Where to get a Nasi Lemak burger

More eateries have come up with their own version to cash in on the hype surrounding the dish

Nasi lemak is the hottest dish in town - but not in its traditional form.

Less than a month after fast-food chain McDonald's sold out its popular nasi lemak burger on July 25, at least seven eateries have jumped on the bandwagon to offer their take on the burger, inspired by the Malay coconut rice dish.

They include French patisserie-restaurant, Antoinette, which launched its XXXL Nasi Lemak Burger on Aug 9, and Asian fusion restaurant The Quarters, which rolled out its version on Aug 1.

These new additions, many of which are part of National Day menus at the eateries, are available until the end of this month.

Their inspiration is the McDonald's version, which featured a cornflakes-coated fried chicken thigh infused with a spiced coconut marinade, fried egg, sambal, caramelised onions and cucumber slices sandwiched between two buns.

It was a bestseller for the chain, with close to 750,000 burgers sold over more than 10 days. A spokesman said the chain had to pull the burger from the menu as it was unable to re-stock the ingredients to match the "overwhelming demand".

The burger has also spawned versions in cafes such as myBurgerLab in Kuala Lumpur.

Eateries here have been quick to cash in on the hype surrounding the burger. Many versions also address a grouse diners had against McDonald's nasi lemak burger - no coconut rice - by replacing the buns with coconut-infused rice buns.

Chef-owner Chung Deming, 36, of The Quarters cafe in Icon Village says: "Only McDonald's has the marketing reach to generate such high awareness and interest for a dish. And the hype ended too quickly during the lead-up to National Day, so there was a demand to satisfy."

He adds that the burger fits the cafe's Mod-Sin menu, which includes satay chicken and salted egg yolk chicken burgers. He now sells up to 80 nasi lemak burgers a day.

Agreeing with him is Ms Jamie Koh, 32, owner of The Beast, an American restaurant in Jalan Klapa that serves Southern-style food.

She says: "McDonald's has already done the marketing for us and the hype has helped boost sales of our burgers."

The restaurant has been selling up to 50 of the burgers daily since launching them on July 27.

Also joining in "the fun and craze" of the fad is The Chop Chop Selections in The Bedok Marketplace in Simpang Bedok. The Western food stall launched two versions of the nasi lemak burger, with either chicken cutlet or fish fillet, on Aug 1.

Owner Sean Goh, 39, has seen a 10 to 15 per cent increase in business, as customers also order other dishes alongside the burgers.

He says: "There will always be curiosity when you play around with local food, as diners will wonder how the new versions taste."

He sells up to 30 nasi lemak burgers daily.

Some eateries have added interesting twists to stand out from the crowd.

Antoinette in Penhas Road has an XXXL Nasi Lemak Burger, which refers to the hulking slab of deep-fried chicken breast sandwiched with otak, luncheon meat, sambal and sunny-side-up egg between coconut rice "buns".

The battered chicken pays homage to chef-owner Pang Kok Keong's favourite childhood snack of fried chicken wings smeared with sambal.

The 42-year-old, who challenged himself to create the burger in three days, says: "With a very big piece of chicken, I can create a fun and in-your-face effect that diners will remember."

Another nasi lemak burger that stands out is the one from Makansutra Gluttons Bay food street in Raffles Avenue.

Its wok-fried rice "buns" are mixed with otak, which turns them orange.

The burger is not new though. It was introduced at a pop-up event there two years ago by Makansutra's founder K.F. Seetoh, who wanted to give the traditional dish "a hipster food truck spin". It was brought back late last month in time for National Day celebrations. Up to 60 burgers are sold daily.

Mr Seetoh says that eateries can inject creative touches into other local dishes. "Instead of jumping into the buzz, why not create new versions of other dishes like chicken rice and bak kut teh?"

Diners are lapping up the nasi lemak burgers.

Finance manager Elaine Teo, 42, who has tried Antoinette's burger, says: "Its version tastes more authentic and similar to nasi lemak, with a good spicy sambal compared with McDonald's version, which had sambal that was more sweet than spicy."

Civil servant Tan Jia Wei, 24, says: "For a nasi lemak burger to work, the combination of coconut rice and sambal must be good. I am keen to try more nasi lemak burgers with interesting components."

Go to http://str.sg/4rUG to watch Antoinette's chef-owner Pang Kok Keong assemble his nasi lemak burger


Where to go

1. APPETIDE CAFE

What: The cafe's Nasi Lemak Burger ($12, photo 1) comprises deep-fried chicken thigh sprinkled with fried coconut flakes, sambal, cucumber slices and fried egg sandwiched between two brioche buns. It is served with fish keropok, achar and a rose syrup drink. While stocks last.

Where: 35A Boat Quay

Open: 9am to 9pm (Mondays), 11.30am to 9pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), closed on weekends

Info: Call 6532-0419 or go to www.facebook.com/pg/appetidecafe

2. ANTOINETTE

What: Antoinette's chef-owner Pang Kok Keong combines his favourite nasi lemak elements in the XXXL Nasi Lemak Burger ($20, photo 2). Taking centre stage is a big piece of golden brown deep-fried chicken breast in a batter seasoned with sesame oil, oyster sauce and Chinese rice wine. Smeared on the fried chicken is a fragrant sambal made with dried shrimps, shallots and gula melaka, which injects a hint of sweetness.

The mammoth burger is also piled with a mackerel and prawn otak, luncheon meat and cucumber.

Capping it off are pandan juice-infused Japanese rice "buns" that are lightly pan-fried. Available until Aug 31.

Where: 30 Penhas Road

Open: 11am to 10pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 11am to 11pm (Fridays), 10am to 11pm (Saturdays), 10am to 10pm (Sundays)

Info: Call 6293-3121 or go to www.antoinette.com.sg

3. LITTLE HOUSE OF DREAMS

What: The bakery-cafe rolled out its Nasi Lemak Rice Burger ($18.90, photo 3) on July 20, a week after McDonald's launched its version. Sink your teeth into lightly seared Japanese pearl rice "buns", deep-fried battered chicken thigh, lettuce and sunny-side-up egg. The burger, which is enough for two, is served with ikan bilis, peanuts and a spicy and sweet sambal. Given its popularity, there are plans to make it a regular menu item.

Where: 01-14, Block 8 Dempsey Road

Open: 11am to 10.30pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 11am to midnight (Fridays), 9am to midnight (Saturdays), 6am to 10.30pm (Sundays)

Info: Call 6472-4977 or go to www.littlehouseofdreams.com

4. MAKANSUTRA GLUTTONS BAY

What: Its Nasi Lemak Burger ($7.50, photo 4) had first appeared at a pop-up event at the open-air foodcourt two years ago. The idea had come from Makansutra founder, K.F. Seetoh, who wanted a "hipster version" of the local dish. The burger is constructed with wok-fried rice that have been mashed with otak, and includes fried fish fillet, cucumber slices, ikan bilis, peanuts, fried egg and sambal. Up to 60 burgers are sold daily. Available until Aug 31.

Where: Hong Kong Street Old Chun Kee, 01-15 Esplanade Mall

Open: 3pm to 1am daily

Info: Call 6438-4038 or go to www.makansutra.com

5. THE BEAST SOUTHERN KITCHEN + BOURBON BAR

What: Nasi lemak gets the Southern treatment at this American restaurant-bar. The star of the Nasi Lemak Burger ($20, photo 5) is the chunky piece of Southern fried chicken thigh that has been brined for 24 hours and coated in a spiced buttermilk batter. The meat is slathered with sambal and topped with fried egg. Rounding up the burger are deep-fried coconut rice "buns". Each burger comes with a side of luncheon meat fries. Available until Aug 31.

Where: 17 Jalan Klapa

Open: 5pm to midnight (Mondays to Wednesdays), 5pm to 1am (Thursdays & Fridays), 11am to midnight (weekends)

Info: Call 6295-0017 or go to thebeast.sg

6. THE CHOP CHOP SELECTIONS

What: Cannot choose between chicken or fish in your nasi lemak burger? Get both of them at this Western food stall.

The Nasi Lemak Sio-Sio Crispy Chicken Burger ($12.50) features a deep-fried chicken cutlet, while the Nasi Lemak Sio-Sio Crispy Fish Burger ($12.50, photo 6) has a dory fish fillet. Both burgers come with lettuce, sliced soft-boiled egg and cucumber that are topped with ikan bilis sambal. Onion rings are served on the side.

Owner Sean Goh added "sio sio" (hot in Hokkien) to the burgers' names because he remembers street hawkers shouting "nasi lemak sio sio" when he was a child in the 1970s. Available until Aug 31.

Where: 02-01 The Bedok Marketplace, Simpang Bedok, 348 Bedok Road

Open: Noon to 10pm (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays

Info: Go to www.facebook.com/pg/thechopchopselections

7. THE QUARTERS

What: The Mod-Sin cafe's Nasi Lemak Burger ($16, photo 7) features a Malay-style fried chicken thigh that has been marinated overnight with seven spices, including turmeric and galangal. The burger also has a sunny-side-up egg, onions, cucumber, ikan bilis and sambal belacan nestled between two pan-fried coconut rice "buns". Available until Aug 31.

Where: 01-09 Icon Village, 16 Enggor Street

Open: 9am to 10pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 9am to 6pm (Sundays)

Info: Call 6834-4174 or go to www.thequarters.sg

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Nasi lemak burger craze'. Print Edition | Subscribe