Saturday, 25 July 2015

Pride In A Peranakan Kitchen

Mum's Kitchen

Growing up in a Peranakan family offered my brother and I the privilege of witnessing the older generation  putting in a lot of effort to uphold our  traditional Peranakan values through certain traits and formalities they have nurtured over the years.  While Jerome and I appreciated our Peranakan heritage, and often recounted memories of our childhood within a Peranakan household, the truth was that we were slowly but surely losing our hold on our culture.  What seemed to help my brother and I cling on to the last vestiges of what was truly Peranakan in our family were old, fading photographs that were yellow at the edges, my aunt's stories about my grand parents when they were residing in Geylang, my Mum and her awesome Peranakan culinary skills.

Here are some examples of Mum's timeless treasures:

Nonya Mee Siam

Nonya Popiah

Chap Chye

Nonya Mee

Mum's Peranakan cooking became so famous that she even had a couple of her recipes appear in the local newspapers!

Mum whipped up even more wonderful dishes during special occasions like the Lunar New Year.  Particular favourites of mine like Ayam Buah Keluak,  Iteh Sio, Hee Peow Tng or Fish Maw soup and Dad's favourite Salted Vegetable Duck soup were reserved for such special occasions.  Jerome and I swore to curate all Mum's recipes one day, and compile them into a little book which could hopefully be passed down to the next generation and the generation after.  

Jerome and my verdict on Mum's cooking?'s Mum's food cooked with love. Of course it is Belly brilliant! Most authentic, Mum!

Violet Oon's Kitchen

When Mum was busy at the mahjong table, doing her nails, "setting" her hair or at some ladies' luncheon, at a time when Jerome and I had a craving for Peranakan food, there were other alternatives which I must qualify here, really could not come close to Mum's home-cooked, food-coma-inducing cooking.  However, the closest Jerome thought could warrant a visit from the most finicky Peranakan food lover was Violet Oon's.

Violet Oon needs little introduction in Singapore. Widely regarded as Singapore's food ambassador and a culinary connoisseur herself, Violet has been quite a kitchen celebrity for decades.  Her passion for the epicurean arts was translated on the menu offerings at her very own cosy bistro named after her.

Jerome kicked off his meal there with an appetiser of Kueh Pie Tee. This was a filling of julienned bamboo shoots and turnips poached in a prawn bisque,  stuffed into a pastry basket and topped with prawns, and a slight drizzle of homemade chilli sauce.

Kueh Pie Tee

He then went on to the mains and would not hesitate to order the Ayam Buah Keluak.  Yes Mum, we apologise for the disloyalty but we need not have to wait for a special occasion! Violet's Ayam Buah Keluak was one of her signature dishes.  An ubiquitous Nonya favourite, this classic dish comprised of a tangy chicken stew cooked with a black nut that was purportedly found only in Indonesia. The dish was infused with the rich flavours of an array of exotic Asian herbs and spices such as galangal and turmeric.  This had to be one of the few restaurants left where the contents of the nut were left as it was and any Peranakan food aficionado would appreciate this because many other restaurants claiming to serve authentic Peranakan food, would extract the contents of the nut, mixed it together with minced chicken or pork then re-fill it back into the nut. That, to Jerome and I, was near sacrilegious. 

Ayam Buah Keluak

Another dish worth trying at Violet Oon's was the Beef Rendang.  It was not a particular favourite of mine simply because I could not see it as a uniquely Peranakan dish.  At Violet Oon's the dish was made from tender pieces of beef shin braised in a moreish spice combination which had gotten added kick from the bay and kafir lime leaves and a velvety coconut cream sauce.

Beef Rendang

If you liked seafood, be sure to try the Fish Tempra.  This was a fried sea bass fillet with a drizzle of sweet and spicy sauce of onions, chillies, sweet soy sauce and a dash of calamondin.

Fish Tempra

These rich flavours of Violet Oon's dishes were accompanied by yellow rice or Nasi Kuning. Violet's version was made from glutinous jasmine rice infused with turmeric and steamed with coconut milk, which made the meal even richer and worthy of another couple of extra boxing training sessions booked in.

Nasi Kuning

It was about time Violet Oon opened her own establishment and offered good Peranakan fare. Jerome was not disappointed and hoped that the quality of her food would remain consistently good in the years to come.  Of course, it could not compare with home-cooked goodness at Mum's. However, I would know who to visit for a good meal should Mum need a break from the kitchen to spend more time at the mahjong table.

Jerome's verdict on Violet Oon?  Belly good and near-authentic enough.

About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking.  

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.

No comments:

Post a Comment