pinkish circular building just beside United Square),if unsure just head to the ex-location formerly known Italian Restaurant: Al Forno Trattoria Restaurant (they just took over 7 months ago).They are located just opposite the lifts.
When I first heard of its speciality-Nasi Ambeng, I expect it to be a small stall or food court based stall.But when I heard the other name-Tiffin, I imagined it’s like a snack counter whereby customers rush in and out bringing in their tiffin carriers. Well, its nothing of that sort. Tiffin actually meant lunch hour. So they were previously thinking of opening only thru lunch hours but due to brisk business, they have expanded till dinner time.
Standing outside this little classy restaurant. I pondered. Am I in the right place? It seems too classy for a warung-minded image of traditional Nasi Ambeng in my mind. I saw many excerpts of local media applauding their nasi ambeng. Hmm, suddenly, my tummy is playing an orchestral outburst on its own accord.
I was seated graciously by the shy waitress. Looking around this restaurant with wooden furniture around kinda makes it rustic, old laid back style. There is a certain openness vibes in the air. Not the typical Indonesian Restaurant whereby you can hear its gamelan tunes or costumes as backdrop, this is more of a modern homestyle feel.
Looking at the menu, I noticed there is a daily lunch specials.Mmm….interesting.
The shy waitress emerged again asking for my order. I asked them to serve me their best food and drinks. Soon enough, an icy glass of special bandung and fried belinjao crackers are served. The bandung has a slight sourish sweet mild soda concoction. The fried belinjao is thinly crisped and even after hours, it is still crispy. I had them before and after the meals. Best eaten with their inhouse sambal mangga (sambal belacan + mango). Not as fiery as Indonesian sambal but I love it! It is being toned down to accommodate the customers’ palate.
After that, I was served with a huge “Nasi Ambeng “set. It looked HUGE! And I am a lone diner. The beautiful Roszy (the young owner) was busy attending to the lunch crowd. And so here I am looking at the food while it looked back at me “challenging” me to finish it.Normal Ambeng set has 2 side dishes which the customers can choose from Kurma Ayam, to Sayur Lodeh and Rendang, ayam merah…..
I believe this Ambeng set is for 3-4 persons although it is meant only for 2 people. At Roszy’s they served the food generously. And they encourage any wastage to be ta-pow (doggy bag/takeaway) so that customers can resume the yummy leftovers for their home meals. Well, with their cutesy pinkish package wrapping, I feel like packing everything. So cute!! (check out the packaging pic down below)
And the staff are friendly and naturally at ease. It feels like home here. In fact, I was told that the staff are all family related (maybe one or two are outsiders) From the cooks , headed by Roszy’s mom (who still look astoundingly youthful in her age) to the serving staffs are all bounded by blood ties. No wonder, it feels like home here. I can carefreely wander to and fro the kitchen to the dining area like my own place.
Then I wandered into their food counter and saw some delicious nasi padang entry like asam pedas (asam fish), petai sambal (stinky beans in chilli paste) and …I remembered something about sotong hitam! (It’s good that I read the newspaper cuttings at their entrance before coming in).But I did not see any squid-looking dishes at the display thus I ask Roszy.
She replied chirpily that seafood and veggies are coooked on the spot ONLY upon ordering. And so the veggies and seafood will be fresh when it arrived on the customer’s table. And ayam sambal (chicken fried in chilli paste) are only cooked when ordered too. Wow! I have never heard of such painstaking importance in an Indonesian Restaurant before …unless its from a top-notch 5 star rated kinda like hotel restaurant.
And upon hearing that, immediately, I ordered my own menu….and before I know it ta-da! Look at the dishes….it is almost covering the whole table and it’s all just for me?! This is like a Royal feast!
Luckily, Leonard (thks!) their Marketing guy stop by and accompanied me on my “gastronomically challenged” lunch. Actually, I wanted to eat with my bare hands but erm, being the “gentle princess” *chuckles, I am kinda shy to eat that way (where are my makan kakis?!! I need you!!).
Seriously, Nasi Ambeng is best eaten with ur bare hands. Grab a handful of makan buddies with you when you try to venture this “mountainous” quest.These makan buddies must be the not so-hygienic-conscious-type of people who do not mind sharing a tray full of food with you and other 3-4 hands. (of course,do wash ur hands beforehand).It is much more delicious eating with your bare RIGHT hand as compared to the fork and spoon.I found out later.. when I ate the food again back home with all the gravies and food well-mixed with my hand.
Ok ..what did I order? I ordered extras… ayam masak merah, sambal petai, sotong hitam (squid in black ink),ayam masak lemak cili padi (chicken in coconut chilli gravy),asam pedas(asam fish)..
I reckon in order for me to evaluate this restaurant, I need to know whether they can cook simple local favourites such as the above. And the verdict…?
They did it marvelously well! I love the succulent juicy sotong hitam. It was so delicious that Leonard and I took turns finishing it,clean! Rendang was richly tasty with all the spices swimming in your mouth as you much on the chewy beef chunks and you can feel that love was included in the recipe. I like the sambal petai. The stinky beans are not that stinky (so it’s safe to consume during lunch hour and go back to office after that) and I love the sweet freshness of the sambal!
Ok,now for the Nasi Ambeng verdict! First and foremost, pull or break the middle banana leaf that is segregrating the dishes and the rice. Let the mountainous pile crumble and then use ur bare hands, mixed all of them together.
The serundings (fried sweet dessicated coconut) and sambal goreng (tofu and fermented beans) , long beans fried in asam, brinjals with dried prawns, begedil (potato cutlet), fried tenggiri (traditionally, ikan tamban/kembung is used but too many bones thus for customers’ convenience, spanish mackerel is used instead) and all that…. jumbled them all up. I recommend choosing a coconut based side dish like lemak cili padi ayam (cos it goes so well with the above combination). Mixed well and then scoop a mouthful and feed yourself, oh my….it’s shiok!
You will lose track of the outside world and transcend magically into your own food world. And no worries, Roszy is very health conscious. She will try to ensure that the calories, carbohydrates and proteins are all balanced out. And for sure,there will be no MSGs and ghee used in any of the food.
I stayed there for more than 3 hours! No, the food are gone within an hour…but it felt so homely that I overstayed my invitation. I chat with Roszy when the lunch crowd was over and found out lots about this beautiful proprietress.
Roszy is a Singaporean (born and bred),is of mixed parentage of Scottish and Javanese blood, has travelled and lived in many different countries from Indonesia to America to Canada and Europe. Thus her palate has its own adventures and experience waiting to be unleashed (I did suggest her writing a blog). She has tried all sorts of cuisines and is a very good cook as well.
When she was abroad, she conducts workshops to introduce Singapore and asian cusines to expatriates’ wives and locals as well. Although she looked like a dainty princess, she is quite tough inside, backpacking on her own to various places and also driving in and out of one of the most dangerous and busiest traffic in the world. And she is very open minded ,embracing other cultures and able to adapt to different lifestyles in seconds and being multi-linguist helps.
Then she offered me her favourite dessert. Fried banana fritters wrapped intricately in Popiah skin and then added with a scoop of Vanilla icecream and chocolate sauce.She said that this is her creation. She wanted something crispy yet healthy thus the popiah skin helps in lessening that “jerlak” after feel. Ingenious idea! I tried it and yes, it wasnt smoggily oily, I cannot even taste the oil! It was a light, appropriately called “pencuci mulut”. Crack criuk…the popiah skin was crackling up in my mouth and then oozed out the sweet juice of of the banana flesh. I can eat more of these….
And they do catering…minimum of 10 pax. If you are have no time to cook iftar/sahur(break fast /predawn meals) , they can do it for you according to your budget. They can customised the menu just for you.You can self-collect or have them deliver at your doorstep.And if you have events (e.g feast/kenduri/open house…weddings), do give them a call, they are truly the Nasi Ambeng Specialist!
No need to procrastinate, just head down to….
Roszy’s Tiffin House
51 Thomson Road
Goldhill Centre #01-203
(opp the lifts)
Monday-halfday till 3pm
If you do need more delicious persuasion, read more of it on my foodie buddy site:
Thank you to Roszy’s Tiffin House for this homely invitation. Especially to Roszy for the delicious treat and enchanting heart to heart chats and not forgetting bubbly Leonard for dropping by to accompany me.And great thank yous to the veteran cook, Roszy’s mom(a hidden gem in the kitchen) and the shy waitress and macho waiters and not forgetting the sweet auntie who pose for me *chuckles.It was a blast!
Disclaimer: Food featured are subject to my personal taste. I hold no responsibility for your body’s gastronomical adventure.All food shown are either from Halal-certified or Muslim owned establishments(with no liquour/alcoholic beverages).I will try my utmost best to update and maintain the relevant information shown,insya-Allah…but your body,your responsibility.Do ensure that the Halal-certificates are up-to-date,renewed (not expired) and displayed promptly before ordering/consuming. If in doubt,always ask the staff with a smile.Remember: Use ur senses especially your heart.But mainly, ask your iman (faith). Don’t assume: A headdress/scarf lady is not equal to HALAL. “No pork no lard” signage is not equal to HALAL. A crescent moon and star symbol is not equal to HALAL. Not all Mediterranean (e.g Turkish kebab), Malaysian, Indonesian cuisines (especially Nasi Padang food) is HALAL. Whatever franchise that is HALAL in Malaysia,Indonesia or in any muslim country does not mean it is HALAL in Singapore or anywhere else. Your body,your responsibility, check its HALAL authenticity. More on disclaimer?Thank you for your kind attention.