They say that good things come to those who wait, and it’s definitely true when it comes to the best chicken satay in Singapore.
We discovered Rahim Muslim Food a few years back, when it was located at Ang Mo Kio Block 721. It was just after our weekly badminton session and we were having dinner at the kopitiam. I’ve always been a fan of Malay food and decided to order a mee rebus.
At the time, I didn’t know that Rahim was famous, but after I finished my noodles, it was clear why they were. I had also tried to order some satay as an appetiser, but was told that they had already sold out. It was around 7pm then.
We were back at Ang Mo Kio Central a few months later and since Rahim was in the neighbourhood, we dropped by for lunch. The Wife ordered a mee soto and I got my usual mee rebus, with an extra bagedel of course.
Their menu stated that their satay would only available from 2pm onwards, or when the charcoal grill is ready. Even though it was only just past 1pm, I tried my luck. But true to their word, the grill wasn’t fired up yet.
The next time we were there, it was around 3pm and I was feeling hopeful. But alas, the charcoal grill wasn’t ready (again). So I had to settle for just the mee rebus. Which, by the way, is always consistently good. But I really wanted to try their satay.
And then they shut down their stall.
But thankfully, they re-opened at Chong Boon Food Centre at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, which was a short and direct bus ride away. We went there at 5pm for an early dinner, but they were sold out.
Not just the satay, but everything on their menu. I guess business was really good that day.
We tried our luck on another day at 2.30pm, and while we were still able to order their mee rebus and mee soto, and no surprise, the charcoal grill wasn’t ready.
This was starting to get serious, and it was time to be strategic.
Ok, so they say that satay starts from 2pm, or whenever their grill is ready. But from past data points, their grill only gets properly fired up sometime after 3pm. But… they may sell out of everything by 5pm; and even if they don’t, the satay probably gets wiped out before 7pm.
Which means that the golden timing appears to be around 4pm. And of course, we need to double-check their Facebook page if they’re closed on any given day or have sold out early. It’s helpful that they’re quite timely and diligent in their updates.
Finally, we were sixth time lucky, and The Wife managed to buy some home as she was on her way back from a meeting, and could get to Rahim at around 4pm. She had to wait quite a while though (almost an hour!) as there were a lot of orders in the queue.
We re-heated it once she reached home and had the best satay we’ve ever eaten. And this was despite it having to travel back in a wrapped paper bag, losing precious meat juices along the way.
Now that we cracked the magic code, we’ve been successful since then, with the seventh time being another takeaway to share it with The Old Folks, who gave it a resounding four thumbs up.
But it was still bothering me that we hadn’t eaten the satay at its peak — just off the charcoal grill, with all its yummy juices intact. Even in takeaway form, it was already the best satay I’ve ever had; how much better would it taste à la minute?
The answer was finally revealed last week, when we reached Rahim at 4pm, ordered 20 sticks of their chicken satay, two ketupat (well, technically nasi impit) and waited patiently for 30 minutes while pakcik patiently grilled our order.
I had very high expectations, because I truly believe that pakcik is a satay shokunin, and his satay must taste fantastic when freshly-made. Just like tempura prawns fried by a master.
And pakcik did not disappoint, because the chicken satay was jinjja oishii! Which is a Korean/Japanese mash-up that means sangat sedap, which is in turn Malay for “you absolutely have to travel to Ang Mo Kio to eat this”.
The chicken was unbelievably juicy and yet firm to the bite. The meat was chunky, well marinated and wonderfully smokey. The juiciness was surprising, given that there wasn’t much fat or skin on each stick, but it was probably due to the large proportion of thigh meat used.
But the most amazing thing had to be the level of doneness of the meat. Satay is usually cooked well-done, especially chicken satay, which results in, more often than not, dry and stringy pieces.
Pakcik is a brave man and cooks his satay slightly above medium, which on first bite, makes you think that the satay is not fully-cooked even though it definitely is. It’s even more amazing when you realise how much thicker his chicken pieces are, requiring precise heat control to not over or under-cook each stick.
The satay sauce is always consistently good — rich, thick and loaded with rempah flavour. After the first few sticks, I felt that it wasn’t spicy enough and was tempted to add in some of their super-pedas black chilli sauce. I was glad I resisted the urge, because the spiciness builds up slowly, but surely.
It was a very good meal, and I’ll definitely return whenever I have a craving for satay.
However, as I’m writing this, Singapore is entering (or rather, re-entering) into P2HAr2 restrictions, or Phase 2 Heightened Alert Round 2, which prohibits dining out at hawker centres.
Making things worse is that Chong Boon Food Centre, where Rahim is located, has been designated an infection cluster and will be shut down for two weeks, which means that they can’t even offer takeaway.
These are really really tough times for hawker stalls and many are struggling to survive. We don’t eat out at hawker stalls as much as we used to, but we try to do our part to support them whenever we can.
But the sad reality is that many of them will not survive, and when they close one-by-one, a small part of Singapore’s food culture disappears with them.
So, if you like satay (or mee rebus or mee soto), you might want to head down to Rahim Muslim Food when they re-open in August, and have the best chicken satay in Singapore.
Just remember to check their Facebook page first and try to get there around 4pm. Anything later and you’ll have to take your chances.