Nasi lemak is her family's trademark
There is a great nasi lemak family here.
The eldest sister owns the Ponggol Nasi Lemak Centre. The second sister runs the Mount Faber Nasi Lemak Fast Food Shop (currently on Kreta Ayer Road).
Madam Susan Koh, sister No. 3, holds her own at Bali Nasi Lemak, located in Geylang.
At 68, she still drives to Jurong Fishery every evening to get her ikan kuning and sotong.
After more than 20 years, she is still faithfully at her stall every evening.
I am back to check up on her, as I heard she was on four months' medical leave.
"I had a car accident last August while driving to Jurong after work. I was tired and momentarily lost control. The next thing I knew, my head swelled and I was hospitalised," she recalls vividly.
Luckily, there was no cranial damage and she was back at work two weeks later.
What about the latest episode?
"I tripped and fell at the stall, broke my ankle and twisted my right arm," she says, which necessitated a long medical leave period.
During her absence, I had not heard bad things about her food as these comments tend to creep up on social media if quality suddenly heads south.
She attributes it to her staff, supervised by her husband, saying: "I am lucky to have good staff. I dare say they make the food as well as I do," she beams.
Many tend to compare her fare with her sister's offering at Ponggol Nasi Lemak Centre, but anyone will stop short after encountering Madam Susan's distinctive kecap manis chicken (also known as black chicken) - freshly fried, crispy chicken tossed in a sweet, yet not cloying black sauce.
She says: "My sister also doesn't sell sambal petai (stink beans)."
She adds that she uses a different batter for her kecap manis and regular crispy fried chicken (which ranks as one of the best I have had).
The crispiness holds because she uses a blend of rice and wheat flour, and there is a technique to battering it.
Why is her fried chicken juicy inside?
"It's important to use medium fire," she says.
The 16 varieties of food, which include sambal petai, long beans, sayur lodeh, two types of fried eggs, brinjal and dried shrimp sambal, otah and curry chicken, are spread over lightly salted and coconutty Thai basmati rice, which she says "cost me over $90 per sack", and you will be able to tell the difference.
Her children are successful professionals, so when asked about continuity, she says: "I have good staff and I think this team is here to stay for a long time. I pay them well and take care of their welfare."
And as we spoke, a new batch of gleaming black chicken was laid on the display shelf.
Everyone in the queue pointed to it.
Bravo, Madam Susan, for keeping this unique Singapore makan culture alive and kicking.
Bali Nasi Lemak
2, Lorong 15 Geylang
- 5pm-4am daily
- Tel: 6742-1980
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.