When I learned that my cousin was still in town, we arranged to meet up and I asked to meet at a restaurant serving Nyonya food. The Nyonya people, or Peranakans, descended from very early Chinese immigrants to Malaysia and who adopted many Malay customs. Nyonya cuisine has developed since then and isn’t really Chinese food nor is it Malay food but it has incorporated characteristics of both. Our mothers both cooked wonderful Nyonya food and I was looking for that wonderfulness again.
I was taken to True Blue Cuisine, a restaurant housed in a narrow colonial building that doubles up as a Nyonya museum and shop too. Upstairs is a small restaurant with beautiful Nyonya pottery (all on loan) displayed all around. We sat down, were presented with delicious prawn crackers and fried spicy prawn rolls (tiny deep-fried spring rolls filled with a very spicy dried prawn mixture), and then were left to peruse the enticing menu.
We decided on two salads not listed on the menu but were specials of the day: pomelo and banana blossom. The banana blossom salad turned out to be the spiciest thing on the table! I love the idea of a pomelo salad too – there’s a Thai recipe I’ve been sitting on for a while and now I really want to make it, having tried the version at True Blue. We were told the orchids on the pomelo salad were edible but they tasted of not much and so most were left behind.
Fried ngoh hiang – five spice meat rolls, wrapped in bean curd skin. These are usually made of pork but this restaurant was halal and so ours were chicken. Delicious – but larger than I was used to. I usually like them with a smaller diameter so they have more of the crispy wrapper.
Ayam pongteh – chicken stewed in preserved soy beans. I know this description probably doesn’t induce crazed drooling; the preserved soy beans are sort of like miso, if you can imagine. This was very flavourful and was a very comforting dish.
Chap chye – braised mixed vegetables, with bean threads, mushrooms, cabbage, fungus, etc. Just like my mother used to make – authentic!
Finally, a deep-fried pomfret fish covered in spicy chili sambal. Despite the ferocious look of that chili sambal, this wasn’t too hot. Very tasty and again reminded me of home and my Mom’s delicious fried fish. This isn’t something I plan on cooking in the near future as our tiny flat will stink of fish and oil and so I like to take the few opportunities I have to eat it. Before I forget, everything was served with white rice, of course!
Dinner was finished with pulut hitam (sweetened black glutinous rice cooked with coconut milk) and pomelo with mango puree. Unusually, the pulut hitam was mixed with very sweet dried fruits – not my thing. The pomelo, though, was very refreshing and I’m delighted to have tried it!
After dinner, we walked downstairs to the shop and perused their range of handmade Nyonya goodies. I picked up 2 jars of pineapple tarts (one each of their soft and crispy pastry ones. We’ve already worked through the soft ones – delicious!) and debated whether to get a jar of their achar, Nyonya pickles. Unfortunately, the achar was frozen and it would have been a little difficult bringing them home! They also sell beautiful clothes made of handmade batiks – sarongs and kebayas (traditional Nyonya wear) and silk scarves (which we also purchased!). Ah, eating and shopping – it made for a terrific night.
True Blue Cuisine
117 East Coast Rd., 2nd floor
47/49 Armenian Street