Sunday, 26 March 2017

Will The True Peranakan Please Stand Up

The Unwavering Search For Authentic Peranakan Food Beyond Home

This blogpost was written by my brother Jerome to celebrate our love for Peranakan cuisine.  So do excuse the poetic ramblings of his experience at The Peranakan, located at Clamore Connect along Orchard Road.  He had obviously been whacked in the head with food coma and was in a state of delirium as he wrote this post while shoving wee cups of Kuih Pie Tee into his mouth.  Here’s his story:

Born and bred Peranakan, food has always been a focal point in my family and a gastronomic spread is a sine qua non for all occasions. We celebrate joyous occasions from the Chinese New Year to birthdays, to engagements and weddings through food. Any  Peranakan would confess that home-cooked Peranakan food is unparalleled.  Mom’s THE number 1 culinary genius of Peranakan fare.  My hunt for good Peranakan cuisine across Singapore over the years have resulted only in disappointment.

I was pleasantly surprised when my mother, a finicky eater and fastidious self-professed custodian of this culinary art form told us that there was a relatively new Peranakan restaurant that was worth a visit.  Brimming with excitement and ignoring the very real possibility of getting into a state of postprandial somnolence, I visited this eatery recently over three separate sessions (almost back-to-back) in an enthusiastic attempt to savour the extensive menu offerings.

The quality of the fare here truly matches up to what I have grown accustomed to from my days of youth and left me yearning for more. A consistently impeccable standard of service demonstrated by the serving staff made every visit such an awesome experience and actually made us feel like we were dining in the company of good friends.


Kuih Pie Tee

The Kuih Pie Tee was a definite crowd-pleaser and served as a great start to the culinary adventure. Traditionally served deconstructed, the mild sweetness from the julienned turnip coupled with an appetite-whetting house-made zesty chili paste made for an exhilarating blend of flavours in the crisp shell.

Sambal Pisanag Jantung

The Sambal Pisang Jantung is a rarely seen Peranakan "salad" that is regrettably disappearing from so many menus these days and is almost at risk of becoming recherché. A true heritage dish, this welded the banana blossom with shrimps to form a truly spectacular culinary creation.

Ayam Buah Keluak

Just as the Japanese have their fugu and the Icelanders have their hákarl, Peranakans do have a potentially deadly ingredient in their culinary repertoire too. The Buah Keluak, a fruit from the Kepayang tree is poisonous if not prepared correctly. The Ayam Buah Keluak, a much-loved delicacy amongst Straits-born Chinese was a pleasant combination of tender chicken with this ambrosial "Peranakan black truffle". It was meticulously prepared to exacting standards here and the flesh of the Buah Keluak infused the gravy with its rich and smoky flavours to make this an absolute stunner that cannot be missed. If you could have only one dish (which I sincerely hope not), this had to be it. Noteworthy too was that unlike other eateries that mixed the flesh of the Buah Keluak with minced meat in an effort to cut down on the tedious preparation, the ones here were
filled with only the delicate kernel within the shell.

Ayam Sioh

I thoroughly enjoyed the Ayam Sioh too. This flavourful staple had a delectable sweetness from the combination of palm sugar and red sugar. The ketumbar (coriander powder) added so much depth of flavour without over-powering the dish. The more commonly encountered version used duck meat and was known as "Itek Sioh". The Ayam Sioh served  here was a refreshing change indeed for those who might not like the gaminess of duck.

Ayam Goreng Ketumbar and Curry Ayam Istimewa

Fans of poultry would also love the Ayam Goreng Ketumbar and Curry Ayam Istimewa. The former was a dish of fried chicken flavoured with turmeric and coriander whilst the latter was a spice-filled curry elevated to another level with the aromatic tang of lime leaves.

Sotong Masak Asam

Seafood aficionados would be thrilled to bits with the Sotong Masak Asam. This was squid cooked in tamarind with palm sugar and starfruit. A mix of sweet and citrusy notes to tease the palate, this definitely had a lot going on in a single dish without being overwhelming. Another squid item to look out for would be the Sambal Sotong which had just the right mix of spice to complement the springy freshness of the seafood.

Sambal Belachan and Cincalok

When revelling in Peranakan fare, it would be near sacrilegious to pass on the sambal belachan and Cincalok. These are necessities associated with this form of dining and the fine folks here did a brilliant job with combining the latter in an egg dish known as Telur Goreng Cincalok. The robust mixture of fermented krill with fresh lime juice, chili and shallots paired marvellously well with the savoury and fluffy omelette.

Chendol Melaka and Pandan Gula Melaka

What is a great meal without the equally decadent desserts? Both the Chendol Melaka with its velvety palm sugar syrup and Pandan Gula Melaka cake would undoubtedly serve as a fitting cap to a dining experience here. The dessert was a rather unique sweet treat of pillowy soft cushiony chiffon cake crowned with a drizzle of that luscious palm sugar syrup (Yes, we do have a sweet tooth!) and desiccated coconut.



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.


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