It has been a very long time since my family and I had a meal at a Peranakan restaurant. Having grown up amongst an assortment of Nonya cuisine at home (whipped up by my paternal bibik grandmother), I have to admit it is a gastronomic fare which I hold close to my tastebuds. About four years ago, when I discovered Straits Chinese Restaurant along Queen Street with their selected spread of Peranakan buffet, I was elated. It was a pure combination of a Singaporean love (buffet) and the tenderness of Straits Chinese cuisine. It has been about 3 years since my last visit to Straits Chinese, and since Dad wanted to have Ayam Buah Keluak, I proposed heading back to the restaurant for the buffet. And boy, was it a visit down memory lane!
Keropok to start the dinner =D Dip it with Sambal Chilli!
The Sambal Belachan from Straits Chinese is really piquantly good. Not overtly spicy, with a robust fresh flavour of the chillies blended with a touch of spicy belachan. Squeeze in the lime for a lighter taste. Gosh, I think I had quite a few platters of this.
To dive into the buffet proper, I called for the appetizers (one serving each only) to be served up. The dish came with an assortment for the 4 of us – Kuih Pie Tee, Ngoh Hiang and Popiah Goreng. Palatable snacks to begin, though placing all of them onto one platter proved to be a little messy in presentation.
One thing that was definitely good was the Sambal Timun. Cured cucumber slices left to soak in a spicy sambal gravy filled with chopped onions and dried prawns. Refreshingly clear tasting, sweet, hot, and savoury. Wonderful package all in one. Grandma said that this was good.
The Chap Chye was served up. For this assortment of vegetables, tau kee and mushrooms, it was relatively good though it bordered a little on the sweet side, and could do with a more smoky fragrance.
The Itek Tim was rich in a serving of pickled salted vegetables that lent real flavour to the duck broth. Distinct flavours of tangy sourness cleanses the palate each time before the next bite into another dish.
The Ban Wan was a little off for me. You might like it though as I prefer my soups to be more hearty and filling, especially the meatball of minced meat and crabmeat.
The Pork Chop, though not uniquely Peranakan, it was served up distinctively Hainanese style though. Crispy pork chops with its pieces meaty and good to the bite. Little pieces of fried potato were at the side, and the dish was topped with a spread of tomato sauce and vegetables. While the meat was good, the sauce really needs a thorough work on it. I remember the one at Purvis Street where the sauce carried a distinctive slightly vinegarish taste that added an authentic dimension to the flavours. Then again, this is a Peranakan restaurant.
Something that should be good for all, the Chinchalok Telur. It was a little small in serving considering that it was for the 4 of us. But then again, it’s a buffet =D. Still, the omelette was nicely prepared with a crispy exterior and interior that really stands out in fragrance. The chinchalok was more of a delicate ingredient infused in the egg rather than it standing out in outright shocking (and my idea of delicious) flavour.
Thumbs up goes to the Ikan Assam Pedas. I really thought that the gravy was very well prepared with a generous use of herbs, spices and tamarind to whip up the dish. Chunks of pineapple and tomato are simmered throughout giving the sauce its own unique sweetness and tanginess. Excellent.
Peranakan’s cuisine hallmark for me really has to be the Ayam Buah Keluak. The bitter savoury sweet black nuts are cracked, and left to simmer in the ayam stew for hours on end. The version at Straits Chinese has most of its nut meat mixed with minced meat and then stuffed back into the shell. My family does it differently with the nut meat left whole, pure, black and left to slowly make its way into the stew. I thought the version at Straits Chinese was a decent creation that would go well with rice.
The Udang Sambal Timun was a new one for me. I initially thought I ordered Udang Sambal Petai, but nevermind that. Still, the prawn pieces used were whole, huge and fresh. Having been stir fried with the sambal sauce, the prawns are all readily spiced up.
The Beef Rendang is a decent creation altogether with alot of emphasis on the rempah. Very, very thick, sweet with onions, and spicy. The beef pieces were also chunky and meaty, though if left over the stove for an hour or two more, it would really tenderise the meat further.
Babi Pong Tay for all ye belly pork lovers. A good creation with a sauce that will go well with rice but something was missing. And grandma wondered why was there mushrooms.
I have never ordered Chicken Tempra before, so this is a new dish for me. According to some research, this dish is supposed to be simple Nonya fare made out of chicken breast meat and cooked in a lime infused soya sauce base. Sounds like delish, and something I can recreate at home!
The clear favourite for the dinner (apart from the Ikan Assam Pedas) has to be the Otah Otah. It arrived sizzling on the hot plate from the kitchen. The textures, creamy with coconut essence; flavours, spicy and savoury with chilli and fine fish paste. Par excellence!
It is dessert time, and to start off I called for each one of us the Durian Pengat (one serving only). This durian custard was nicely sweet and pungent with the essence of fresh durian encased in creamy smooth textures. The fibrous parts of the durian was notably missing, making this dish more of a custard that is easy on the palate.
The two other desserts to really try out have to be the Pulut Hitam and Chen Dol. Nothing beats rich coconut milk glazed all over any of the desserts. For the Chen Dol, the Gula Melaka really set things alike with a bountiful fragrance!
The visit to Straits Chinese really brings back a whole lot of memories. For me, it really is a recollection of my visits to the place over the years back when I was a whole lot younger (ok seriously, I am not that old). For grandma and dad, it was remembering the dishes and kampong life they had when young. It was a quaint dinner at Straits Chinese, for a pit stop into the past. Perhaps it is time to venture further into the richness of Joo Chiat once again this summer holiday, who knows what gems I might find.
|Straits Chinese Restaurant
15 Queen Street
Wilby Central Serviced Apartments
Tan Chong Tower
Tel : 6339 3683
Website : http://www.straitschinese.com/
Buffet is available for the month of May at both the Queen Street and Cecil Street Restaurants.