Nasi Ambeng is a traditional, celebratory Javanese-Malay dish, usually served communal-style on a large platter, to be shared by a party of 2-5 people. It’s a somewhat less elaborate counterpart of the larger, more complex Nasi Tumpeng, which is the official national dish of Indonesia. Both Nasi Ambeng and Nasi Tumpeng comprised of a huge mound of rice placed in the centre of a large serving platter, with several side-dishes arrayed around the rice decoratively.
Our lunch today was at Padi @ Bussorah, which opened back in May 2015, and is one of a handful of Malay eateries offering Nasi Ambeng, a popular celebratory dish in Singapore back in the 1960s till 1980s. The dish was actually in danger of going extinct, until a wave of renewed interest saw the Instagrammable dish making a comeback in the early 2010s.
The restaurant is located under the shadow of the imposing Sultan Mosque, the epicentre of Singapore’s Arab Quarter, amongst a row of Arab and Turkish eateries, and shops selling Malay/Muslim products.
Padi @ Bussorah’s Nasi Ambeng comprised of rice with ayam masak lemak chilli padi (chicken in coconut milk-enriched, turmeric-flavoured gravy, spiked with habaneros), beef rendang (the classic Indonesian dry beef curry), sambal goreng (spicy long beans with tofu and tempe), sambal sotong (chilied squid), bergedil (potato croquette), paru goreng (deep-fried cow’s lung), kerisik (spiced, grated coconut), crisp-fried salted fish, and urap (a beansprout and wingbean vegetable salad tossed in grated coconut).
I was lunching with 3 friends, but we didn’t eat from the communal platter the traditional way like the Malays do (maybe, on hindsight, we should’ve done that). Instead, we had individual plates on which we piled our food from the platter.
It was a pretty selection of well-executed dishes - of a higher quality than any Malay meal I’d had in Kuala Lumpur or any of the larger cities in Malaysia.
Padi @ Bussorah
53 Bussorah Street
Tel: +656291 3921
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm, Mon to Fri.
11am to 11pm on Sat & Sun.