Emerging transformed from its two-year facelift, Great World City has more delicious secrets up its sleeves than ever – bulk food stores, gourmet grocers, and best of all, a world of dining gems. One surprise here, though, that’s too scrumptious to stay under wraps for long (no thanks to us) is Peranakan restaurant The Blue Ginger. After 25 years of dishing up Nyonya nosh along Tanjong Pagar Road, this beloved stalwart has launched a second outlet with a fresh face of its own.
If the blossoming of a second branch seems unexpected after a quarter-century, it’s all thanks to second-generation owner Teo Shi Kai. The son of original founder Susan Teo, this young dynamo is on a mission to make Peranakan fare more accessible to the modern diner.
The Blue Ginger Great World is his labour of love, and it’s perhaps best described as an old soul in a young body. Whereas the Tanjong Pagar flagship has the feel of stepping back in time – think traditional floral motifs and dark carved panels – the Great World City space has a strikingly modern face. At the entrance, a pop of terracotta-orange latticework beckons; inside, the space is airy with light greens and blues. Glossy white tiles and colourful crockery complete the homely ambience. It’s not quite your Nyonya grandmother’s kitchen – more like a beloved aunt’s or friend’s.
The heart and soul of the restaurant, however – the food – stays true to heritage. Its repertoire is rooted in time-honoured recipes by Peranakan doyenne Vivian Lian, the mother of one of the original founders, along with Shi Kai’s own prized family recipes.
While you’ll find most of your familiar favourites from Tanjong Pagar on the Great World menu, there’s also a sprinkling of spicy newcomers. Fresh to the starters menu is Kerabu Kacang Botol (S$11.50), a crunchy salad of winged beans. Tossed with dried shrimp and toasted coconut, then dressed with lime juice and ground chilli, it packs all the sour, spicy, and umami zing it needs to kickstart our tastebuds. Another unusual starter, Kerabu Timun (S$8.50), brings together diced cucumber and chewy chicken gizzards in a refreshing play of textures, spiced up with sambal belacan.
The Ayam Panggang “Blue Ginger” (S$16) is one of their trusty signatures, and we can see why. Marinated in earthy turmeric and cloaked in coconut milk, the grilled chicken emerges succulent and laced with deep, satisfying smokiness. We made short work, too, of the Pork Ribs Assam (S$16) – a robust riff on the classic Babi Assam, which usually features pork belly. Hours of braising in tangy tamarind sauce yield us exquisitely tender ribs, which need barely a prod to fall off the bone.
Meat tends to hog the limelight when it comes to Peranakan cuisine, but it was a humble deep-fried eggplant that stole all hearts at our table – the Terong Goreng Cili (S$13). Think of the silky way good pudding slips down your throat, or that luscious soya beancurd which made queuing worth your while – that gives you an idea of the divine softness of this eggplant. A drizzle of soy sauce accents its mellow sweetness, while the fiery punch of homemade chili paste takes us by surprise.
There’s the traditional Ayam Buah Keluak (S$24) on the menu, but we recommend switching things up with their Sotong Keluak (S$22). The black nut paste is rich and chocolatey, delightful when slathered on the fresh squid and just as good spooned up with rice. Speaking of carbs, the Nonya Noodles (S$15) makes a worthwhile indulgence – wok-fried yellow noodles bathed in rich prawn stock. What sets it apart from your usual Hokkien mee is the umami-laden kick of tau cheo (fermented soybean paste), which you can dial up with all the sambal belacan you please.
The lingering heat on our tongues is as good an excuse as any to order dessert, so we have the Durian Chendol (S$7). Rich D24 durian and homemade red bean paste take this treat to creamy new levels; before the ice turns to slush, we’ve polished it off.
The Blue Ginger‘s second outlet is located at Great World, #01-106, 1 Kim Seng Promenade, Singapore 237994, p. +65 6235 7042. Open Mon-Fri 11am–3pm and 6pm–10pm, Sat-Sun 11am–10pm.
Top Image: Terong Goreng Cili