Bagus Makan: Nyonya Food

Next stop was Nyonya food. It wouldn’t be a visit to Malacca if one did not eat Nyonya food. This shop was one of those recommended to us and we decided to try it. The shop was crowded for dinner but fortunately, we got seats rather quickly.

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Chinchalok omelette. The chinchalok was very subtle in this as it is quite salty to begin with so not much was placed in the omelette. We asked for some on a smaller side dish and then we could taste it in the omelette.

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Chicken rendang. This was as good as it looked!

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Pucuk Ubi fried vegetables. The shoots of the vegetables were nice and crunchy, cooked with sambal belachan.

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The prawn crackers were good with the sambal chilli.

We liked what we had and will certainly come back here again next time as well. The food was really good. I did not care much about the ambience or decor as many of the Nyonya restaurants here have something from the Peranakan culture to show that they are serving Peranakan. What mattered more was whether the food was good and it was.

Restoran Nyonya Makko, No. 123, Off Jalan Parameswara, Taman Melaka Raya, 75000 Melaka, Melaka. Tel: +606 284 7037

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Chicken Rice and Nyonya Food

This is a place that I have eaten at periodically over the years and each time it is satisfying. I usually go there with family, as opposed to friends, so it has become a family eating place for us. At one time, the boss was even our neighbour before they moved.

The place serves great tasting Hainanese chicken rice cum peranakan food. The boss is usually there and they have expanded the size of their original restaurant without opening up any branches. This probably is the secret to their popularity as the place is usually packed for dinner, especially on weekends. By focusing on just one main large restaurant, their quality control is there, as opposed to food places who have franchised out their food and the quality of food differs from franchisee to franchisee.

Pow Sing Restaurant, 59, 63/65 Serangoon Garden Way Singapore 555961. Tel: 6282 7972 / 6286 4813 / 6284 0800.

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Steamed Hainanese Chicken. The quality has been consistently good.

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Fish Maw with vegetables.

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Otah on the right.

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Otah

Madam, again.

This was a review that I was contemplating doing after eating at Madam Kwan’s in Mid-Valley in KL sometime ago. So I decided to try the outlet here at Vivo City in Singapore.

I decided not to go so soon after they opened so that they would have time to iron out their opening kinks. Having eaten in KL and being aware of the exchange rate difference, I also wanted my review to be as objective as possible, and not be influenced by exchange rate differences.

I ordered another of their signature dishes which I know Madam Kwan’s is well-known for, i.e. nasi bojari. Service wise, the waiters and waitresses were very good. The shoddy service that was highlighted in some of the earlier reviews was not evident that night. But it was about 9pm on a weeknight, and the evening was not busy.

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Their menu.

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My friend ordered the penang assam laksa and they served the prawn paste separately here, which is the way it is supposed to be served. A plus point here.

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The nasi bojari with the three flavours of rice (and colour). The chicken was tender and the skin was crispy. The different fragrances in the rice were evident. The prawn sambal was good as were the rendang bits. This is unique to Madam Kwan’s and I shall give credit where it is due.

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Another view of the nasi bojari.

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This is the Penang laksa. There was enough sardines and mint leaves in it. Good but for one complaint. For the longest time, I’ve only had this particular dish in small portions. The one that was served in the restaurant was huge. Usually I do not complain about serving portions. After all, larger is better, no? Well, no. In this case, because the gravy was so nice and thick and flavourful, this dish, I’ve decided, is best eaten in small portions so that there is no overkill. A smaller portion would have left one sufficiently contented instead of feeling that the dish was too large to finish.

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Teh tarik that was too strong.

In conclusion, the food was good. We actually ordered one more dish but were very glad that they had run out of that dish. There was nothing else we wanted so we did not replace the dish with another and that was fortunate, as we would not have been able to finish everything. Price wise, we could have eaten nice penang assam laksa elsewhere for lesser. As for the bojari, that is a signature dish of Madam Kwan’s and I have not found it anywhere else unless clones appear overnight.

So if one is craving for Malaysian food and does not mind spending more for larger portions of food, this place will give you hearty portions (you should see the size of their otah) for the price one pays. Apart from the assam laksa which I felt was too large a portion and correspondingly, too expensive a price, the price of the nasi bojari was in line with the location and the type of restaurant that Madam Kwan’s is, in Singapore.

I reread my old review of Madam Kwan’s in KL and I have to say that between the two outlets, the food in the outlet in KL seemed simpler. It did not need to try so hard to prove anything as it was already proven. The outlet in Singapore has a certain reputation to live up to. The food has to be as good as the food in KL, at the very least, and on top of that it has to hold its own against neighbouring restaurants and their mouth-watering menus.

Madam Kwan’s at Vivo City serves a wider variety of drinks including alcohol which helps to position the restaurant as a serious sit-down eating place offering a Malaysian dining experience and not just one serving high-priced hawkerfare.

Madam Kwan’s, 1 Harbourfront Walk, Vivo City, #01-152 – 155, Singapore 098585. Tel: 6271 9989.

Peranakan again

We decided to come here again for the other foods. This time we ordered the ayam goreng rempah (spiced fried chicken), bayam (spinach) with garlic (again), ngoh hiang (vegetables and minced meat wrapped in beancurd roll and fried) and otah (fish paste wrapped in banana leaf and grilled). For dessert, we had the sago gula melaka (again) and pulut inti (glutinous rice topped with coconut shavings that have been dipped in gula melaka. The whole meal was wonderful, except for the ngoh hiang which we could have done without as it was too dry and did not taste authentic. In fact, it tasted a little commercialised.

The prices here are really affordable and one can have dinner and dessert as well.

Ivins, Heartland Mall, 2nd floor, Kovan, Singapore. The more well-known outlet is at Binjai Park, Bukit Timah.

Ayam goreng rempah (Spiced fried chicken). This was seriously good.

Bayam (spinach) with garlic. This was as good as when we had it the last time.

Otah which we had not had before. It would have been nice if we could taste the fish bits in it a little more but this was a decent piece, nevertheless.

Ngohiang which turned out to be a disappointment. I think if they had fried the whole thing as a roll and then sliced it, instead of slicing it and frying them individually, it would have been less dry and taste better.

Pulut inti is glutinous rice, steamed in coconut milk, and eaten with shredded coconut that has been mixed with gula melaka. The pulut (glutinous rice) is also lightly coloured with bunga telang or blue pea flower, which gives it a nice natural blue colour. It is then wrapped in banana leaves. I used to eat this growing up and I still like it now.

The pulut inti with the banana leaf removed. The blue colour from the blue pea flower is just noticeable.

Sago gula melaka which consists of coconut cream and gula melaka poured over boiled sago and ice shavings.

Love is sweet

Chinta Manis, which means ‘sweet love’ in Malay, caught my attention. I was curious to know if the food here was as good as love is sweet. One could certainly smell the fragrance of their food, especially their shrimp paste based, curries. We had dinner at this peranakan restaurant. We ordered one of their house specialties — peranakan set which consisted of curry chicken, beef rendang, serunding (fried grated coconut) and achar (pickled vegetables). This came with a choice of tea or coffee and dessert, which was a kueh.

I ordered another house specialty, laksa. It was rice noodles in a spicy shrimp paste, curry sauce with prawns, hard-boiled egg and dried tofu.

Verdict? Good enough to come back to again. Next time, I’ll try their peranakan pattiserie and kuehs.

Sometime ago I reviewed another peranakan food place. That place had a wider range of food choices which this one did not have. But their sets are certainly value for money.

Chinta Manis, 02-43/45, 238 Thomson Road Singapore 307683. Tel: 6254 1727.

This peranakan set was a hearty meal and really worth it!

Laksa. The gravy was rich without being overly spicy. Just nice.

Nyonya delight

We came here a couple of years ago and did not think much of the food then. It serves peranakan or Straits (Chinese Malay) food. I decided to try the place again as it has been a while since we had peranakan food. The place has moved from the earlier location in the same mall.

Peranakan refers to a group of people known as Straits-born Chinese. This refers to the descendants of Chinese immigrants who had intermarried with the local Malay folks. They are found predominantly in Penang, Malacca and Singapore. Many of them speak English and Malay rather than Chinese and the food that they are well-known for, is a mixture of Chinese and Malay cooking, or peranakan. Many of them were well-educated in English and they have managed to preserve their culture till today.

The most outstanding dish out of the three that we ordered turned out to be the bayam (spinach) cooked with garlic. It really was yummy and not at all overcooked as the vegetables still had their crunch in them. The other two dishes were so-so. This place has reviewed quite well for its food and there are other more authentic peranakan dishes that one could try. The other draw were the kuehs that were sold at the counter near the entrance. I love gula melaka and so dessert was a must.

Gula melaka or palm sugar is made out of the sap of coconut flower buds. The sap is then boiled until it thickens and solidified in small bamboo tubes. Gula melaka is commonly used in Malay and peranakan dessert. It can also be used as a sweetener instead of sugar syrup.

Ivins, Heartland Mall, 2nd floor, Kovan, Singapore. The more well-known outlet is at Binjai Park, Bukit Timah.

Egg fuyong or egg omelette looked better than it actually tasted.

Honey pork strips. This would have been better if they had not coated the pork slices or perhaps coat them lesser with whatever they were coated with. We still ate them all.

Bayam or local spinach with garlic. This was the nicest of the three dishes we ordered.

Chendol with ice shavings. It had corn and red beans at the bottom.

Pulut inti. This dessert brought back memories. I loved this.

Sago with gula melaka which I also loved.

Pulut inti(left) and kohswee