“Happy Tummies, Happy Wallet”
I am hardly a fan of Nasi Padang and it is never in my lunch rotation because they always empty my pocket more so than cai png. I remembered paying $8 for 3 miserable portions of dishes atop a plate of steamed rice.
Ouch! Naturally, I took with great delight when Ah Hoi’s Kitchen at Hotel Jen introduced its new 12 at 12 Nasi Padang Set Lunch (It’s $12 nett- I have to emphasis) starting from now till 30 Apr 2015. Wow!
For $12, you get 12 different Nasi Padang dishes and also if coming in a group, the 12th person dines free.
The week I had my lunch at Ah Hoi, dishes included: Soto Daging (Beef broth & Vegetable), Tahu Telur (Fried Beancurd & Egg), Rojak (Fresh fruit with rojak sauce), Ayam Penyet (Fried Chicken in Spices Padang Style) Ikan Tenggini Asam Pedas (Mackerel in Spicy Tamarind Chilli), Udang Sambal (Sambal Prawn) ,Kaki Babi Masak Cuka Hitam (Braised Pork Shank in Black Vinegar) and Gorent Kacang Perancis Dengan Udang Kering (Stir Fried French Bean w Dried Shrimp).
Tahu Telur (Fried Beancurd & Egg) proves how compelling the most basic Indonesian flavors can be. The dish is all about the play of using the highly flexible peanut sauce (this sauce is essentially the same one you eat with your satays) to slather on egg and tofu.
Underneath the intense peanut flavour ,you can taste the hint of heat from the chilies. This give it a happy savoury edge against the sweetness. The beauty of this dish lies in this complexity – that despite it being deep-fried, the tofu and beancurd are within separate from the oil with the fried egg retaining a delicate crunch beneath the sauce.
I enjoyed this homely Ayam Penyet (Smashed fried chicken in spices padang style) thoroughly. The chicken was flavorful and well-marinated with a delightful fragrance of spices. Although deep fried, it is ungreasy. If you are a fan of crisp bits (you know, those extra crunchy golden batter bits) then these were made for you. It is smashingly good!
Rojak (Fresh fruit with rojak sauce) has come to mean “mixed”, a reference to the different types of fruit and vegetables that can be tossed into this dish. Ah Hoi presents their rendition with fresh fruits. Apples, pineapples and cucumbers are the usual fruits to use in rojak, although anything juicy and crunchy would go well with the sauce. Though the sauce looked watered down, it tasted nothing like that. What we have here is a sauce that is nutty, savoury and sweet all mixed in good harmony.
Ikan Tenggini Asam Pedas (Mackerel in Spicy Tamarind Chilli). Tamarind chilli and fish are a classic pairing in Indonesian cuisine. Here, the fruit provides a tangy contrast to the chilli. Though the menu says spicy, the sweetness of the tamarind actually mellows as the chilli simmers. The sauce is best absorbed with fluffy white rice.
Udang Sambal (Sambal Prawn) is one of those dishes that, even when mediocre, is still pretty darn good if fresh prawns are used. Here, they deliver fresh prawns in spades. The prawns – giant, whole and juicy get a robust hit of flavor from the sambal; a comfortable heat that develops without being overly overpowering. And their sheer size makes them hearty enough to stand alone as a main.
Goreng Kacang Perancis Dengan Udang Kering (Stir Fried French Bean w Dried Shrimp) . Dried shrimp is pretty much a guaranteed ingredient in most Indonesian vegetable dishes and I like them added because when fried properly, it gives a good crispy texture. The 2 inch cuts of the french beans stir-fired with dried shrimps and a bit of chili for heat were cooked nicely –firm and crunchy. This huge pile of french beans is plentiful and easy to finish.
The Nasi Padang lunch set’s meat and vegetable dishes may be ordinary, but the seafood (so attest my dining companion) dishes are rock solid. Unlike forgettable one plate wonder, having 12 dishes presented in front of you is always succulent fun. Our tummies are happy. Our wallets, happier.
Note : Soto Daging, Tahu Telur and Rojak are permanently on the menu while the rest of the dishes change on a daily basis.
Ah Hoi’s Kitchen also serves Salmon Yusheng ($48.80 / $68.80) during this festive season. This dish is traditionally eaten on the seventh day of the lunar new year but I love it so much that I would have it on all fifteen days if I could. Sweet, crunchy, citrusy, and gingery and so much fun to eat.
The best part of yusheng for me is the cracker (sashimi aside) for texture. This one came with added crunch : Fried Fish Skin. Salmon Yusheng here runs for $48.50 for medium and $68.50 for large. As far as I am concerned, that is a small price to pay for good fortune in the coming year.
Like Salmon Yusheng, this luscious one-pot dish symbolizes prosperity and abundance. Ah Hoi’s Kitchen Big Bowl Feast ($248 onwards) or more commonly known as Pen Cai comes with black moss, premium abalone, superior sea cucumber, fish maw, premium dried oyster, roasted pork, fresh prawns, chicken, yam, beancurd, lotus root, chinese cabbage, gingko nut, golden mushroom, superiors mushroom and conpoy broth. A whooping 15 ingredients in all.
While I do not doubt the superiority of the ingredients used, there were two major factors that prevented this pot from being outstanding. One was the temperature – it was a disappointment because everything did not taste as good as they can be if it were hotter. I would guess that the mini table-top burner was not enough to keep the casserole of seafood warm. Secondly, while the individual flavours were really well-executed, the entire concoction fell apart without an umami flavor to bind them together. This Pen Cai starts from $248++. Top up an additional $20 to bring the claypot home. That is quite a good deal for prosperity and abundance for the coming year!
So, in the spirit of the Lunar New Year, start your lunch with Salmon Yusheng and end it with Ah Hoi’s Kitchen Big Bowl Feast – Fortune Pen Cai.
At $12 Nett, I would say the 12 for 12 Nasi Padang promo valid from Monday-Friday, 12pm onwards, at Ah Hoi’s Kitchen is a pretty good lunch deal for groups of people working in the area. The restaurant will even top up the dishes for free if there’s not enough to go around. Do check it out if you enjoy a mix of peranakan and Indonesian flavours.
Ah Hoi’s Kitchen @ Hotel Jen Tanglin (Formerly Traders Hotel): 1A Cuscaden Road Singapore 249716 | Tel:+65 6831 4373| Website
Ah Hoi’s Kitchen is also available on The Entertainer App, which gives you 1-for-1 main courses when you dine there with the app!