Makansutra: Having the best of both nasi worlds
Can't decide between nasi padang and nasi melayu dishes? Have both here
What is the difference between nasi padang and nasi melayu?
"$3", says the joker.
Gags aside, there is a distinction between these two rice meals.
One hails from Padang, West Sumatra in Indonesia, and the other is basically a home-cooked Malay dish offered at economy rice-stall settings.
But the lines and rules are blurring somewhat these days.
If you see sambal kerang (clams), spicy black ink squid, broccoli and greens, sambal fishcakes, hotdogs and salted eggs, that's nasi melayu.
But when beef rendang, telur dadar, sambal ikan bilis, sambal goreng and even sambal petai are highlighted, then that's more like a nasi padang meal, and don't let the blurred lines get to you.
I'll call Muslim Delights Wedding Services a Singapore-style nasi padang-melayu stall.
This little shop has the best of both nasi worlds.
It has a wedding catering business and also cooks its specialties for a counter spread.
There is always a queue at meal hours and it's obvious what the specials are.
It's hard to avoid their black ink sotong (squid) - it comes chunky and is parboiled till soft, then soaked in black ink sauce.
The omnipresent rendang is popular - especially for the Chinese folk - as it has a light sweetish overtone, is nicely sauced and soft to the bite.
In Padang, they come firmer, drier, not sweet and with a bold rempah or bumbu.
One melayu-style dish that stands out is the Ikan Assam Pedas, Batu Pahat-style.
They use stingray and it is done without sugar, unlike how many stalls do it here.
It's just sour and spicy, and when eaten over rice, it's drool-worthy and unctuous.
I also like their Ikan Korma - fish done in coconut-rich curry.
It is light and does not interfere with the other intense sambals, especially the masala curry chicken.
It's cooked in a very thick Indian-style curry and this was one of the popular dishes in the spread.
Another crowd favourite is the good ol' fried chicken - nothing special except for the crispy batter and the pile of extra crisp they layer over the chicken when served.
Run this over the black sambal kicap sauce and it would make you consider a return trip.
We've heard many tales of how a simple nasi padang meal with three items can set one back by $9.
But the eight items we ticked off on the menu cost only $25 - including kopi and teh-o.
So who's laughing now?
Muslim Delights Wedding Services
117, Upper Paya Lebar Road
6.30am to 9pm, closed on Sundays
Tel: 9633 0261/8121 2286