When I pop open the takeaway box of my Nasi Bawal Penyet, or "smashed" pomfret rice, I do a double take. Where is the rice and fried tofu?
The fish is so large that it fills the entire box, hiding the other items below.
But I should not have cared too much. The fish is a star on its own. Deep-fried perfectly to a dark golden-brown, it is sprinkled with crispy bits of fried batter that lend crunch to each bite.
Its flesh is tender and the taste of fish oil comes through strongly, though it is not overpowering. I do not expect the oil to ooze out as I eat the fish, but I like it.
What takes this dish, from the Ang Mo Kio outlet of the Uncle Penyet Fusion chain, to the next level is the belacan, placed on the side, and the curry over the rice.
I am surprised that I want to have it again as I am not a big fan of penyet dishes.
Most people would be familiar with ayam penyet, or smashed fried chicken. After the meat is fried, the chicken is hit with a pestle to flatten it slightly.
The dish comes from Surabaya, the capital of Indonesia's East Java province.
Often, I find ayam penyet too dry. This is not the case here.
When I make a trip to the food stall to have another satisfying go at the Nasi Bawal Penyet ($8), I also decide to try the Nasi Ayam Penyet ($6.50) to see if it would be just as good as the fish.
It lives up to expectations. The chicken is tender and the meat falls off the bone easily - a major plus if you are using a fork and spoon.
Still, if it comes down to picking between the two, I would choose the fish.
UNCLE PENYET FUSION
01-4200 Mr Teh Tarik Eating House, 728 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6, tel: 9273-1036, open: 10am to 9pm daily
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Some might think it is a little pricey as it is sold in a coffee shop, but for a whole fish, I think the price is reasonable. It is also cooked on the spot - I had to wait about 10 minutes for it - and presented nicely in a wooden basket.
Now that I have found a stall that does "smashed" food right, I am making a mental note to return soon and explore the extensive menu, which includes Nasi Bakso Penyet (smashed beefball with rice) and Nasi Lele Penyet (smashed catfish with rice).
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