There are many forgotten Peranakan dishes such as Babi Tohay (braised pork belly slow-cooked with fermented shrimp and red rice yeast) and Ikan Chuan Chuan; along with familiar classics of Babi Pongtay, Ayam Buah Keluak, and Nyonya Chap Chye to be found here.
Delve into a world of nostalgia with The Real Peranakan, newly opened at Hillcrest Road (Bukit Timah) and Kim Yam Road (within The Herencia near River Valley Road).
This is where you can enjoy Heritage Peranakan comfort food in a friendly, family-orientated setting, with traditional favourites and long-lost recipes spearheaded by Celebrity Chef Philip Chia.
You may find Chef Philip quite familiar. “The Peranakan Chef” has curated the culinary aspects of the Channel 8 hit TV series “The Little Nyonya” 小娘惹 (and even its China remake) and appeared in numerous TV programmes and menu collaborations.
The 5th generation Peranakan is also the author of several cook books, including the bestselling “With Love, from The Little Nyonya” and “The Peranakan Kitchen”.
Foodies who love Peranakan food would know the dishes are intricate, diverse and deep; it takes passion to make each dish from scratch.
You probably can find dishes which are tangy, spicy, herby and aromatic here – all characteristics of authentic Peranakan cuisine. Here’s more:
Ayam Buah Keluak ($20.80)
I suppose we cannot miss having the classic Ayam Buah Keluak in a Peranakan restaurant, the savoury chicken dish cooked with tamarind gravy and black buah keluak nuts.
The slow-cooking process creates those rich, robust, earthy flavours, complemented with creamy earthiness and subtle bitter notes from the heritage nut.
The nuts (prepared and soaked 3 days before) has full-bodied notes probably similar to truffle, and is the source of the dish’s complex flavour.
What is interesting about The Real Peranakan’s Buah Keluak is that the inky paste is also blended with the nut kernel, minced shrimps and specially-created seasonings; after which the Buah Keluak paste is stuffed back into the nut shells. (Using fresh shrimps also texturises the paste and helps bind the buah keluak meat securely in its shell while it cooks.)
Loads of effort, but makes this dish worthwhile to order.
Babi Pongtay ($22.00)
Made from an old recipe handed down through 5 generations from Chef Philip’s late great-grandmother, this mouth-watering pork dish takes 3 to 4 hours to prepare in the kitchen.
All that labour pays off as you effortlessly sink your teeth in its soft, succulent and somewhat-fatty pork belly slices doused in a savoury soybean paste gravy.
The way to eat this is to crush the fresh green chili which adds some aroma and heat to this dish. Best paired with fluffy white rice and a little sambal.
This version of Babi Pongtay was slightly different from the others which I had more commonly, with an appetising slight-sour taste; and melt-in-the-mouth pork belly contrasted with the crunch from the braised bamboo shoots and softness of shiitake mushrooms.
Sambal Udang Belimbing – seasonal item ($26.80)
Looking for something spicy? The Sambal Udang Belimbing is highly recommended, though the dish is seasonal due to the availability of ingredients.
Pairing with the spicy prawn sambal are sour, piquant notes from baby star fruit aka “belimbing”. This fruit, once abundant and wild in the kampong, is now a hard-to-get ingredient.
Babalicious Otah ($11.80)
This heirloom-recipe appetiser is a fusion of spicy and aromatic flavours.
Made with minced and sliced fish, this starter is mixed with rempah – the paste of fragrant spices (concocted with chillies, galangal, lemongrass, belachan and more) that imparts an intense flavour.
The fish mixture is wrapped with banana leaves and grilled to create tender fish parcels.
The Otah Otah is presented in bite-sized cubes garnished with kaffir lime, and I loved how it was soft yet you could taste substantial pieces of fish within, and not starchy at all.
Ngoh Hiang ($15.80)
Behind the simplicity of Ngoh Hiang lies precise and skilful cooking. It needs a balance of texture and flavours for it to be really good.
TRP’s signature Ngoh Hiang uses fresh, unsalted beancurd skin stuffed with diced water chestnuts and carrots.
A homemade 5-spice powder adds that distinctive taste. I found that Ngoh Hiang at some places taste too starchy and felt lacking in the real-substance, while this was meaty contrasted with thin-crisp skin.
A must-try crispy meets juicy appetiser that has a homely taste.
Hee Peow Soup ($16.80)
Hee Peow Soup is a comforting collagen-rice soup made with hee peow aka fish maw. To taste this labor-of-love soup (imagine 6 hours of prep time), you need to pre-order three days in advance. Its heart-warming taste is worth the wait.
Wait. Why 3 days?
That is because this soup is chockfull with handmade prawn ball, pork ball and fish ball, all using Chef Philip’s grandmas’ age-old recipe.
So there are actually three types of house-made meatballs within – the juicy pork meatball (my favourite), soft prawn ball and bouncy fish ball.
The soup is also lightly sweet due to the addition of Tianjin cabbage.
Nyonya Chap Chye ($16.80)
A traditional favourite, this dish is a medley of Chinese cabbage, fried beancurd, mushrooms, glass noodles (tang hoon) and carrots cooked in fermented soy bean paste (tau cheo).
Every Peranakan household lovingly prepares this dish, often used by mothers as a barometer to test their son’s girlfriend (or wife) cooking skills.
The vegetables were simmered until nicely-soft here without being overly disintegrated, with seafood-sweetness as the ingredients were slowly braised in prawn stock. I would order this again.
Chendol with Coconut Ice Cream ($7.50)
Make it a sweet ending with a selection of Nonya Kueh such as Steam Lapis, Kueh Sarlat, Kueh Dadar, Bika Ambon, Kueh Kosui and Lemper Ayam (kueh depends on availability).
Of get the shaved-iced sweet Chendol comes with strips of fragrant green pandan jelly, soft red beans, coconut milk, a scoop of coconut ice cream complete with thick-thick gula melaka.
The Real Peranakan Breakfast Special (Available from 7:30am – 11:30am)
Other than comforting Peranakan dishes, the Real Peranakan also serves up breakfast items on a daily basis, suitable for individual or small group diners.
What you can expect include Laska ($9.90), Mee Rebus ($9.90), Seafood Mee Goreng ($16.80), Bubur Udang (Peranakan Congee with pork balls, prawns, beancurd and scallop) to even Kaya Butter Toast with Eggs ($5).
The Nasi Lemak ($12.80) comes recommended with fragrant coconut rice, complemented with crispy fried chicken wing, telor dadar (egg omelette), sambal udang (sambal prawn) and mermaid fish. A complete meal in itself.
DFD Special: Get 1 FREE Main Course and Chendol with Coconut Ice Cream with Any Purchase of 4 Main Courses
Enjoy an additional main course and complimentary bowl of Chendol with Coconut Ice Cream with purchase of 4 mains. Show this blogpost or video to redeem upon ordering to redeem items.
– Available for dine-in only (reservations recommended), no takeaways allowed
– Complimentary main will be the lowest priced item
– Promotion from 13 Nov till 30 Dec 2020, while stocks last.
– Available from 11:30am – 9:30 pm (last order), at The Real Peranakan Hillcrest outlet.
– Not redeemable with any other discounts or promotions
– Not valid on eve of public holidays and public holidays
– No splitting of bill is allowed
– Not applicable for breakfast items
The Real Peranakan – Kim Yam
46 Kim Yam Road Singapore 239351 (Within The Herencia)
Tel: +65 9783 1118
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm Last Order 9:30pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon
* This entry is brought to you in partnership with The Real Peranakan.