Last Updated: August 24, 2020
Nestled in the middle of Singapore’s CBD, we found a hidden gem among the shophouses of Hoe Chiang Road. Amidst the brisk and rapid mood of the CBD, Ali Nachia Eating House is a spot full of relaxed and lively cheer.
This halal coffeeshop is home to a few stores selling favourites such as briyani, nasi padang, Malay kuehs and teh tarik.
What you might not be immediately aware of beneath the impressive culinary expertise of Ali Nachia’s cooks is that they are also ex-footballers and musicians. You read that right!
When we got there, at the helm of the homely coffee shop was former national footballer Rafi Ali, who was expertly dishing out platters after platters of briyani (an Indian mixed rice dish). Naturally, I had to try some.
First up was the Mutton Briyani (S$8). This was a generous plate of fragrant Basmati rice, served with a hefty portion of mutton and tangy curry. The mutton was perfectly tender and tore off the bone in neat strips, with several spots of fat that added a nice chewy texture.
I loved how the rice had just the perfect level of dryness that gave it a good bite and texture. Coupled with the sharp flavours in the curry, this was heaven on a plate.
The only negative thing I’d say about this is that the brinjal in the curry was a little bitter. Nevertheless, it was cooked to a nice, soft texture, and the curry helped to mask some of the bitterness.
We were also lucky enough to find ourselves there on a Friday, because that’s the only day they serve their special Fish Briyani (S$8).
This impressive platter featured a baked Angoli fish (a variety of snapper) nestled in a bed of aromatic long-grained rice. The fish was satisfyingly crispy on the outside while retaining the softness of its flesh. I liked how it melded so harmoniously with the rice and curry spices.
If you intend to make a trip here, remember to come on an empty stomach because the servings here will definitely fill you up. While eating, I was struck by the friendly rapport among the stall owners and regulars. Everyone was so warm with ready smiles, which went a long way to making the place welcoming and homely.
Speaking of homely, we were treated to a scrumptious array of kuehs (bite-sized snacks and desserts) at the neighbouring stall, Goreng Goreng. With an extensive variety of savoury and sweet snacks, I was positively spoilt for choice.
We started off with the quintessential Curry Puff (S$2 for three pieces) with Sardine (indicated with a red dot) and Potato fillings. The crispy golden-brown pastry held the delightful flavour of deep-fried guilty pleasures.
With fillings in a balanced ratio to pastry, I’d consider this a reliably satisfying snack. I did prefer the Sardine Curry Puff because it packed more flavour.
For a sweet break, we tried the Talam Keladi (S$0.80 per piece). With two layers of custard and tapioca, this unassuming kueh was a pleasant shock of coconut-y flavour.
The tapioca layer even had chunks of the actual root, which added an enjoyable texture to the smooth kueh. Although I found the sweet custard a tad dense, it still worked very well as a counterbalance to the milder tapioca.
On to the next one: the ever sought after Goreng Pisang (S$2 for three pieces). Always a fan of fried banana fritters, this was one of the first items that caught my eye.
Inside the crispy coat of flour, I could still see spots of soft juicy banana that promised to be as sweet as they looked. If you’re a fan of banana, you might also like their Jemput Jemput (S$2 for five pieces), which are delicious fried banana and flour balls.
Our grand finale was the Lopes (S$1 per large slice), a splendid kueh of glutinous rice, coated with fresh coconut shavings and doused with gula melaka (palm sugar syrup). Everything worked harmoniously together—the chewy glutinous rice and crunchy coconut sweetened by gula melaka created such a homely mouthfeel that is hard to forget.
Overall, Ali Nachia Eating House was a wonderful experience, both for the delectable food and affable atmosphere. I could see the passion and energy of these musicians pouring into the food they made, which gives them so much appeal.
The long queue that stretched across two shopfronts all morning just showed how they have people coming back to them. Do bear in mind that you might want to arrive early for a table though.
Ali Nachia Eating House also sells nasi padang (Indonesian mixed rice), kaya toast breakfast sets, and teh tarik (hot pulled milk tea). I definitely hope to go back again to try them.
Expected Damage: S$7 – S$12 per pax
Our Rating: 4 / 5
Ali Nachia Eating House
9 Hoe Chiang Road, Singapore 089314
9 Hoe Chiang Road, Singapore 089314