Peranakan cuisine – which marries primarily Chinese, Malaysian and Indonesian culinary influences – offers a veritable feast of rich flavours, aromatic spices and fresh herbs that make for a thoroughly satisfying meal. Also known as Nyonya food, it originates from the descendants of migrants from China who settled around the Malay Peninsula and Indonesian Archipelago – Singapore, Penang and Malacca in particular – between the 15th and 17th centuries. Whether you’re in the mood for no-nonsense, homestyle fare or want to experience a contemporary take on traditional dishes, we’ve got you covered with our list of top-notch establishments to indulge in sumptuous Peranakan food in Singapore.
Rempapa, opened in August 2021, is a Singapore heritage restaurant that presents a multi-ethnic menu of Peranakan, Chinese, Indian, Malay and Eurasian dishes. Helmed by chef Damian D’Silva, who’s known as the “grandfather of Singapore heritage cuisine”, the restaurant’s must-try Peranakan dishes include nostalgic classics like baca Assam and babi pongteh. Other standouts include singgang, a classic Eurasian dish that comprises of painstakingly deboned fish that’s been cooked in a paste of fresh chillies, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, shallots and candlenuts. Alongside these requisites, you’ll also find contemporary creations with heritage flavours like the buah keluak fried rice, made with a fresh sambal paste, minced pork and the rich savoury “meat” of the buah keluak nut.
2 Paya Lebar Road, #01-01/02/03, Park Place Residences at PLQ. Nearest MRT: Paya Lebar
Boasting the title of the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan culinary establishment, Candlenut is your go-to for a contemporary take on the centuries-old cuisine. Treat yourself by splurging on chef Malcolm Lee’s “Taste of Candlenut” seasonal tasting menu – available during both lunch and dinner services – through which he explores the myriad flavours of his heritage. The current dinner option for September 2022 features offerings such as beef kapitan curry (Margaret River beef cheek slow-cooked in curry sauce with candlenuts, fried shallots and makrut lime); ikan chuan chuan (Kühlbarra barramundi cooked in a fermented soybean paste); and a ginger cake to finish.
17A Dempsey Road. Buses: 7, 75, 77, 105, 106, 123, 174
2. Charlie’s Peranakan Food
With Golden Mile Food Centre recently reopening after a long renovation exercise, customers are once again able to tuck into Charlie’s Peranakan Food’s humble yet hearty fare. The cult-favourite basement hawker stall, which often draws long queues, plates up affordable Peranakan dishes that taste almost as good as your grandmother’s cooking. We recommend the nangka masak lemak (jackfruit curry), babi pongteh (stewed pork with mushrooms and bamboo shoots) and gulai tumis (tamarind fish curry) with a side of rice to mop up all of that delicious gravy.
505 Beach Road, #B1-30, Golden Mile Food Centre. Nearest MRT: Nicoll Highway
Stuck in the CBD and craving Peranakan food? Make your way to the centrally located Godmama. Occupying a fourth-floor space at shopping mall Funan, the outlet’s contemporary minimalist-chic interior mirrors the ubiquitous café aesthetic to a tee. Dine on casual and comforting renditions of Nyonya favourites, including chap chye (mixed braised vegetables); babi Assam (stewed Assam pork); ikan masak nanas (grilled barramundi cooked in a tamarind stew with pineapple) and ayam buah keluak (chicken and black nut stew). Godmama also offers a range of Peranakan-inspired cocktails to go along with your meal. Try the heady “Bunga Kantan Martini”: bourbon mixed with tamarind and lemon juice and shaken with egg white for a velvety texture.
107 North Bridge Road, #04-07, Funan. Nearest MRT: City Hall
4. Old Bibik’s Peranakan Kitchen
Located in the colourful heritage area of Joo Chiat – arguably the city-state’s main enclave for Peranakan culture – Old Bibik’s Peranakan Kitchen is a casual, no-frills outlet that serves authentic Nyonya delights at prices that won’t break the bank. It’s Halal-certified and purports to use only the freshest ingredients to make its dishes. A must-try is the grilled sambal barramundi, in which the deep-sea fish is smothered in a mouth-watering sambal relish and topped with fresh herbs and thin slices of lime. Other moreish options include the signature beef rendang, which features succulent beef chunks braised in a myriad of spices until tender; and kang kong stir-fried in a classic garlic or sambal sauce.
328 Joo Chiat Road, #01-02. Buses: 33, 33B
5. The Blue Ginger
The Blue Ginger has been a crowd favourite since first opening its doors in 1995. Today, the Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient boasts two outpost: one at Tanjong Pagar, which is situated in a gorgeous three-storey restored shophouse, and the other at the buzzy Great World shopping centre. At the cosy Tanjong Pagar location, which is perfect for an intimate date night, you can choose from a selection of well-executed Peranakan favourites: including pork ribs Assam (braised pork ribs in a tamarind sauce); hee peow soup (fish maw, fish and prawn balls and cabbage in a clear broth); and ngo hiang (fried minced pork and prawn roll).
97 Tanjong Pagar Road. Nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar
6. Tingkat PeraMakan
This restaurant derives its moniker from tingkats – layered containers that Peranakan mothers of yore would use to ferry home-cooked meals to a loved one at work or at school. Run by founder, chef and fourth-generation Nyonya Kathryn Ho, Tingkat PeraMakan applies a similar nurturing and homey ethos to its cooking. Diners can expect down-to-earth favourites redolent of nostalgic and familiar flavours. You can order a set option, which includes a main, two sides, a drink and a dessert. Our pick for a main is the signature ayam buak keluak, in which the chicken is braised until tender in a sauce of garam assam and Indonesian black nut pulp. And for dessert, durian fiends will delight in the durian pengat: a rich and velvety durian mousse.
7. Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant
Another Joo Chiat stalwart, Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant has been serving comforting Peranakan plates since 1953, making it one of Singapore’s oldest spots for Nyonya cuisine. To add to its claim to fame, it was also reportedly the Peranakan joint of choice for the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Feast on traditional dishes such as Ayam Buah Keluak (stewed chicken in gravy), babi pongteh (braised pork), Nyonya chap chye (braised vegetables) and sayor lodeh (vegetable stew). The decor may be nothing to write home about, but the Peranakan food here definitely hits the spot.
200 Joo Chiat Road. Buses: 33, 33B
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.