Talking about Peranakan food in Singapore – which is quite a form of culinary art, the popular Blue Ginger has always been considered one of the well-known restaurants in the local dining scene.
It can be an ideal intro to foreign guests to Peranakan cuisine, a unique fusion of Chinese and Malay influences known for its spicy and sour flavours.
It attracted even more attention when it earned the Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction, and continue to retain it.
The restaurant was conceived by a group of friends who wanted to create an inviting and intimate restaurant where customers can partake in a convivial dining experience over quality Peranakan fare – which at the time, was mostly prepared at home and enjoyed among family.
The main outlet is a narrow yet elegant three-storey restaurant in the CBD area, located near MRT Tanjong Pagar station.
It offers cosy and spacious dining rooms for private events and gatherings, decorated with works of local artists. Ideal for a business lunch or dinner with friends in the Tanjong Pagar area.
Its second outlet – 25 years after its flagship opened in Tanjong Pagar, is located at the recently-revamped Great World.
A note that Peranakan food is generally on the pricier side in Singapore, as preparation for most of the dishes is a time-consuming affair.
For starters, highly recommended is Ngoh Hiang ($14), a Blue Ginger signature which is stuffed with minced pork and prawns.
It was moist and juicy, and fried just right, not too crispy.
The Kueh Pie Tee ($8), crisp-fried pie tee cups filled with shredded stewed bamboo shoots, turnips, half a shrimp and sambal, are another recommended.
They are juicy but not soggy, and generously stuffed.
Moving on to the mains, the Beef Rendang ($20) presents tender chunks of shin meat in a thick curry redolent with aromatics such as ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander and cumin.
Another house specialty, Ayam Panggang “Blue Ginger” ($16), is deboned chicken thigh grilled to a smoky sweet finish.
While I was expecting the usual grilled chicken closer to the Indonesian style, it arrived with thick coconut milk paste spiced with ginger and lemongrass and basted on the chicken while grilling.
A creamy tasty sauce with balance of spicy, sour, sweet and salty flavours. But I can imagine not all diners would enjoy this dish.
The Blue Ginger also serves the Peranakan staple Ayam Buah Keluak, a chicken dish with a special thick, fermented black nut paste, and Nyonya Fish Head Curry ($32, available during weekends and PH), served steaming hot in a clay pot. If you like pork, try Babi Pong Tay ($16), a gelatinous pork belly stewed in a preserved bean paste.
If you choose to dine at Great World, new on the menu are starters of Kerabu Kacang Botol ($11.50) and Kerabu Timun ($8.50).
The former showcases winged beans blanched and tossed with dried shrimps, shallots, fragrant toasted grated coconut and a zingy dressing comprising ground fresh chillies and lime juice; while the latter pairs chicken gizzards with cucumbers and tomatoes in an equally refreshing belachan chilli paste.
What I liked about the Great World outlet is the offering of lunchtime dishes – Kerabu Laksa ($15), Nonya Noodles ($15), and Buah Keluak Fried Rice ($15), making it more accessible for individual or small group diners.
The Nonya Noodles, a treat normally reserved for birthdays and special occasions, consists of springy yellow noodles cooked in a rich prawn and pork stock with bean sprouts, kang kong and garnished with omelette and cucumber julienne.
I enjoyed the Buah Keluak Fried Rice ($15) imbued with wok hei which was fragrant with earthy buah keluak rempah (paste made from Indonesian black nuts). A little surprise as it even came with a fried chicken wing.
The main weak link I thought was the Chendol ($5), the classic Peranakan dessert made with pandan-flavoured jelly and red beans in coconut milk sweetened with gula melaka. The ice could have been smoother, and green jelly more fresh-tasting and moist.
The Blue Ginger – Tanjong Pagar
97 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088518
Tel: +65 6222 3928
Opening Hours: 12pm – 3pm, 6:30pm – 10:30pm (Mon – Sun)
The Blue Ginger – Great World
Great World, #01-106, 1 Kim Seng Promenade, Singapore 237994
Tel: +65 6235 7042
Opening Hours: 11am – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm (Mon – Fri), 11am – 10pm (Sat, Sun, PH)