Whenever I have lunch here, I instantaneously miss my old friend back in Singapore. We used to hang out all the time and spent a lot of time researching new places for food. She was also the one who introduced me to Spice Express.
Spice Express is a small, unassuming cafe selling largely Malaysian/Singaporean food. It focuses on 'mom's cooking', with cuisine that could only be cooked by mothers and grandmothers, or the cooks at home with years of love put into their dishes. Everything in Spice Express tastes home cooked, achieved over hours of preparation and mulling around giant pots in a kitchen.
After a bit (a lot) of deliberation at the counter, me and my lunch buddy ordered our food, with two main dishes:
Nasi lemak, or Fat Rice, is one the best and easiest things to eat. It has everything on a plate, the basic components being crispy small fish, simple egg omelettes, roasted peanuts, spicy sambal chilli on fragrant coconut rice. I also ordered a tin of chicken curry, freshly cooked, to go with my meal. All the components have different flavours and go exceedingly well with the rice and the sambal chilli. The chicken curry is not too spicy, creamy and lovely with potatoes and chicken meat falling off the bone.
I absolutely love this. It fills me up, and reminds me of home. I used to eat this out of a wrapped banana leaf parcel, sold by little ladies around the train stations back in Singapore, and good Nasi Lemak is always something to be remembered.
My lunch buddy had the Mee Siam, or 'Siamese noodles', at my very fervent recommendation. I used to have this if I wasn't craving rice, a pile of vermicelli noodles soaked in a gravy like soup, creamy and tangy. The noodles soak up all the lovely broth, providing a bite of spiciness, with the sweetness of coconut milk and sour tang of tamarind. With a side of eggs, beancurd and prawns, littered with chives, it's a bowl of goodness.
I should also note, that the food I am having for lunch here, is perfectly acceptable as breakfast in most of Southeast Asia. It is very much the best way to start a day.
We also had a side of Curry Puffs, one in potato curry and one in sardine. Buttery, crisp, flakey pastry with fragrant, spicy potato curry. Mine was a sardine version, which is basically sardine meat stirred with soft onions and chilli. Finger food at it's best, some versions of curry puff have other fillings - chicken curries, sweet bean or yam, or baked instead of fried.
Personally I prefer the fried ones, providing a crispier, thinner pastry than its baked counterpart. It is like a handheld pie, but so, so, so much more delicious and lovely.
I also got a bit of dessert, also handmade in the cafe by a lovely Malay lady. Technically this is a Nyonya dessert, of Peranakan origin, called the Kueh Dadar.
Resembling a spring roll, it's basically a green crepe (the colour derives from pandan leaves) with a coconut filling cooked in Gula Melaka, better known as brown palm sugar. Intensely nutty in flavour, sweet, chewy and soft, it's one of me and my dad's favourite desserts to have. It's an iconic dessert in Malaysian/Peranakan cuisine, but note that if the crepe is bright green, it's probably been coloured with artificial food colouring and not actual pandan extract.
As a side note, we had some lovely Teh Tarik (pulled tea) to drink during our meal. A favourite in most of Singapore, Malaysia and India, it's steeped black tea mixed with sweet carnation milk before being repeatedly 'pulled', poured from one tin to another to produce a creamy, foamy tea that's no longer too hot to drink.
This is a childhood favourite for me and my sister, as we weren't allowed to have coffee and this was the best thing to have, both iced or warm with some good Malay or Indian food. Also the tea helps if you are having spicy food!
I think it goes without saying that Spice Express is one of my favourite spots to go to for some quality hometown cuisine. The food is pretty well priced, we spent less than 40 bucks on this whole meal and to me, that's relatively cheap compared to other Asian restaurants. Living in a foreign country often makes you miss food from home, and Spice Express brings a sense of comfort to me through both their delicious food and lovely service. The staff and especially the cook - a lovely lady, always smiling, cheerful and proud of their food.
If you ever have a chance to visit them for lunch, you won't be disappointed. Be warned though, that it gets busy in this little cafe over the weekends as they have specials cooked.
31 Hulme Court,