The Jalan Besar area is constantly abuzz with activity. Steeped in culture and heritage as it is, that reputation is rivalled only by the number of food options on offer. On a particularly wet day in late Nov, I found myself wandering its busy streets with a colleague, on the hunt for a spot to have a late lunch.
Dodging waves of splashing road puddles, we eventually settled on ABC Nasi Kandar, an established Indian-Muslim restaurant head-and-shoulders above the rest in ratings. Like other eateries in the area, they occupy a shophouse corner, though with noticeably more seating space.
The twilight hours between lunch and dinner appear to be a distant concept to the eatery, as a sizeable crowd was present throughout our meal.
This being the first proper Indian-Muslim restaurant I’d visited in a while, I made a few faux pas. Chiefly, it was my confident order of ‘1 rojak’ that has unpleasantly seared itself into memory. The pointed stare from the cook as one of the staff ushered me to the actual self-service rojak stall will forever be a petrifying reminder of this momentary brain fog.
Embarrassing moments aside, having all our orders registered on a card was quite convenient.
What I tried at ABC Nasi Kandar
My first order came quick. It should be expected that these places serve enormous portions, but I was still surprised by the huge plate of Mutton Briyani (S$9). Since my life was changed by a prior visit to Koothurar Nasi Briyani, I’ve held these places to a much higher standard, briyani-wise.
The delicate quality of the basmati grains was the first thing I latched onto despite a pleasant fragrance. Subsequent bites confirmed their fluffy texture, and there was so much to go around that I could shovel spoonful after spoonful to stifle my groaning stomach.
Even with all that volume, I was left wanting more savoury substance. Perhaps they had been too easy on the spices.
Smaller pieces of mutton were already scattered among the rice, but the main spectacle required a number of tugs to set free. Juicy with a hint of gaminess, the meat added a fair bit to the barrage of smells already pummelling my senses. I later decided I would try scooping some bone marrow out after tasting the other dishes, so the plate was set aside. Sadly, the thought never crossed my mind again.
Instead of achar, the mutton briyani came with what looked to be onion raita but lacked very much in its yoghurt base. Had it not been at least runny with some, I would have assumed they were just plain onions. And they might as well have been because there was barely a hint of the raita’s sweet-savoury notes to balance the refreshing but bitter slices.
Dalcha was also served on the side but wasn’t too impactful. The spice level so far had been manageable so this light stew was un-problematic for me.
I wouldn’t describe myself as adventurous for getting Horlicks Prata (S$2.50) on top of a Plain Prata (S$1.20). Mischievous would be more accurate. Yes, the puzzled staff had to confirm my order twice. I was just surprised they had left that on the menu.
The prata was slow to arrive; a painful 20 minutes that had to have been to spite me.
The plain prata was the best dish thus far. A crispy exterior with decently soft insides — marred only by a faint burnt smell.
As greasy hands on a camera rarely ends well, you’ll have to suffer the sight of prata handled with a stainless steel spoon and fork. The Horlicks Prata shares the same qualities, but with a filling that tasted quite perplexing.
As expected, we tasted the sweetness first. Some portions were gunky while others had a more candy-like consistency that, annoyingly, stuck to our teeth as we chewed. Most strangely, there was a pronounced bitter aftertaste that surfaced on occasion.
The dalcha is preferable, but if you prefer something sweet with prata (that isn’t sugar), ABC Nasi Kandar also provides a sweet-spicy sambal. Unlike the other dishes so far, this sambal really lights up your tongue.
On to the Rojak Mix (S$7.80). My selection was entirely fritters, since my previous Indian rojak experience had been nothing short of heavenly with those alone.
The standout at most rojak spots is undoubtedly the sauce. Yet there was nothing spectacular about it either. Its sweet and tangy bonus came without much aroma despite the crushed peanuts within.
Crunchy onions and cucumbers give the rojak mix some juiciness and lift. At the very least, the dish turned out to be worth the embarrassing ‘ordeal’.
We also threw in a Teh Ice (S$2.40) and Chocolate Milkshake (S$6) to raise that calorie count. I liked the milk tea, but the milkshake did not justify its price tag. There was hardly any thickness to the drink and it tasted a lot like plain old chocolate milk dressed with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles.
It’s worth mentioning that on a previous visit with friends, our Editor-in-Chief, Pavin, found ABC Nasi Kandar rather lacking. Her Maggi Goreng was mighty hot despite a request for ‘less spicy’, the dosai had a strange aftertaste (they suspect the wrong flour had been used), and in general, the Tikka Masala and Mee & Mee Hoon Goreng didn’t exactly deliver. All that on top of a long wait time during a late-night visit.
I also encountered slow service and the dishes didn’t exactly meet my expectations given the slightly higher price point of the briyani. It was a little funny that I found my dishes to be under-spiced while Pavin had the opposite issue. Ultimately, ABC Nasi Kandar is a great place to chill with friends and eat (a lot), but if quality happens to be more pressing, I advise looking elsewhere.
Expected damage: S$4 to S$8.70 per pax
Order Delivery: foodpanda
Our Rating: 3.5 / 5
ABC Nasi Kandar
67 Desker Rd, Singapore 209590
ABC Nasi Kandar
67 Desker Rd, Singapore 209590