Way before fusion fare became trendy, there was Peranakan cuisine. It is the food of the Peranakans — a community that traces its roots to the 15th-century Malay Archipelago and is of mixed Chinese and Malay or Indoneisan heritage — and marries Chinese and Malay culinary elements.
Common ingredients used in Peranakan (which is also referred to as Nyonya) cooking include pandan leaves, tamarind, coconut milk and Buah Keluak, an earthy tasting black nut. There is also an emphasis on spices, herbs and sauces, resulting in generally heavier and stronger flavours.
As many of the early Peranakans settled in colonial-era Singapore, this centuries-old culture is still very much alive here. In fact, recent years have seen a resurgence of Nyonya food in the local dining scene, with several new restaurants sprouting up. Here’s our pick of 5 must-try Peranakan restaurants around our little red dot.
Baba Chews Bar and Eatery
Set in the former Joo Chiat Police Station, this newly opened restaurant at Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong serves up Malacca-inspired Peranakan fare. Menu highlights include chilli crab cakes, Ayam Buah Keluak (a combination of spicy chicken and black nuts), sambal stingray and beef short rib rendang. There are also desserts such as Kueh Durian, a combination of durian mousse with shredded coconut and Gula Melaka, and cheesecake with caramelised jackfruit.
After filling up on the eatery’s hearty cuisine, remember to explore its quaint interiors, which are decked out in colonial and Peranakan elements such as metal mesh sliding panels and artwork inspired by traditional beaded slippers.
Baba Chews, 86 East Coast Road, #01-01 Katong Square, Singapore 428788, +65 6723 2025, www.facebook.com/babachewssg
This homegrown restaurant made history this year when it became the first Peranakan establishment to receive a Michelin star. It offers traditional cuisine made with fresh ingredients and homemade rempahs (spice pastes), all without MSG and preservatives. Lunch is served á la carte, with dishes such as Kueh Pie Tee, Ngoh Hiang (meat rolls) and Chap Chye (mixed vegetable stew).
Also available is a dinner “ah-ma-kase” set, an ever-changing prix fixe repertoire of offerings such as spice-marinated Blackmore wagyu beef satay and Pong Tauhu soup, which comes with tofu and meatballs.
Candlenut, Dorsett Residences, 331 New Bridge Road, #01-03, Singapore 088764, +65 8121 4107, www.candlenut.com.sg
True Blue Cuisine
Founded in 2003, this restaurant is very much a veteran in the Peranakan cuisine scene here. It was originally located in Katong, before moving to Armenian Street and now, right next to the Peranakan Museum. It specialises in authentic and fusion Peranakan food, and was awarded a Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide Singapore last month.
Expect traditional staples such as Chap Chye and Ngoh Hiang, as well as contemporary creations such as pomelo salad and curry leaf prawns. The restaurant also offers a variety of homemade kueh and pastries such as Ondeh Ondeh (rice balls filled with Gula Melaka) and pineapple tarts.
True Blue Cuisine, 47/ 49 Armenian Street, Singapore 179937, +65 6440 0449, www.truebluecuisine.com
National Kitchen by Violet Oon
Helmed by cooking doyenne Violet Oon, this opulent restaurant at the National Gallery Singapore features an extensive repertoire of Peranakan and local delights. Noteworthy offerings include Rojak, Gado Gado (a mix of fried bean curd, potatoes and lontong rice with peanut sauce), fish head curry and Sayur Lodeh, a blend of vegetables in coconut gravy.
Round off your meal on a sweet note with decadent desserts such as pineapple upside down cake, Chendol with coconut ice cream and grated tapioca cake topped with Gula Melaka syrup.
National Kitchen by Violet Oon, 1 St. Andrew’s Road, #02–01, National Gallery Singapore (City Hall Wing), Singapore 178957, +65 9834 9935, violetoon.com
This newly opened restaurant at Claymore Connect is one gorgeous venue with its elegant chandeliers, elaborate screen panels and gilded mirrors. Sumptuous interiors aside, it dishes up a tantalising menu of options including Ayam Buah Keluak, Itek Tim (duck soup) and Nasi Ulam — cold rice mixed with herbs and vegetables.
Other must-try offerings include the restaurant’s Asian-inspired martinis, which come in flavours of sake lychee, kaffir lime and lemongrass.
The Peranakan, 442 Orchard Road, Orchard Hotel – Level 2 Claymore Connect, Singapore 238879, +65 6262 4428, www.facebook.com/ThePeranakanSG