Fact: Peranakan food reminds us of hearty feasts at our grandparents. The homeliness of the cuisine, as well as the warmth of familial ties associated with it, supersedes culture and race in Singapore. For the uninitiated, the Peranakans are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to to the Malay archipelago between the 15th and 17th century. Their cuisine is characterised by a blend of Chinese ingredients with Malay and Indonesian techniques and spices.
To put it simply: it’s a tangy, aromatic, spicy mix of gloriousness. And you don’t have to take our word for it, authentic Peranakan fare is available at one of these eight restaurants in Singapore.
Leading the Michelin-starred Candlenut is Chef Malcolm Lee, who found his calling in his Nyonya mother’s kitchen since young. The secret behind his restaurant’s excellent flavours? All the rempah (the spice paste that makes up the base of Peranakan cuisine) are housemade from scratch without any MSG or preservatives, resulting in authentic Peranakan dishes like the Homemade Kueh Pie Tee ($12), filled with crab meat curry, and wholesome Westholme Wagyu Beef Short Ribs with Buah Keluak Sambal ($36).
Candlenut is located at 17 Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249676, p. 1800 304 2288. Open Mon-Thu, Sun 12pm – 2.30pm, 6pm – 9pm, Fri 12pm – 2.30pm, 6pm – 10.30pm, Sat 6pm – 10.30pm.
Violet Oon’s Kitchen
A true blue Nyonya, Violet Oon is pretty much the grande dame of Peranakan fare in Singapore, bringing all her years of expertise and knowledge into the Kitchen. Every dish here is cooked the same way as it was in the past without compromise, from staples like the heart-warming Pong Tauhu Soup ($11) –a classic prawn bisque with pork, beancurd, and bamboo shoots – and Babi Pong Tay ($18), or slow-braised pork belly with dried mushrooms. Try the signature Aunty Nanny’s Daging Chabek ($36) – beef cheek braised in a rich tamarind gula melaka gravy, and don’t leave without getting the heavenly Bubur Cha Cha Pannacotta ($10), generously loaded with sweet potato and yam.
Violet Oon’s Kitchen is located at 881 Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 279893, p. +65 9781 3144. Open Tue-Sun 12pm – 10.30pm. Closed Mon.
Straits Chinese Restaurant
Straits Chinese Restaurant has operated way longer than most of us have been alive (since 1953), so that has to count for something. Recipes are kept old-school here and passed down from generation to generation. Get the tangy Udang Goreng Assam, spiced with tamarind, chunky Ayam Santan Satay, and the rich Itek Tim duck soup with salted pickles. The Bak-Wan Kepiting tastes great as well – huge meat balls of prawn, pork, crab, and bamboo shoots; just perfect for a rainy day. Straits Chinese is also known for their catering services, so if you’re looking to impress, you know where to go.
Straits Chinese Restaurant is located at 133 Cecil St, #B1-01 Keck Seng Tower, Singapore 069535, p. +65 6225 8683. Open daily 11am – 3pm, 6pm – 9pm.
The Blue Ginger
The Blue Ginger is a crowd favourite among Peranakans in Singapore, in part because of its intricately designed interior, ornate furnishings, and nostalgic feel. The food is enjoyable of course, prepared from the heart much like a home-cooked family meal. Start off with the traditional Kueh Pie Tee – simply prepared with bamboo shoots, turnips, and shrimp and the signature Duck Salad, smoked and served with zesty plum sauce. For a true Peranakan experience, try the Nonya Fish Head Curry, consisting of red snapper, ladies fingers, and eggplants cooked in a traditional home-style curry; washed down with a sweet Durian Chendol!
The Blue Ginger is located at 97 Tanjong Pagar Rd, Singapore 088518, p. +65 6222 3928. Open daily 12pm – 3pm, 6.30pm – 10.30pm.
Opened just this year, Baba Chews is part of the new Katong Square F&B establishment along East Coast Road. Malaysian chef Alvin Leong heads the kitchen, introducing modern takes on Peranakan cuisine that retains the authentic flavours, as well as other local fare. Think dim sum items like Chilli Crab Cake served with fried mantou chips and Otah Otah stuffed in a tight siew mai skin. For more traditional dishes, try the Pong Tauhu prawn soup – heartwarming and darn tasty; and the Beef Short Ribs Rendang – tender, rich, spicy.
Baba Chews is located at 86 East Coast Road #01-01 Katong Square, Singapore 428788, p. +65 6723 2025.
Serving up delectable Peranakan food for some 30 years, IVINS is the go-to place if you want a wide variety of Nonya options. In fact, the restaurant continues to develop new variations every now and then, and customers can then choose whether it stays on the menu. The portion sizes here are relatively small but affordable, so come with friends so you can try more dishes. Popular dishes at IVINS include the Babi Tauyu – black sauce pork belly stew; meaty and spicy Beef Rendang, Ayam Buah Keluak (chicken stuffed with black nut), and Pulot Hitam coconut dessert.
IVINS is located at 21 Binjai Park, Singapore 589827, p. +65 6468 3060. Open Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun 11am – 3pm, 5pm – 9pm. Closed Thu.
Step into PeraMakan and you’ll be greeted with a gorgeous space and beautiful Peranakan tableware, including an ornate rice-serving bowl modelled after those used in the olden days. Must-try dishes here include the generous portion of Beef Rendang ($16) and Sotong Panggang ($19) –fresh and juicy squids marinated in fragrant spices before being grilled. As fantastic as the savouries are, the restaurant is also well-known for its impressive desserts. Indulge in the D24 Durian Pengat ($6) mousse, or dip sticky rice pancakes into a warm banana toffee (Apom Berkuah Pancake, $6).
PeraMakan is located at 10 Bukit Chermin Road, Keppel Club, Singapore 109918, p. +65 6377 2829. Open daily 11.30am – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm.
Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant
Rumoured to be the take-out place of choice for the late Lee Kuan Yew, Guan Hoe Soon is where the old-timers go for a unpretentious no-frills Peranakan meal. Now passed on to the third generation, the restaurant is best known for its amazing Ayam Buah Keluak ($15), Sayur Lodeh ($12), and Udang Assam Pedas ($15). We hear the signature Nonya Otah Otah ($8) is pretty delicious as well. As affordable as this place is, it goes without saying that it gets very packed at night, so do make your reservations in advance.
Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant is located at 38 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427762, p. +65 6344 2761. Open daily 11am – 3pm, 6pm – 930pm.
Top Image: Violet Oon’s Kitchen