Of Broken Embraces and late night Nasi Lemak


For our effort, we were invited by the Spanish Ambassador to Singapore, His Excellency Antonio Sánchez Jara to attend the EU Film Festival where the Spanish film, Broken Embraces, was showcased. We knew we were in for a treat when the film opened with a softcore sex scene an artistic expression of transient need and pedestrian convenience in the form of high heels, a newspaper and a cunningly positioned couch.

After the movie, being die-hard foodies, we went for something less artistic and more hardcore.


At the foyer, we stood around for about 20 minutes mulling supper options of Shanghainese or Malay. In the end, Nasi Lemak won the day because of closing hours and off we went to the grandiosely-named Sheikh Najib Nasi Lemak on Rowell Road.

Being just after midnight, we arrived just as everything was freshly prepared and there were seats available. The traditional drinks of black tea and Milo were so sweet that I had to order another black tea sans sucre and titrate my way to a more palatable black tea.


The nasi lemak failed on many levels. The rock-hard batter on the deep-fried chicken wings couldn’t save the slight under-doneness and the fried fish weren’t cooked through, leaving an unpleasant coldness in the mouth. Results of a rush job, perhaps.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I loved the rice which came hot, fluffy and fragrant with coconut with a hint of pandan. The fried egg was fluffy and sweet, and the sambal chili sauce was exceptional; sweet, thick, spicy with a fair amount of heat. It was so good that I was willing to forget about the poor quality Ikan Bilis.


Similarly, Broken Embraces worked on many levels for us. The cinematography was excellent, turning a noir on its head by using strong colors with a slight bluish tinge and lighting. And the long drive scene in Lanzarote was breath-taking but it was a shame as that part of the movie was out-of-focus. While the story was predictable, the telling was masterfully handled.

But like the Nasi Lemak, Broken Embraces had its flaws. Penélope Cruz is stunningly beautiful, almost luminous, there was no doubt the movie was her vehicle. And yet, her character came off slightly cardboard-ish or one dimensional. Finally, the version of the movie we saw had the ending scenes switched; it ended with Mateo Blanco in the editing room instead of Harry Caine embracing the video of their last kiss, which I felt lessened the impact. Tragic waste.


I studied in a kampong school whose canteen served really good nasi lemak. I was taught by my Malay friends to slather the rice with sambal chili and mix everything up, including the Ikan Bilis. That way, you get a bit of goodness in every bite. I still eat Nasi Lemak this way. My point here is that it is easy to find fault with anything but if you take the long view and mix everything up, you’ll find that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Hence, I thoroughly enjoyed my nights out in the company of friends going for a movie and supper. I mean, what’s not to like?

(Seetoh’s write-up can be found here and Catherine gives her take here.)

Sheikh Najib Nasi Lemak is at 18 Rowell Road, 7am – 4am daily.


Posted on 14th May 2010 in Food and Drink, Fun, Makankaki, Malay


There Is Only 1 Comment So Far


food.recentrunes.com | The Wok & Barrel on Duxton Hill commented on August 16, 2011 at 4:37 pm

[…] Seetoh once said to me as we were waiting for Nasi Lemak that Singapore has become a nation of fearful eaters because people have become leery of fat, sugar […]

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