Any true-blue Peranakan will tell you this is a traditional dish that is intensely laborious to make, which makes it a “special-occasion-only” dish in most Baba homes. And while it may not be much to look at, flavour-wise, it’s mind-blowing! The balanced combination of finely-chopped fresh Asian herbs, rice and sometimes seafood, are what makes Nasi Ulam such a wonderful, cool salad for our hot weather.
Even cooler is we now can get this home-cooked delicacy from a little stall in the East, run by the irrepressible Daisy Tan. Once the regional director of a shipping firm, this self-confessed 200% Bibik is now wholly dedicated to preserving her Peranakan culture through her culinary delights, like delicious chendol, kueh-kueh and her signature dish, Nasi Ulam.
In this fresh Nyonya rice salad, Daisy painstakingly chops four-angled beans, long beans, duan kesom (laksa leaves), torch ginger flower (rojak flower), kaffir lime leaves, daun kunyit (turmeric leaves), daun kadot, lemon grass and cucumber and another five or six more super secret ingredients.
She then mixes fish stock and fish flakes with rice and adds the fresh herbs to create a dish that is an abosolute labour-of-love. Finish off the Nasi Ulam with a dollop of Daisy’s pungent, fiery, homemade sambal for a tsunami of flavour! But keep in mind, she only makes limited portions daily so you have to get there early to indulge.
But wait! There’s more! Turns out, the quality of her food comes from her exacting partner – none other than family friend Baba Kenny Chan, possibly the first chef knighted for Datuk-hood because of his contributions and dedication to the cuisine in Malaysia. He has written many books and now runs his own Peranakan restaurant, The Big Nyonya, in Malacca.
They specifically chose their spot in Siglap for the many Nyonyas in the area, but the dearth of Peranakan stalls once you pass the Katong stretch of Upper East Coast Road. It’s a decision that has paid off, since Daisy shifts over a hundred portions of the her nasi ulam , chendol (rich, delicious and redolent with gula brought in by Datuk Kenny from Malacca) and her few handmade Nonya kuehs. Try the gula melaka tapioca cake, which is soft yet filled with chunky bits of the tuber, or the tender onde onde bombs that squelch with oozy gula melaka with each bite.
Chendol Melaka (Don’t forget the Nasi Ulam!)
Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop
15 Upper East Coast Road
10am-5pm (Tuesdays to Fridays)
9am-5pm (Saturdays and Sundays)
LISTEN TO THIS WEEK’S SEDAPNESS!