Warong Nasi Pariaman is recognized by the National Heritage Board of Singapore as the oldest surviving eatery that serves nasi padang, a popular repast of steamed white rice served with a wide variety of side-dishes.
Nasi padang originates from its namesake city of Padang on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, but its popularity has seen nasi padang being offered all over Indonesia and beyond: Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
Last Thursday, I ventured down to Singapore’s Muslim quarter, centred around the Arabian Nights-like spires and domes of the Sultan Mosque bound by Arab Street, Bussorah Street and Kandahar Street.
Khir Johari, whose magnum opus, “Food of the Singapore Malays” - a labour of love that was 11 years in the making - transformed him into Singapore’s celebrity cookbook author almost overnight, had invited me for lunch at Warong Nasi Pariaman on Kandahar Street. Founded by a Padang emigre, Mr Isrin bin Ibrahim, and his wife, Mdm Rosna binte Zainal Abidin, in 1948. It still produces each and every dish the “traditional” way - for e.g., its white rice is always steamed, never cooked in a pot, so the rice grains remain separate when served.
The way to order nasi padang - go up to the display case where the freshly-cooked dishes for the day are displayed. Make your selection and tell the server how many diners are in your party, and how many plates of rice you want served.
A waiter will promptly deliver your order right to your table.
I’d asked an uncle and auntie of mine to join us for lunch - for a nasi padang meal, the more the merrier, as it allows one to order a wider variety of side-dishes.
Our selection of dishes:
- Beef rendang - this is the restaurant’s signature dish. The smokey-aromatic stewed beef shank simply fell apart at the touch of a fork’s tines.
Their version of beef rendang consisted of simply 9 ingredients: beef, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk and red chili powder. No cumin, no coriander, unlike at other places. Simply delicious.
Ayam bakar cili ijo - my favourite dish at this lunch: perfectly-grilled chicken, smothered with a mildly-spicy, coconut milk-enriched gravy.
Absolutely delightful - one can have this every day.
Gulai nangka - young jackfruit curry, done pretty well here.
Sayur lodeh - a personal favourite for the longest time: this slow-cooked vegetable dish of cabbage, long beans, aubergine ], long beans and carrot, doused with a spicy-sweet, coconutty gravy, is easy to look.
Gulai ayam - the Padang folks are specialists at cooking “gulai” (curries) which are spicy and coconut milk-rich. TTHe “gulai ayam” is considered one of their most popular dishes, and the rendition here at Warong Nasi Pariaman was simply perfect.
Terong balado - pan-fried batons of aubergine, topped with a very spicy chili-infused topping.
Bagedel - potato-and-beef croquettes.
Telur balado - hard-boiled egg, topped with an ultra-spicy chili relish.
9) Tapeh ubi - fermented cassava, perfect with a glass of hot milk tea.
Warong Nasi Pariaman is currently run by owner-chef, Jumrin bin Isrin - one of the late founder’s sons, seen here on the left of the photo, together with Khir Johari.
Warong Nasi Pariaman
738 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 198706
Tel: +65 6292 5898
Opening hours: 7.30am to 3pm daily, except Wed (closed).