Makansutra: A taste of blue nasi lemak in Singapore
No need to travel across the Causeway to have a taste of butterfly pea flower rice
Apart from lending a blue hue to food, there have been many claims about the health benefits of the butterfly pea flower, ranging from its high antioxidant properties to how it cleanses the skin from within.
I am not a big fan of savoury food that looks blue or purple, but when I ate at the famous Nasi Kerabu (a light blue nasi lemak rice with chicken and sambal) stalls in Kelantan, Malaysia, I had to make an exception.
Daun Telang or butterfly pea flower is a creeper, and it can be seen in many public areas. Most cooks and chefs grow it themselves as it is not readily available in the markets.
You can dry it, let it simmer in warm water and then use the coloured liquid. You can also eat them raw or brew it for a cup of butterfly pea tea.
When I first had the butterfly pea flower nasi lemak at Times Cuisine Kopitiam in Kelantan Lane, the rice was aromatic. Curious to find out what made the rice so fragrant, I lifted the lid of rice pot and found that they had used pandan and lemongrass.
The stall's signature fried chicken wing set ($4) has mass appeal. I enjoyed the crispiness of the batter and juiciness of the wings. I also have to highlight the homemade sambal, I could taste the grittiness of the spices used. The set comes with some achar, keropok (prawn crackers) and a perfect oozy, runny fried egg on top.
If you would like something different, go for the Rempah Chicken version ($5) which comes with a drumstick fried in a batter mixed with sambal. It was not too spicy, like an authentic ayam berempah would be in Malaysia, and the bits of fried curry leaves they garnished it with gave it a homemade touch. Not many bother with such details these days.
Bosses Jack Beh from Perak and his partner Kok Kian Ann from Ipoh are two of the more earnest Malaysian hawkers in Singapore. Their two-month old stall (they moved here from Marine Parade) shows their operational finesse, gleaned from having worked in top Chinese kitchens such as Tung Lok.
The clincher is the assam pedas versions they offer. The Nonya Assam Fish set ($6) has two ikan selar sitting fresh and soft in a pool of hot, spicy and sour assam pedas sauce, served separately from the blue rice.
The Nonya Assam Seafood set ($6.80), which comes with fresh prawns, clams, sotong and crabstick, is another winner. I will return for this as the confluence of flavours and textures, from lemak, sambal, assam, spicy, sour to eggy and crispy (crackers) always gets me.
I now only need to go Kelantan Lane, not Kelantan up north, for butterfly pea flower nasi goodness.
Butterfly Pea Flower Nasi Lemak
Times Cuisine Kopitiam
31, Kelantan Lane
10.30am-8pm, closed Mondays
K.F. Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
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