Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Nasi ayam goreng worth queueing for

Zilan's unique chilli sauce makes the fried rice and fried chicken a winning combination.
Zilan's unique chilli sauce makes the fried rice and fried chicken a winning combination.ST PHOTO: ANJALI RAGURAMAN

If the Singaporean way of doing things is to be believed - the stall with the longest queue is probably the best.

At Hougang Park Food Station, which has a variety of hawker stalls serving everything from fish soup to carrot cake, the longest queue on a weekday afternoon is at Zilan.

The Chinese-Malay stall, which is halal, is manned by two aunties who take the orders and what looks like an army of cooks for a small hawker stall.

While there are plenty of zi char dishes on the board, such as crispy egg noodles and sambal kangkong, everyone queuing in front of me orders the nasi ayam goreng ($6) - a delectable combination of fried rice and fried chicken, with chilli sauce on the side.

I notice a sign stating there is an additional charge of 50 cents for specific parts of the chicken for takeaway and another dollar a bowl for extra chilli sauce - and I soon find out why.

Unlike your typical gingery and garlicky Hainanese chicken rice sauce, this chilli is a bit sour and more vinegar forward. The chilli hit is mild, but it is all in balance.

  • ZILAN NASI AYAM

  • 01-1348 Hougang Park Food Station, Block 684 Hougang Avenue 8; open: 10.30am to 9pm Saturdays to Thursdays, closed on Fridays

    Rating: 3.5/5

The chopped-up fried chicken is golden on the outside and not particularly crispy or moist. But paired with the mound of pretty standard fried rice and the unique chilli sauce, it is a winning combination.

The other popular option seems to be the nasi ayam quarter with rice ($6.50), in which a generous portion of the same fried chicken is chopped up and doused in a sweet and savoury, syrupy black sauce reminiscent of kicap manis.

Again, the sauce does the heavy lifting for the dish because the plain white rice it comes with tastes a bit grainy and undercooked, like it was left out too long.

The chicken doused in sauce would probably work better with the fried rice.

Either way, the old-school surroundings and warmth of the stall owners make you feel like you are having a home-cooked meal. It is comfort food.

The long queue is worth it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 14, 2018, with the headline 'Nasi ayam goreng worth queueing for'. Print Edition | Subscribe