For just two weeks this month (2 to 18 April 2010), Ellenbororough Market Cafe (EMC) at Swissotel Merchant Court is serving a special Peranakan buffet. Following the success of last year’s Longest Peranakan Buffet at Singapore Food Festival, EMC has put together An Authentic Peranakan Gastronomy Buffet. As I didn’t get to try it out last year, I knew I couldn’t miss this it this time round.
Rick and I got there early for dinner so I could take photos of the food before other diners messed them up, heh! Here are some pics of the various stations.
Here’s the DIY rojak station. This version is fruit-based, as compared to hawker-style rojak that has you tiao (fried doughsticks) and taupok (tofu puff).
I was amazed at the wide selection of Peranakan and Indonesian salads, some of which I’ve never seen before, eg. jantung pisang (banana bud salad), sayur ulam (mixed vegetables), and kachang bendi (lady fingers in sambal belachan).
Under the warmer are kueh pie tee shells, and in the steamer are popiah skins. Further on the right are hot Peranakan dishes like ayam buah keluak and babi pongteh.
Here are the condiments for mee siam.
For variety, there’s also chilled seafood, like fresh oyster (dinner only), blue swimmer crab (above pic), tiger prawn, river prawn, and NZ green-lip mussel.
There’s a small selection of sashimi, and cold soba.
There’s even a whole roasted suckling pig! Initially, I wanted to try it, but later, I was too full and had no more tummy space left for pig.
Of all the buffets I’ve been to, EMC serves the widest variety of hot Asian desserts/sweet soups, like almond cream, peanut cream, pulut hitam, bubur cha cha, ah balling, and tau suan.
Other desserts (not pictured) available were assorted Nonya kuehs, assorted pastries and cakes, DIY chendol, chocolate fountain (with a very small selection of dipping items), and fresh fruit. And not forgetting, their famous durian pengat.
The prelude to our meal was lemongrass tea and Ros Selasih (rose syrup with selasih/basil seeds and lime). Both were very refreshing. We like!
Ok, time to attack the buffet!
First stop: chilled seafood. Very typical Singaporeans, we are. I didn’t try the oysters, Rick did. He said they were fresh. We also didn’t try the crab. Too lazy to peel crab.
Here’s my report in brief.
River prawn: Bland.
Mussel: Not bad. Not chewy nor fishy.
Tiger prawn: Very sweet, juicy, and crunchy!
Fish maw soup: Excellent! The meat ball was a bit dry, but more than redeemed by chunky fish maw and super robust stock!
Mee siam: Another winner! Tofu cubes were overfried (too dry), but the rich gravy was a harmonious symphony of sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors. Loved the sweet, fat prawns too. Wanted to go for second round, but had to save space for other dishes.
Kueh pie tee/popiah: Turnip filling for both was well-stewed, but seasoning was rather light-handed. Kueh pie tee shells were fresh and crisp.
Chicken satay: Tender and well-marinated meat. Would go for second round. Beef satay also available, but didn’t try.
Rojak: Hae ko (shrimp paste) is quite light. Would prefer the thick, sticky Penang-style hae ko.
Sayur ulam: Refreshing, but rather bland.
Tauhu goreng: Ok.
Gado gado: Pleasant.
Jantung pisang (banana bud salad): My first time trying this! Banana buds taste like dried golden lily buds. Not bad, but unremarkable. Rick said it’s an acquired taste for him.
Ngoh hiang: Tasted a bit factory-made.
Nonya mud crab: Very fragrant blend of herbs and spices, but crabs were rather skinny.
Black pepper crayfish: Tender meat, great seasoning.
Otak otak: Aromatic with good spicy kick. Very popular item!
White clams in XO sauce: Nice sauce, but clams not very meaty.
Steamed seabass Nonya-style: Don’t get which part of it is Nonya, but it was a gorgeous fish dish! It was a HUGE, whole seabass. Flesh was silky-smooth and tender, accompanied by flavorsome sauce.
Babi pongteh: Chunky pork belly cubes stewed till melt-in-mouth tender. Mmmh…!
Ayam buah keluak: Strangely, the chicken wasn’t stewed with the buah keluak (black nut). Instead the buah keluak paste was separately served. Maybe it’s to cater to those not used to the strong taste of buah keluak.
Nonya chap chye: Reminds me of home, but in a heartwarming way. 😀
By this time, Rick and I were already very full, but how could we skip dessert? For myself, I picked the mini items, skipping more substantial items like durian Swiss roll and sweet soups.
Nonya kuehs: Competently executed.
Mango pudding: Not bad, but can skip.
Pandan panna cotta(?): This was very nice! The texture reminded me of creme brulee, but scented with pandan, and topped with melted gula melaka.
Chocolate truffle: Divine! Very rich, with lovely bittersweet, complex notes.
And of course, how could we miss Ellenborough Market Cafe’s famous durian pengat? While still good, it wasn’t as satisfying as I remember it from last year. Perhaps it’s because durians, while available now, aren’t at their prime season, so the durian pengat didn’t taste as rich and flavorful.
I also think it was whipped till too airy. Personally, I’d prefer a denser durian pengat. But since it’s so light, it means you can indulge in more of it and not feel so jelak (cloying)!
On the whole, the buffet spread was an excellent representation of Peranakan cuisine. The Peranakan dishes were prepared with quality ingredients and had a homely touch. Taste-wise, I would have preferred bolder flavors, but Rick, who likes his food on the light side, thought the seasonings were just right.
*Dishes are rotated on a daily basis.
An Authentic Peranakan Gastronomy Buffet @ Ellenborough Market Cafe
2 to 18 April 2010
For enquiries/reservations, call: (65) 6239 1848
Buffet lunch: S$35.00++ (adult), S$17.50++ (child)
Buffet dinner: S$45.00++ (adult), S$22.50++ (child)
*Child price applicable for children aged 4 to 11 years old.
For HSBC cardholders: One dines for free with every three paying adult diners.
Ellenborough Market Cafe
Swissotel Merchant Court, Singapore
20 Merchant Road
Tel: (65) 6337 2288