Singaporeans are longing for nostalgic food, and it is encouraging to see more Peranakan cafes and restaurants opening up, other than the same type of hipster cafes and bistros.
Tok Panjang Peranakan Café has just opened at 392 East Coast Road, though the family behind it is not unfamiliar to Peranakan food. This is opened by the House Of Peranakan Group of restaurants, with this fourth branch taking a more casual, café approach.
The name “Tok Panjang” derives from a Baba Malay term meaning long table of food, a frequent sight in Peranakan households during special occasions such as Chinese New Year.
What you get are dishes such as Assam Laksa ($8.90), Nonya Mee Siam ($7.90), Nonya Mee ($8), Bibik’s Fried Bee Hoon ($7.90), Nasi Lemak ($10.90), light bites such as Satay ($8 for 10), Kueh Pie Tee ($6.50 for 4), Ngoh Hiang ($5.50) desserts and coffee.
Prices are friendlier than the typical Peranakan restaurant.
I had the Assam Laksa ($8.90), which tasted half-way quite authentic, though not exactly ‘Penang-standard’ yet.
Tok Panjang is one of the few cafes that serve Assam Laksa prepared using Kembong Fish.
A whole lot of ingredients go to into the meticulously prepared stock, which includes with tamarind (assam), shallots, galangal, belachan, lemongrass, red chillies, and garnished with generous chunks of Kembong fish meat, rojak flower, mint leaf, grated pineapple, cucumber, onions, and prawn paste (hae kou).
The flavours are there, if you are reminiscing that taste, though I wished the broth was thicker, and perhaps used more hae kou.
The Nonya Mee Siam ($7.90)’s gravy, made with an aromatic stew rempah was slurp-tasty, though to the spicier side.
While the café is new, the interior gave rather ‘old’ vibes. There was a certain smell lingering in the air, and décor (sakura flowers) from the predecessor – Japanese restaurant Okonomiyaki House still hung around.
The Catch 22 situation is, while the group wants to appeal to the younger locals, there are certain elements pulling it back. It needs that breath of fresh air.
Still, if I have kids and want to bring them to try quite-authentic, affordable Peranakan food, Tok Panjang is quite a suitable choice.
Tok Panjang Peranakan Cafe
392 East Coast Road Singapore 428992
Tel: +65 9663 3392
Opening Hours: 9am – 9pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon