A Foodie's Guide To Singapore’s Peranakan Cuisine

13 April 2015
Read Time: 1.2 mins

When a posse of famous chefs craved a true taste of Singapore while attending the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant awards last February, their hosts took them to the Candlenut.

This stark white-walled restaurant is the place to sample the brilliant but somewhat controversial Peranakan (the term refers to the descendants of long-ago Chinese immigrants) cooking of chef Malcolm Lee, 31. When he moved here in 2013, Lee wanted to preserve and update (this is what has been controversial) the style of cooking also known as Nyonya, which is an intriguing hybrid of Chinese ingredients with Malaysian and Indonesian spices and techniques.

48 hours marinated pork ribs, grilled & glazed with kicap manis

A photo posted by Candlenut (@candlenutsg) on

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Singapore Street Food – Stewed, Sliced & Steamed

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“The Peranakan kitchen is my heritage,’’ says Lee, who ran a Western-style cafe before becoming a champion of Peranakan food.

“To save what has always been home cooking, I translate it into a restaurant idiom. Otherwise it will be lost. I also tweak it to appeal to a city obsessed by foreign foods.”

A luscious example of this is his riff on ayam buah keluak, a Peranakan classic whose hauntingly good umami-rich sauce is made from the nuts of the Pangium edule tree, which grows in mangrove swamps. The nuts have to be soaked for five days after being shelled to remove the toxins. Traditionally, it’s made with chicken (ayam), but Lee also does a version with wagyu beef short ribs, slow-cooked beforehand.

“Cooking the ingredients separately protects their taste,” says Lee, who brines the chicken for extra flavour. Other dishes not to miss at Candlenut include yellow coconut crab curry and buah keluak ice-cream, made with Valrhona chocolate. “All kitchens have to innovate to stay alive,” says Lee.

Mango Snow: Compressed mango, calamansi lime sorbet, yoghurt snow A photo posted by Candlenut (@candlenutsg) on

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This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

This article was written by Alexander Lobrano from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Alexander Lobrano

Paris based food-and-travel writer Alexander Lobrano is the author of Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France. He blogs at alexanderlobrano.com