With the upcoming remake of “The Little Nyonya”, perhaps there will be a rekindled love for Peranakan food especially for the younger generation.
Speaking of which, when I was at True Blue Cuisine, the pianist was playing that drama’s theme song in the corner.
With other oldies on the piano in the background, it made the entire experience a lot more special, and I guess you can say ‘old-school’?
Accompanied with the historical artefacts and décor, the meal felt like I was dining in a museum.
Operating since November 2003, True Blue Cuisine pays a homage to traditional Peranakan cuisine, combining food with retail, history and culture in a unique setting.
In 2008, it moved to its current location just beside the Peranakan Museum.
The restaurant has also earned the Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction consecutively for a number of years.
Just FYI: Its holding company, Saint Francis Enterprise, also owns True Blue Shoppe, True Blue Pantry and Peranakan Siblings. It is essentially a one-stop shop for anything Peranakan.
You can buy Peranakan pastries such as pineapple tarts and Nyonya kueh kueh as well as Nyonya spices like curry powder and coriander powder.
Behind the company is owner-chef Benjamin Seck, better known as Ben, a florist-turned-entrepreneur who has a passion for this Peranakan heritage. An avid collector of all things Peranakan, he is esteemed as an expert in fashion and jewellery.
The interior is decorated with traditional Nyonya furniture, with traditional features such as the chim chae area or airwell which is a very important feature of a Peranakan home. (The air-well is traditionally used for collecting rain water and sunning preserved foods like belachan achar.)
The restaurant also has a collection of pictures and antiques which visitors can peruse.
Apart from the main hall which can seat up to 60 people, the restaurant also has 3 private dining rooms.
On the ground level, the Manek Room holds a 16-seater tok panjang or long table, and showcases the owner’s best collection of beadwork and a pair of Peranakan wedding lanterns.
Therefore, you can spend your free time during your meal to talk a walk around, and maybe a friendly staff will explain the significance and stories behind some of the photos and decorations.
Just a note that the server is likely to present with you with some savouries to start off your meal, such as Keropok Udang or Prawn Crackers ($4.00), or Achar ($4.00), or Ikan Bijik Gajus ($4.00) which are fried anchovies with cashew nuts.
Do not assume they are free or a dollar or two. Will be good to check with the updated prices.
I would recommend accompanying the food with some refreshing Longan & Red Date Tea ($3 per pax).
Dishes are often good enough for 2 or 3 to share, and you won’t find any pork or lard-based dishes.
So some diners may find that using chicken instead of pork loses some of that authenticity, especially if they grew up eating pork-based Peranakan dishes such as the Babi Pongteh or Babi Buah Keluak (“Babi” means “pork”, while “ayam” refers to “chicken”.)
Their tasty and crispy Ngor Hiang ($12) also uses minced chicken instead of pork.
The standouts include their Beef Rendang ($16) which was rich and spicy with fork-tender texture, and Udang Kuah Nanas ($20), prawns cooked in a spicy-sweet-sour pineapple sauce.
I was recommended an off-menu item of Oyster Omelette ($25) which turned out to be quite a satisfying order of Orh Luak.
There was a home-style savour to it, compared to the hawker centre versions which could be on the greasier side. While you may not find those crisp eggy edges, the portion had a good balance of egg and starch, accompanied with fresh and juicy oysters.
The other side dishes ordered such as Otak Otak ($10) – spicy fish paste wrapped in banana leaf; Chap Chye ($16) – cabbage stewed with glass vermicelli and mushrooms; and Bakwan Kepiting ($10) – crab and chicken meat balls in soup, with flavourful and tasted quite authentic.
However, I did feel that the servers could get persuasive in making you order more, ”Is this enough?” Why not get this as well?”, when we cleared indicated a number of times that what was ordered was much more than enough.
Some people may question about the high price-tag along with small portion. I guess this is because Peranakan food is generally labour-intensive to prepare, especially the rempah (base spice paste) which requires lots of time and effort.
True Blue Cuisine
47/49 Armenian St. Fort Canning Park, Singapore
Tel: +65 6440 0449
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30pm – 10pm (Mon – Fri), 11:30am – 10pm (Sat – Sun)