Last Updated: April 7, 2019
I’m not well-versed in Malay cuisine, and my knowledge is limited to the basic nasi and mee dishes. My experience at nasi padang stalls involves a whole lot of pointing to the dishes.
I’ve always wanted to try more varieties of Malay cuisine, so when my dad mentioned he visited Coba Coba around the Yishun area, I decided to try out the Nasi Ambeng there.
Coba Coba is a retro-looking cafe with vintage displays and rustic wooden furniture. It also had a comfortable ambience, with loads of open space for ventilation and fans in every corner possible.
Interestingly, the owner of this cafe, Timothy, is actually Chinese. When he was studying in Sydney, Indonesian-Malay dishes were his go-to comfort food. He decided to serve Indonesian-Malay food because he loved the idea of togetherness and communal dining, especially with nasi ambeng where everyone shares the same plate.
I like that Coba Coba stands for “try try”, which represents Timothy’s hope that people of all races will come to try their food and enjoy it.
We decided to go for the Deluxe Nasi Ambeng (S$32.90 for 2 pax, S$43.90 for 3 pax), which came with 14 different ingredients on a giant platter. All the dishes were amazing and the portions were really generous.
I liked that we were all eating the same dishes, so we could bond over the food. If I described every component of this Deluxe Nasi Ambeng, this article would last forever. Nonetheless, I would like to give a special shoutout to some of my favourites.
The first is the Sambal Goreng, one of my staples whenever I have nasi padang. This is basically fried tofu, tempeh and long beans cooked in a spicy coconut sauce — a simple yet well-executed, delicious dish. I liked the different textures, and the tempeh was well-prepared with a clean nuttiness.
My second favourite is the Beef Rendang, which was extremely flavourful from the use of rich spices. The meat was tender and easy to chew with no gameyness.
The third would be the Bergedil, a fragrant deep-fried potato patty, with chunks in it. Dip this in their homemade sambal, which packed a nice punch, for a more intense flavour.
I also really liked their Ayam Lemak, which differs from the usual curry chicken. It is definitely more lemak from the heavy use of coconut milk, and the chicken meat was very tender. Creamy with a subtle kick of spice, this went really well with rice.
We also added some sides, which gave me more insight into some of the best Indo-Malay dishes I’ve ever tried. The Tahu Telur (S$5) was definitely the best tofu dish I’ve ever had.
Wow, just look at those layers. The outermost layer was slightly crispy, while the centre was extremely fluffy and soft.
Timothy divulged to me that they used three different types of tofu to get that special texture. I really liked the addition of the light and airy egg floss, which added a nice buttery, silky texture.
The viscous peanut sauce was incredibly flavourful, giving a nutty touch to the dish. I also liked that the julienned cucumbers and carrots had a refreshing crunch to cut through the richness of the sauce.
We also got the Botok Botok (S$5 – S$7), which was something I’ve never had. It came wrapped up in banana leaves like a little parcel. Timothy explained that this dish has been traditionally prepared this way so it could be kept for a long time.
Inside the banana leaves, there was a substantially-sized piece of fish, topped with a unique paste of coconut flesh and different spices.
The fish was flaky and soft, with a fresh and sweet taste. The paste atop it was slightly spicy, with hints of coconut which elevated the flavour profile. This dish is steamed, so it’s definitely a healthy yet tasty option.
We also got the Sotong Hitam (S$5 – S$7), which is basically a squid ink dish. The ink did little for the flavour but I really appreciated the freshness of the squids. Springy with a natural sweetness, this squid dish was addictive.
The Ayam Taucohijau (S$5/S$6) came with a luscious green sauce made of fermented soybeans, green chillis and coconut. This dish is really rare, and Coba Coba is probably the only one who serves it in Singapore.
It’s definitely worth a try. The chicken leg itself was tender and juicy on the inside, with a perfectly crisp skin. The sauce had a slightly salty and savoury flavour in every single component. Don’t worry about the green chillis because it’s not spicy.
I came to Coba Coba just to try out the Nasi Ambeng, but I managed to try a whole lot more than the same few dishes that I’m used to having.
I’m glad I did “try try” them because I never would have known I enjoyed Indo-Malay food this much. They also serve handmade pastries like banana fritters and curry puffs.
Whether you are thinking of getting a quick bite, or having a meal with your family during the weekends, Coba Coba should be on your list of places to visit.
Expected Damage: S$5 – S$14 per pax
Our Rating: 5 / 5
156 Yishun Street 11 #01-06, Singapore 760156
156 Yishun Street 11 #01-06, Singapore 760156