Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet: 70-year-old auntie serves up authentic Ayam Penyet

If you enjoy seeing a chicken being bludgeoned to bits, it either means you’re waiting on your order of Ayam Penyet or you should seriously consider getting help. Thankfully, I belonged to the former as I waited for my order at Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet located at Berseh Food Center.

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Exterior Shot

As I searched for my table, I could hear Malay tunes from the ‘60s that made predicting the age of the stall owner, Aunty Sham, way too easy. It was around 6pm when I got there, an hour before Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet closed, but she and her assistant were still working tirelessly as if overtime existed. Perhaps the music had them in an industrial trance.

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Preparing Ayam Penyet

Assisting her was an elderly Chinese man, though I dared not ask if they were married or dating. It also didn’t matter as they constructed my order of Ayam Penyet in tandem without uttering a word in rapid succession.

What I tried at Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet and Mee Rebus

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet not only serves Ayam Penyet (S$6.50) and Fish Penyet (S$7), but also dishes from both Indonesia and the Malay Archipelago (or just from Indonesia if we’re getting technical). Such dishes include Mee Bakso (S$4.50), Mee Rebus (S$3.50), Mee Soto (S$3.50) and Lontong (S$3.50).

I went ahead to get a plate of Ayam Penyet and Mee Rebus. Though the idea of having a whole fried pomfret fish excited my tastebuds, there must be a reason why Aunty Sham has Ayam Penyet on her stall name and not Fish Penyet. 

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet

The Ayam Penyet came with a huge piece of fried chicken thigh that got me questioning all those tiny ones I’ve gotten at KFC. Accompanying it were a handful of crispy fried bits, fried tofu, keropok and nicely sliced tomato, cucumbers and lettuce that we both know I am going to ignore. It also came with soup and a side of Javanese-style sambal. The plate of rice was nicely topped with fried onions.

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Up close

It was by pure instinct that I tried a piece of chicken before anything else and it had a very familiar taste. The crust reminded me of fried chicken that I would get with a plate of Nasi Lemak, which was nice. There wasn’t any distinct taste that I could point out except for salt and a hint of turmeric and lemongrass.

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet

The flesh itself didn’t bear any taste apart from being chicken-ey and frankly was quite dry. It was to be expected as the chicken thigh was cooked twice: once steamed after being coated with bumbu (a blend of spices) and then deep fried with palm oil, though I was expecting the bumbu taste to come through after seeing the array of spices and herbs that were used.

However, what kept me coming back was the crispiness of the chicken and the surrounding fried bits only helped its cause. If I had my way, I would have gone all out with my bare hands but the current hygiene situation and my poor camera won over my primal urge.

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Sambal

One thing about writing a review is how you can use it like a confessional booth so here’s mine: I never had sambal on my Ayam Penyet before. I’m sorry, but it’s the smell that gets to me. Before you question my Malay background, this is specifically aimed towards Javanese-based sambal

There’s also something off, or at least to me, about grounding raw ingredients together on a piece of pestle and mortar… uh I’m already squirming. 

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Sambal with rice

I did have a single spoonful of rice with the sambal and it didn’t change my mind about it. I guess the best way I could describe it was that it tasted like how it smelled: citrusy, bright and spicy. I must say, despite the minute amount that I had, it carried a surprisingly potent kick. 

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Soup

In the face of a thick fried chicken thigh and authentic Javanese-styled sambal, you’d call me mad if I were to say that the soup was the reason I could finish my meal. Well, let this madman explain, in the face of dry chicken and slightly overcooked rice, this unassuming-looking soup made it so much easier to eat.

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Soup on rice

Taste wise, it had a savoury and even slightly sweet taste of chicken. It’s quite similar to the soup you get in those chicken rice sets but cometh the man, cometh the hour and the soup delivers.

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Mee Rebus

I’ve always appreciated the simplicity behind Mee Rebus. I mean, the name translates to nothing more than ‘boiled noodles’, but behind those brown gravy and yellow egg noodles lies a world of flavour. Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet’s rendition of Mee Rebus comes with a hard boiled egg, mini fried tofu, chopped green chillies, beansprouts and a slice of limau kasturi (calamansi).

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Mee Rebus pull

When I went for my first bite, the viscosity of the gravy had permeated through the noodles and made my fork work extra hard for it. It was as if the plate wanted the dish for itself and rightfully so, as this plate of boiled noodles warrants your attention.

It had your usual Mee Rebus flavour profiles such as savoury and slight sweetness, but what made this special was the accompanying heat that came with it. It wasn’t even because of the shredded chilli. This was most definitely some bumbu magic right here! 

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Mee Rebus Bean sprout

I enjoyed the addition of beansprouts in this dish. It added a much needed crunch to go with the soft noodles and its addition was expertly sparse to not overpower everything else in the dish. As the leader of the anti-taugeh triad, it is near sacrilegious that I did but I could hardly resist.

The mini fried tofu also gave it a delectable chewy element that made up for the gravy’s thickness, and the soft-boiled egg added a touch of creaminess with its neutral flavour.

At that moment, I had forgotten that I was more than 16km away from home and in the midst of entering peak hours. All I could think of was the many flavour possibilities if it had been served with a soft-boiled egg instead.

Final thoughts

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet - Mee Rebus

Though I wished I had brought along an eating partner who could better appreciate the Javanese-style sambal, it still didn’t change the fact that the chicken was largely bland excluding the skin. The soup helped, but if you’re touting an authentic Javanese Ayam Penyet, the soup shouldn’t have been the saving grace.

The Mee Rebus however was a different story. It is quite possibly one of the best I ever had, with strong flavours and a masterful selection of toppings that reflects Aunty Sham’s 30 years of experience in the food and beverage industry as well as her Javanese background. 

All in all, Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet is definitely worth a try for an affordable meal especially when you’re around Jalan Besar or don’t mind travelling for a bowl of Javanese food.

I’d probably rename it to Aunty Sham Mee Rebus though.

Expected damage: S$3.50 – S$6.50 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet

166 Jalan Besar, Berseh Food Centre, #01-09, Singapore 208877

Our Rating 4/5

Aunty Sham Ayam Penyet

166 Jalan Besar, Berseh Food Centre, #01-09, Singapore 208877

Operating Hours: 8am - 7pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon

Operating Hours: 8am - 7pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon