Since the airing of The Little Nyonya, there’s been a revival of all things Peranakan, particularly food. Even this year’s Singapore Food Festival’s (July 17 – 26) focus is on Peranakan cuisine. In support of the Singapore Food Festival 2009, Spices Cafe at Concorde Hotel is spotlighting Peranakan dishes for its weekday lunch buffet in July and August.
82-year-old Baba Jolly Wee, a renowned Peranakan cooking expert, was specially invited to helm Spices Cafe for this authentic and traditional Peranakan spread.
I’m not an authority on Peranakan food, having tried it at most 5 times in my entire lifetime. With the exception of the tenggiri (mackerel) which was a tad overcooked, I enjoyed all the items above. The sotong wasn’t rubbery, and all the meats were fragrant and tender. The flavors and spices were nicely balanced too.
The appetizing rojak and spicy otah was great for perking up the tastebuds in between courses! There’s a live rojak station, and otah is also freshly grilled. Nyonya rojak is slightly different as there’s no you tiao or tau pok. It’s distinctly more refreshing with more use of fruit like jambu (rose apple).
Although the focus is on Peranakan dishes, there are also other local Singapore dishes available, like this Teochew duck noodle soup. Prepared at a live station, yellow Hokkien noodles, kway teow, and bee hoon are available.
Hungry Cow was also there, and we both LOVED this! Slurped up every bit of that hearty broth! It was deliciously flavorful and didn’t have an overpowering herbal taste. They were very generous with the tender braised duck too!
Baba Jolly Wee told us that he wants to introduce the younger generation to foods that he ate in his younger days which are no longer available now. One of them is loh kai yik — a brownish-pink stew of chicken wings braised in nam yu (fermented tofu). He told us that many years ago, he and his parents would eagerly await a hawker who would peddle loh kai yik door-to-door. The hawker would carry a big pot on a charcoal stove in bamboo baskets, and then set them down and start cooking when residents came out to order.
What an interesting anecdote! This was really exciting for me cos I’ve never tasted loh kai yik before. The gravy stew itself is sweetish and slightly savoury. Chicken wings, pork belly, and chicken liver give depth to the gravy. There’s also kangkong and taupok for extra texture. Mmm…yummy! Why don’t people make or sell this anymore?
Other “hot” items are the chilli crab and chicken satay. We had to go back a few times before we finally got our hands on this plate! The crab is alright; but the satay is really addictive. Tender, juicy chicken leg is used, and the marinade had thoroughly penetrated the meat. The peanut gravy was just right – sufficiently flavorful and chunky. There’s supposed to be grated pineapple for the peanut gravy – a signature touch for Nyonya satay – but there was no more. *sad*
Maybe I have more of a savoury rather than a sweet tooth, but I was more impressed with the mains rather than desserts. Or maybe I was just too full to appreciate them. On this plate, starting clockwise from 12 o’clock: sago with gula melaka and coconut cream; durian puff; kueh lapis; kueh dadar (the skin is strawberry flavored); apong (pancakes with banana sauce); and center, pandan-flavored pancake (sorry I didn’t get the proper name).
There were other dishes I didn’t try or photograph, like cabbage rolls, baby octopus (starter), stir-fried beef slices, pork chop (nice and crispy), macaroni soup, sambal stingray, fried sesame balls, bubur terigu, and fresh fruit. See my Flickr set for more photos.
The buffet is a modest spread, but I think for a weekday lunch, it’s more than sufficient. Prices are pocket-friendly too. Most of all, I think it’s a great introduction for those of us unfamiliar with Peranakan cuisine.
There’s actually many more items on the Peranakan menu, but only a few are highlighted each day. Dishes are rotated weekly every Tuesday. Should I return next week to try the pineapple prawns, tauyu bak (braised soy sauce pork), sayur nangka masak lemak (young jackfruit in spicy coconut milk), and itek tim (duck in salted vegetable soup)? What a tempting thought!
Many thanks to Evelyn of Concorde Hotel for the invitation and hospitality, and Baba Jolly and Rosemary for sharing their interesting stories on Peranakan history and food.
Singapore Flavors Lunch Buffet: Focus on Peranakan dishes (July & August 2009)
Spices Cafe (Lobby Level 3)
Mondays to Fridays, 12 noon to 2:30pm
$25++ per adult, $12.50++ per child (3-12 years old), $19.65++ per senior citizen (above 55 years old)
Tel: (65) 6733 8855 ext. 8133
Concorde Hotel Singapore
100 Orchard Road
Tel: (65) 6733 8855
Note: Since October 2008, Le Meridien Hotel in Orchard Road has been rebranded Concorde Hotel. Cafe Georges has also been renovated and renamed Spices Cafe.