Babas and Nyonyas, stop me if you know this one: What do you get when you cross a herb salad with rice? Any true-blue Peranakan will tell you the answer is nasi ulam. The combination of aromatic Asian herbs, rice and, sometimes, seafood, is what makes nasi ulam such a wonderful, cool dish for our Southeast Asian climate.
Found all over southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and here in Singapore, recipes for nasi ulam differ from location to location, family to family, but this Peranakan version was recommended to me by KF Seetoh, the founder of renowned food guide Makansutra.
Chendol Melaka at Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop along Upper East Coast Road is run by the irrepressible Daisy Tan and her husband Colin Yam. Once the regional director of a shipping firm, this self-confessed “200 per cent” 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.
TASTE:Chendol Melaka is located at Soy Eu Tua Coffeeshop, 15 Upper East Coast Road, Singapore 455207.
It’s open 10am-5pm (Tuesdays to Fridays) and 9am-5pm (Saturdays and Sundays). Closed Mondays.
To “reserve” your nasi ulam, call Colin Yam at 9777 6471.
Greetings, Makan Kakis! Please meet our new Foodie Friend, Audrey Lee, one of the co-owners of Little House of Dreams, a charming bakery & bistro located on Dempsey Hill that specialises in bespoke cakes and dessert tables. But not many know that they also serve yummy savouries in the bistro and all this month of August, they’re serving up a special Peranakan menu.
These Modern Peranakan Classics were created in collaboration with The Modern Bibik and what you get are hearty, delicious dishes inspired by Nyonya cooking and given a little twist, so that young and old can enjoy them. In fact, most of the dishes are suitable for children and those who can’t tolerate spiciness.
Click here for this week’s pungent Peranakan episode!
We feature another hot favourite amongst chefs here in Singapore, especially if you want good old Peranakan comfort food served with both a nod to tradition and to imagination, innovation and modern technique. Our Makan Kaki Chef Anthony Yeoh says you’ll get the best of both worlds at Candlenut, run by talented young chef Malcolm Lee. Previously located at Dorsett Residences near Outram MRT, this Michelin-starred restaurant has since moved into the swanky Dempsey area and yes, was arguably best known as the place where you could get served the rather unusual Buah Keluak ice cream! But Chef Malcolm is no one-trick pony and he uses Buah Keluak expertly in a couple of other dishes Chef Tony wants to highlight. For the traditionalists, you can’t go wrong with Candlenut’s Ayam (chicken) Buah Keluak, but if you’re keen to try something a little more unique, you’ve got to order the Wagyu Beef Shortrib Buah Keluak.
You have that distinctively pungent, bitter, very earthy taste of the black gold encased in the nut, which is the perfect accompaniment to the Wagyu shortrib. This is one cut of beef that is fatty, sinfully marbled and stands up well to the slow-cooking process, yet emerges absolutely tender and melt-in-the-mouth. Employing modern cooking technique, Chef Malcolm sous vides the beef and buah keluak together for a thorough infusion of meat and marinade. All you need is mountain of white rice to go with this supremely flavourful dish.
Another dish you’ve definitely got to try is the yellow coconut curry of crab, which is Chef Malcolm’s take on Prawn Nanas. Here, Blue Swimmer, or Flower Crab is used for its sweetness of flesh, along with an aromatic rempah. Mixed with the creaminess of the coconut and you’ve got an outstanding curry that again, only needs white rice as the perfect accompaniment.
Although Chef Malcolm serves food with a modern slant, make no mistake, fresh rempahs made from scratch, spice by spice, herb by herb, ingredient by ingredient. What many customers don’t realise how much effort goes into the preparation of Peranakan food. This is back-breaking, time-consuming work, well worth the price tag (though some have been known to say the food is expensive), because you have this labour of love lavished over fresh quality ingredients. We’re pretty sure even the staunchest of Peranakan food purists will enjoy the surprises Chef Malcolm brings to his respectful take on classics.
We talk about Peranakan cuisine and the importance of food heritage with Awfully Chocolate’s Lyn Lee here!
Click this for this week’s Mothers’ Day meal recommendation – a treat for the whole family!
Mothers’ Day is just round the corner and what better way to celebrate than with a marvelous matriarchal meal at the oldest Peranakan restaurant in Singapore? Our Makan Kaki, Awfully Chocolate’s Lyn Lee, shares with us her family’s favourite place and also her ideas for sweetening mum’s special day with a chocolatey gift set (scroll all the way down for Awfully Chocolate‘s Mothers’ Day selection)!
Lyn is a busy working mother of 3, but always finds time to find us great places to try, because she believes food is a huge part of being a mum. But on this special occasion, apart from feeding the family, it’s time to feed yourselves with something really spectacular. In Lyn’s humble opinion, nothing comes quite close to the complexity and depth of flavours wrung from traditional Peranakan cuisine, with its complicated preparation and balancing of both Malay and Chinese ingredients. Lyn married into a Peranakan family (in fact, her husband’s grandmother used to sell Satay Celup many moons ago!) who swear by this particular restaurant for authentic Nyonya food. It’s true that everyone claims their own homecooked Peranakan food is best, but for those occasions where it’s simply too much work, this Katong institution is a sedaptastic MUST!
Guan Hoe Soon has been around since 1953 and claims to be the oldest Peranakan Restaurant in Singapore. With decades of food heritage under their belt, you can be assured of quality dishes here. Lyn can’t get enough of their addictive appetiser (she’s not sure of the name, but she is 100% sure of the taste!), which beats a packet of peanuts anyday:
This is a wonderful combination of chicken gizzard, liver and heart chopped up and tossed in a fiery sambal and balanced with crunchy-cool cucumber. Don’t be shy to ask for more! Her family always does! When it comes to Peranakan food, there are just some classics you absolutely need to have, one of which is of course Ayam Buah Keluak:
To the uninitiated, the black nut is an acquired taste – earthy, almost like a pungent tabacco, but once you learn to love its heady bitter-sweet richness, you’ll be digging in with bare hands to “gorek” the goodness out of the shells!
At Guan Hoe Soon, they do it a lovely way by mixing minced meat with the black gold filling before stuffing it back into the shells for a texture with more bite. This is a must-try with a mountain of rice!
Nyonya Chap Chye, the classic saucy mixed vegetable dish is another must, for freshness, crunch and the wonderful sauce, which mixes so well together with everything else on your plate! Be sure to contrast your meal with something crispy and deep-fried. Lyn recommends their delicious Noh Hiang. And next, even though it’s not necessarily Peranakan, you’ve got to order the Crab Foo Yong!
This beautiful golden eggy omelette with chunks of sweet crab is a hit with the kids and adults alike. Plus, it’s such an old-fashioned dish, it’s rare to find a place that does it well. Luckily, Guan Hoe Soon does!
While they also do a wonderful Itek Tim (salted vegetable duck soup), Lyn’s family favourite is the Bakwan Kepiting, a clear broth studded with bamboo shoot meatballs, that her children absolutely love. Lyn has managed to convince them that our local version of meatballs are far more impressive than the western variety!
So there you have it, the favourites of Lyn & her family, after which they always wash everything down with a light, sweet dessert of old-fashioned Gula Melaka Sago or Chendol or Bubur Chacha.
For a hearty, traditional Mothers’ Day meal, you really can’t go wrong with Guan Hoe Soon – Lyn urges everyone to go and try it, support it & be very proud of our Singapore food heritage, of which Peranakan food holds an important place. Its complexity, labour-intensive preparation and unique flavours are worth celebrating and preserving!
MAKE MUM’S DAY EVEN SWEETER WITH THIS GIFT SET FROM AWFULLY CHOCOLATE!
If you happen to be in the Katong Area for the Nyonya makan at Guan Hoe Soon, you might also want to pop across to the Awfully Chocolate outlet there to grab Mum a lovely sweet gift!
To purchase this for mum, visit any of their stores, including their brand new outlet at Marina Bay Link Mall!
This week, Wild Rocket’s Willin Low is back with his favourite place to eat whenever a craving for Peranakan food hits – PERAMAKAN at the Keppel Club!
Now, as someone who cooks and eats so much for a living, Willin often has to sacrifice carbs to maintain his weight. Except when it comes to Peranakan food – these occasions call for rice by the plateful, especially if the rice happens to be that Nyonya delicacy, Nasi Ulam! This delicate, herb rice salad is labour-intensive because of the sheer number of ingredients required for prep and that’s why if you want to enjoy it at Peramakan, you have to order it off-menu in advance. That little effort on your part will reap huge rewards in the flavour department, especially when eaten with lots of sambal belacan!
The usual suspects are all delicious at Peramakan, like their Babi Pongtay & Ayam Buah Keluak, but Willin’s newly discovered favourite dish is the Satay Babi Goreng! This is not satay on skewers, but big chunks of pork simmered in a spicy coconut gravy that is mouth-wateringly rich and delicious. Perfect with the Nasi Ulam!
TASTE: PeraMakan Level 3, Keppel Club
10 Bukit Chermin Road
Open Daily: Lunch 11:30am – 3:00 pm
Dinner 6 -10pm
Reservations: 63772829 / 62701618
Our ever-popular Makan Kaki Willin Low is back this week with a killer recommendation! We’re all familiar with Buah Keluak, that mysterious Asian nut that’s poisonous until properly cleaned and cooked, the nut with the alluring pungent, earthy aroma, the nut used in curried dishes like Ayam Buah Keluak, but have you ever tried it FRIED WITH RICE?
Immigrants Gastrobar in Joo Chiat serves up a powerful Buah Keluak fried rice that you simply have to try! It’s intensely fragrant, rich and irresistible. Willin likens buah keluak to the Asian version of truffles and it’s absolutely true. No wonder they call Buah Keluak Black Gold.
Immigrants Gastrobar’s Chef Damian D’Silva, a man passionate about preserving our Singaporean food heritage, cleverly lifts our traditional cuisines to exciting new heights – from Eurasian favourites like Singgang & Seh Bak to Chinese treats like Ngoh Hiang and creative combinations like cold tofu & century egg relish or Spicy Squid bombs – the food at Immigrants is mind-blowing!
What makes this Gastrobar in the east so worth visiting is how they manage to balance a delightfully relaxed vibe with the wonderful food, the gorgeous decor (witty little nods to Singapore’s heritage in the retro tiles and quaint door grills) and their interesting selection of craft beers, wines from boutique vineyards and rare whiskies.
Willin thinks all the food is delicious, but what keeps him going back again and again is the Buah Keluak Fried Rice – it’s that good, especially with dollops of Chef Damian’s superb sambal belacan!
The Singapore Gastrobar
467 Joo Chiat Road Open Daily: 5pm – 12midnight (Last Orders at 9:45pm) Reservations: +65 85117322
Complimentary Valet parking available!
***UPDATE*** Sadly, Immigrants shut its doors on 31 August 2015, but Chef Damian is still dreaming, planning and cooking up a storm – we look forward to his next culinery venture! For details on Immigrant’s closure and Chef’s future plans, click here.
We love point-point perng, or economical rice – it’s quick, it’s cheap, it’s tasty, it does its job, especially during hectic lunch hour. Add a heady Peranakan spin to this hawker centre staple and you’ll understand why your Makan Kakis love this place even more!
Operating quietly out of a humble stall in a food centre, Edwin Tan has won over a steady, loyal stream of customers who keep going back for more of his flavourful Peranakan cuisine, all served up conveniently “point-point” style. Using his grandmother’s and mother’s recipes, this ex-hotel pastry chef struck out on his own a few years back and decided to share his home-cooking and makan culture in a place that isn’t exactly known for its Peranakan food – Chinatown.
Edwin usually sells out by 1pm, so go early to avoid disappointment and to make sure you get the food when it’s at its piping-hot best – from curry ayam, to deep fried fish stuffed with sambal, to chap chye, to the amazing sate ayam (with a fresh lemongrass twist), to the sotong masak hitam (spicy and braised in its own umami black ink), to ngoh hiang, to the irresistible mutton rendang, you’re in for a bagus Baba buffet!
Blk 335 Smith Street #02-225
Chinatown Complex Food Centre
Open daily 9am – 2pm
Closed on Wednesday
Call 97229698 (Edwin Tan)
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