While waiting for an errant companion to show up, we were informed that reservations were required at True Blue Peranakan Cuisine. But this proved to be unnecessary as we emerged into the luxe dining hall and found only two other tables occupied. This oddity aside, we immediately felt at home amidst the chandeliers and linen tablecloths that melded seamlessly with traditional Peranakan-styled earthenware and brightly patterned carpets. Our waiter was eager to please and recommended the bakwan kepiting; ngoh hiang; chap chye; and the definitive ayam buah keluak.
Starting off our meal, we sipped the complimentary sweet longan tea, which was lovely. The bakwan kepiting (a chicken and crab meatball soup) was steaming hot, clear and salty enough to make our taste buds tingle—definitely a comfort food. Paired with moist rice, the chap chye (cabbage stew) reminded us of home-style cooking, with strands of tang hoon, beancurd skin and cabbage making for one chewy mouthful after another. The taste was a little salty, but not so unbearable that it overpowered the luster of the ayam buah keluak. Although the chicken was overcooked, the sauce was refreshingly sour and tangy, with the savory nut, which we dug up from inside the buah keluak, spicing it all up. The ngoh hiang, looking more like eggplant pieces than the phallic chunks we are accustomed to elsewhere, was made with minced chicken and chestnut, and was delightfully crispy without being oil-saturated. This was the real winner of the night, a neutral dish that balanced out the stronger flavors of the other items.
Our meal ended with a dish of onde onde ubi kayu—emerald green lumps of tapioca covered with dustings of desiccated coconut—and warm bowls of pulut hitam. Thick and clumpy without enough black glutinous rice, the pulut hitam was disappointing because the added longan gave it a rather sour twist. The desired finale was a sugar rush, not goose bumps. However, the onde onde, while lacking the oomph of oozing gula melaka, was, on the whole, a deliciously soft and sweet dessert, which left us satisfied as we walked out into the night air. You couldn’t ask for a more True Blue Peranakan experience than this.
Peranakan food is one of Singapore’s favorite and most unique cuisines. Here are our recommendations for where to get Peranakan food in Singapore.