Peranakan cuisine or Nyonya food is a quintessential and unique part of Singapore’s food cultue.
It is the result of blending Chinese ingredients with various distinct spices and cooking techniques used by the Malay community, giving rise to dishes which are full-flavoured – rich, spicy, aromatic, tangy all the same time.
And it is extremely hard and time-consuming to prepare, if you follow the recipes.
I know this because my grandma whom I called ”Ah Ma” has Peranakan blood, and I grew up with a kitchen that conjured lovingly prepared dishes of Ayam Buah Keluak, Nyonya Chap Chye and Ngoh Hiang from time to time.
Imagine the time dedication put into all these dishes, which we can hardly find authentic ones nowadays.
Fond memories came as I remembered helping pound the sambal chilli for Ah-Ma, who refused to use an electric blender which was just not the same.
Times have passed. People have become more efficient. But I am glad that the younger generation are stepping up to preserve these recipes. Here are 10 Modern Peranakan restaurants in Singapore you can still experience some of these culturally-colourful dishes:
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)
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 attracted even more attention when it earned the Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction, and continue to retain it.
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.
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.
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. The Blue Ginger (Great World)
Block 17A Dempsey Road Singapore 249676
Tel: 1800 3042 288
Opening Hours: Lunch 12 – 3pm, Dinner 6pm – 10pm (Mon – Sun)
Candlenut Singapore is the world’s 1st and only Michelin-starred Peranakan Restaurant.
For those who prefer to leave it to the chef, there’s an option for a ’Ah-ma-kase’ tasting menu at $88++ per person for lunch, and $128++ for dinner.
Favourites from Candlenut’s signature include the Candlenut’s Buah Keluak Fried Rice ($28), Chef Mum’s Chicken Curry ($28), Blue Swimmer Crab Curry ($36), and the King Tiger Prawn Gula Melaka cooked in coconut sauce infused with lemongrass ($30).
Diners can choose from more than 40 appetisers, mains and desserts from the a la carte menu for lunch and dinner, including Homemade Kueh Pie Tee ($20), Ngoh Hiang ($18) and Bakwan Kepiting Soup ($16). Candlenut (Dempsey)
Funan, #04-07, 107 North Bridge Road, Singapore 179097
Opening Hours: Lunch 11am – 3:30pm, Dinner 6pm – 10pm (Mon – Fri)
Brunch 10:30am – 4pm, Dinner 6pm – 10pm (Sat – Sun)
Godmama is a modern Peranakan restaurant delivering both authentic Nyonya cuisine and innovative Peranakan food creations.
Its extensive menu of Peranakan heirloom recipes, cocktails and mod-Peranakan brunch offerings aims to make the cuisine approachable and accessible to the masses.
A recommended dish for those looking for traditional Peranakan flavours is the Babi Assam ($18.90++), a slow-braised pork belly in a mildly spicy and tangy tamarind sauce.
If you do visit on a weekend, get some of the brunch items.
They include the Babi Assam Baked Eggs ($17.90), Ayam Buah Keluak Burger ($21.90), Tiger Prawns Laksa Pasta ($20.90), Otak Otak Benedict ($19.90) – a patty topped with poached eggs on a slice of sourdough bread.
End with a dessert of indulgent Durian Pengat Buttermilk Pancakes ($18.90) topped with creamy durian compote, coconut crumble and vanilla bean ice cream.
National Kitchen by Violet Oon
National Gallery, 1 St Andrews Road #02-01 Singapore 178957 (City Hall MRT)
Tel: +65 9834 9935
Opening Hours: 12pm – 5pm, 6pm – 11pm (Mon – Sun)
A short introduction of Violet Oon – ex-journalist, renowned food critic, author, cooking show host and current owner of a couple of “Violet Oon” restaurants.
The National Kitchen is aptly named, slightly opulence, traditionally modern, stylishly elegant.
This menu is 70% similar to her restaurant at Bukit Timah, serving dishes of Peranakan, Indian, Malay and Chinese flavours.
Many items are just calling out to me – Ngoh Hiang ($15), Kuay Pie Tee ($17), Turmeric Chicken Wings ($13), Buah Keluak Ayam ($23), Beef Rendang ($22), Fish Head Curry ($35), Chap Chye ($15), Dry Laksa ($22) and Dry Mee Siam ($21).
Note that no pork or lard is used in the restaurant.
Despite having no pork in the Ngoh Hiang ($15), I enjoyed the starter both times I ordered – packed with generous fresh ingredients of prawn, crab and chicken. The fillings are packed dense with a light crunch coming from the water chestnut, and crisp of the deep fried bean curd skin.
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)
True Blue Cuisine pays a homage to traditional Peranakan cuisine, combining food with retail, history and culture in a unique setting.
The restaurant has also earned the Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction consecutively for a number of years.
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.
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”.)
The standout dishes to me includes 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. True Blue Cuisine (Armenian Street)
House of Peranakan Petit
42 Eng Hoon Street (Tiong Bahru Estate), Singapore 169785
Tel: +65 6222 1719
Opening Hours: 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm (Mon, Wed – Sun), Closed Tues
Entering House of Peranakan Petit was like entering the home of the little nyonyas (some spell ‘nonya’).
A sense of nostalgic. As its name suggest, the space was enough to sit comfortably for about 20-25, while the host would sincerely serve food in her modern kebaya.
Owner Bob Seah first established Peranakan Inn in 1985 after he was inspired by his mother Bibik Koh Nya Chit’s culinary skills. A subsequent House of Peranakan Cuisine was set up at the former Negara Hotel, then its present venue at Katong. The family decided to open this petit restaurant at Tiong Bahru estate as fans requested for another branch closer to the West.
Peranakan favourites can be found on its menu: Ngoh Hiang, Otak Otak, Itek Tim, Garam Assam Fish, Ayam Buah Keluak, Itek Sioh, and Babi Ponteh.
Boy oh boy, was I salivating as I scanned through the dishes? All those deep fond love for nyonya food and childhood memories started gushing back.
We liked most of the dishes. Nothing overly fanciful, still delicious, even heart-warming as the meal felt like a home-cooked one. House Of Peranakan Petit (Tiong Bahru)
422 Orchard Road, Orchard Hotel – Level 2 Claymore Connect, Singapore 238879
Tel: +65 6262 4428
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (Mon – Sun)
The Peranakan which opened at Claymore Connect (the revamped mall opposite Orchard Towers), and is likely to attract many families who are longing for this nostalgic taste of Straits Chinese cuisine.
The restaurant spans 3000 square foot, can sit 130 diners, and Executive Chef Raymond Khoo (Tong Shui Café, 3 Monkeys, Rasa Singapura Macau) helms the kitchen.
The décor, space and size can be considered jaw-dropping in Singapore… the flowers, the prints, the tiffin carriers, the crockery, and THE CHANDELIERS.
There are many Peranakan favourites available here, from Kueh Pie Ti, Ngoh Hiang, Itek Tim, Nonya Chap Chye, Petai Kicap Manis, Nasi Ulam, Ayam Pong Teh, Beef Rendang ($19), Ayam Sioh to the quintessential Ayam Buah Keluak.
Other than the ala carte orders, there are a few other interesting options: The Tok Panjang ($48 or $68 per person) which is supposedly a super bagus smorgasbord of favourite dishes served in rattan baskets.
There is also the Eight-Course “Heng Heng” Degustation Menu in which each course is served indivdually starting with an Amuse Bouche and followed by Kueh Pei Ti, Bakwan Kepiting, Babi Pong Teh, an Intermezzo, Sambal Udang, Nonya Chap Chye & Ngoh Hiang, Ayam Buah Keluak & Nasi Ulam Istimewa and Dessert. The Peranakan (Orchard)
86 East Coast Road #01-01 Katong Square Singapore 428788
Opening Hours: 6:30am – 2:30pm, 6pm – 11pm (Mon – Fri), 6:30am – 11pm (Sat – Sun)
Housed within the former Joo Chiat Police Station, Baba Chews at the Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong looks set to attract hipsters with its modern meets Straits Chinese cuisine.
The name “Baba Chews” is derived from the name of wealthy Chinese landowner in the early 20th century, Chew Joo Chiat (Singaporeans should be familiar with the road named after him). ‘Baba’ is an honorific name that Peranakan men are known as.
In wanting to keep the menu wide enough, Baba Chews offer varied items at different times of the day, with an All-Day Dining Menu, family style Dinner Menu, bar bites and Weekend Brunch Menu.
Other than the recommended Chilli Crab Cake with Mantou Chips ($15) and Foie Gras Tau Kwa Pau ($20), the Ayam Buah Keluak Burger ($18) looks intriguing enough.
This consist of chicken patty doused in a special buah keluak sauce, with achar (pickled vegetables) in a multigrain ciabatta burger. Baba Chews (East Coast Road)
Indigo Blue Kitchen
1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre, #03-09/10/11 Singapore 228208
Tel: +65 6235 3218
Opening Hours: Lunch 12pm – 3pm Last Order 2pm, Dinner 6:30pm – 9:30pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon
Indigo Blue Kitchen is a heritage project by the Chairman of Les Amis Mr Desmond Lim, who considers himself a true-blue Peranakan.
The restaurant is a way of ensuring the culinary legacy of his family, as well as paying tribute to his grandmother. Recipes used are from the family, with consultation of cousin Gloria Teo.
Recommended dishes include Ngoh Hiang ($15 for 2 rolls), Chicken Satay ($11 for 3 sticks), Hee Peoh Tng aka Fish Maw Soup ($16), Sambal Prawns ($18), Curry Chicken ($22), Chicken Buah Keluak ($25), Beef Rendang ($26), Crab Meat Omelette ($15), Nonya Chap Chye ($15) to Chendol with Durian ($12).
The Bakwan Kepiting ($22 for ala carte order) is a soup of chicken, pork and crustacean, with the highlight being the two handmade meatballs of mud crabs, prawns and minced pork.
The Poh Piah ($18 for one roll, for ala carte order) included bang guang fillings consisting of turnips, bamboo shoot, pork belly and fried bean curd – braised in a rich prawn, pork, fermented bean paste and garlic sauce, was considered flavourful.
The weakest link unfortunately, happened to be the egg skin which was too thick and slightly on the cold side. However, I heard that they have improved the recipe over time. Indigo Blue Kitchen (Shaw Centre)
Ellenborough Market Café
Swissôtel Merchant Court, Singapore Level 1, 20 Merchant Road, Singapore 058281
Reservations: +65 6239 1847, +65 6239 1848
A big draw to Ellenborough Market Café is in their selection of local and Peranakan fare or Nyonya-style cooking.
The signature Ayam Buah Keluak makes use of tamarind, a signature Peranakan ingredient prepared as part of the spicy gravy. The ayam (chicken) is braised in this sweet-spicy-tart gravy along with Indonesian black nuts.
All all-time favourite in the buffet line is the Kueh Pie Tee, in which diners can pick up crispy pastry shells to be filled filled with a mix of cooked shredded turnip, prawn and egg.
As this is from the DIY station, so you can choose the amount of radish you would like to fill your shells up, and topped with ingredients of chopped hard-boiled egg, shrimps, peanut and that touch of sambal chilli.
If you are a DURIAN fan and only have room for a couple of desserts, go for the Deep-fried Durian and the signature Durian Pengat.