Ali Nachia Briyani Dum: Real Dum Briyani

With Damien

I remember some years back, MM Lee once mentioned that Singapore may merge with Malaysia in the future. This created such an uproar among the Malaysians, who simply don’t see any reason why they would want Singapore back with Malaysia. Culturally, Singapore and Malaysia are very close and it used to be that many families have cousins and uncles across the causeway. However and time went by, the two cultures are slowly diverging.

If you think about it, Singapore and Malaysia may not be so culturally different as say East and West Germany. We speak almost the same language and share lots of common hawker foods. It’s only the proportion of the mix of Malay, Chinese and Indians which are different. And when we are overseas, Malaysians and Singaporeans tend to congregate and regard each other as the same gang. So it might not be so difficult to imagine that one day in the distant future, the socio-political-economic climate might force the two countries to consider merger again.

Anyway, the Malaysia-Singapore preamble is to introduce this particular stall which is situated in the Malaysian part of Singapore. Yes, there is a thin strip of Malaysian land which bisects our island from the causeway up north right down the middle to end in the South at Tanjong Pagar. It’s none other than the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. The last bastion of Malaysia in Singapore. Yet even though it is Malaysian land, we still have to pay Singapore prices for the food and the stalls are still subjected to the NEA’s cleanliness ratings. Aside from that, the Railway Station still retains that Malaysian charm of yesteryear guaranteed to bring back some feelings of nostalgia of our colonial past.

Now moving on to the topic of Dum Briyani.

There’s Nasi Briyani and then there’s Dum Briyani. And nowadays, stallowners are increasingly calling their Briyani “Dum” to differentiate it from “lesser” Briyanis. From what I understand, this should not be the case at all. All Briyani should be “Dum” Briyani. The lesser “Briyani” is in fact pilaf, which is essentially Nasi Minyak (Buttered/Oil Rice). Whereas in a real Dum Briyani, the rice and mutton curry is partially cooked first then combined and baked together. (pic above). This way all the aroma of the curry gets infused into the rice. Mmmmmm….

This stall is run by ex-butcher turned ex-soccer coach, Cik Ali who happens to be the father of soccer star Rafi Ali. This Pak Cik is passionate about wanting to make a proper Dum Briyani and as you can see from the picture above, this is the real deal. And furthermore, being an ex-butcher, Cik Ali also knows how to handle his meats so he only picks the best parts of the goat to make his curry.

The Briyani Rice here is light and fluffy and not over powering so you can eat lots of it and not feel too jerlak. But the real gem is the super tender and aromatic mutton which has been slow cooking in the rice. The mutton has been seasoned just right such that it does not have that strong mutton smell that puts most muttonophobics off, and it has just the right amount of fats so that the meat is not dry after cooking for so long. At $5 per plate, it is still worth it as the piece of mutton is very generous and comes with the bone. The only little drawback for me was the dhalchat which could do with a bit more ooomph and it really should be eaten when it is still piping hot during lunch time because by 2pm the rice has lost some of its ooomph. 4.25/5


Yummy Dum Briyani surrounded by nostalgia. Little wonder that it is recommended by foodiephiles like Yuen (Prive and Brown Sugar) and Damien (Mien).

Update: 1 July 2011

With the closure of Tanjong Pagar Railway station, the stall has moved to Blk 5 Tg Pagar Complex Level 2.Thanks to PalmEr for the update.

Ali Nachia Briyani Dam

Blk 5 Tg Pagar Complex Level 2, Singapore
Opening hours:
10:00AM to 3:00PM