We are in the midst of a Peranakan renaissance. Now more than ever, we are seeing an increasing number of local chefs returning to their roots and opening restaurants to share the dishes they’ve grown up with.
Peranakan cuisine stands out for its complex, earthy flavours and rich textures. Key ingredients include coconut milk, pandan leaves, tamarind, belachan (fermented shrimp paste), and buah keluak (the seed of the kepayang tree). Herbs, sauces, and nuts also form the backbone of many aromatic sauces and spice pastes — put through the techniques adopted from archipelagic Southeast Asia.
These time-honoured dishes can be notoriously difficult to master, so we have nothing but reverence for the chefs who dedicate their careers to refining their craft. Here’s a round-up of the top 10 Peranakan restaurants in Singapore for you to try.
(Main and featured image: Violet Oon Singapore)
Candlenut is the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant. The restaurant is helmed by Chef Malcolm Lee, who has brought the cuisine to the next level while retaining its authentic flavour. The restaurant uses the best seasonal produce to innovate and elevate the cuisine. The menu spans a wide selection of decadent curries and wok-based dishes, such as Blue Swimmer Crab Curry, Wagyu Beef Rendang, and Buah Keluak Fried Rice.
Violet Oon needs no introduction. While National Kitchen brands itself as a Peranakan restaurant, diners can also expect Eurasian and Singaporean dishes. Begin your meal with humble starters such as Keuh Pie Tee and Ngoh Hiang, before feasting on heartier mains like Ayam Buah Keluak and Daging Chabeck Beef Cheek. The Meatless Meatball Rendang (consisting of walnut and cheese dumplings) is also an excellent choice for vegetarians who don’t wish to give up familiar flavours.
Ivins is an old-school eatery that serves up affordable Peranakan fare. The classic dishes here don’t disappoint. The babi tauyu (braised pork belly) is incredibly tender, while the curry nyonya fish head is fresh and succulent. End your meal with desserts such as buboh cha cha, pulot hitam, and chendol.
The Blue Ginger was founded with the vision of creating memorable feasts for the whole family. The restaurant is located in an expansive shophouse and is perfect for a laid-back meal. Expect classics like Otak Otak, Nyonya Fish Head curry, and Babi Pong Tay (stewed pork shoulder). Opt for the Durian Chendol for an indulgent end to the meal.
Indocafe might be a familiar sight for those who frequent Scotts Road. The restaurant is housed in a colonial Black-and-White bungalow and offers a modern take on Malacca-style Peranakan cuisine (a version that’s closer to Indonesian cooking). Signature dishes include Kueh Pie Tee, Organic Ayam Buah Keluak, Wagyu Beef Rendang, and Chendol Panna Cotta. The restaurant’s vast selection of Indonesian single blend coffees also makes a welcome addition to any meal.
Indigo Blue Kitchen was founded by Les Amis Group Chairman Mr Desmond Lim, who was inspired by his fold memories of growing up in a Peranakan household. The restaurant serves up refined renditions of classic dishes, such as Ikan Kurau, Sotong Sumbat (squid stuffed with pork and prawn), Satay Babi Lemak (satay stir fried in candlenut and coconut cream sauce).
Straits Chinese is part of the Guan Hoe See Group, which founded Singapore’s first nyonya restaurant in 1953. The Cecil Street outlet has received Michelin bib gourmand accolades three years in a row, reflecting its consistent dedication to serving authentic Peranakan fare. The Curry Fish Head, Nonya Chap Chye, and Babi Pongteh prove to be the most popular options here.
True Blue Cuisine is dedicated to breathing new life into Peranakan food and culture. Antique wood furniture and opulent ornaments adorn the interior. The restaurant has been on Michelin’s bib gourmand list since 2013. Ayam Buah Keluak, Beef Rendang, Ngoh Hang, and Chap Chye are amongst some of their signature dishes. If you’re looking for a true cultural experience, be sure to request either the Sulam or Intan Rooms: the former displays stunning hand-embroidered kebayas while the latter is a heavily gilded room showcasing fine antique Peranakan jewellery.
Chilli Padi has been a stalwart of the Peranakan food scene for decades. The quaint restaurant is nestled away in Joo Chiat and is also renowned for their catering services. Must-trys include Kueh Pie Tee, Ayam Rendang, and Ikan Assam.
Housed in the Keppel Club, Peramakan is helmed by Kathryn Ho, a fourth-generation Nyonya of Malacca and Penang heritage. The restaurant was founded on the desire to preserve the rich culinary heritage and prides itself in making its spice pastes (rempah). The menu boasts classic dishes such as Ayam Buah Keluak and Beef Rendang. Seafood fans can savour Sambal Sotong and the citrus-tinged Udang Goreng Assam (deep-fried prawns marinated in tamarind). Dessert enthusiasts will be pleased to tuck into Bubor Cha Cha (steamed yams and sweet potatoes), Sago Gula Melaka, and Durian Pengat (Durian mousse) for dessert.