Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Peranakan Cuisine and Tim's Farewell

This is a great way to start your day. Some vitamin water, some waffles with butter and maple-flavored golden syrup. Look closely at the vitamin water's label. It's very Singapore-specific. Now that's damn good marketing. At the time, I didn't realize that it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The day started normal enough. Sophie and I met Alex and Heath at Paya Lebar Station. They wanted to show us Joo Chiat neighborhood and then take us to a Peranakan Restauant for lunch.

Joo Chiat is a predominantly Malay neighborhood where a lot of older buildings are still standing. It's full of pastel colored pre-war shophouses that reminded me of houses in San Francisco, but with an Asian flair. Some of the buildings are residential only, and others also have shops on the ground floor level. 
Unfortunately a crime had recently been committed in the area, so one of the over-sized "Crime Alert" signs had been put up to warn everyone.

Sophie, Heath, Alex and me in Joo Chiat Road

Singapore was a major trade post for the British, Dutch and other Western countries in the 15th and 16th centuries. Many traders decided to settle permanently in Singapore and married local women from China, Malaya or India. The term Peranakan, meaning 'descendant' in Malay, refers to the culture and people born of local mothers and foreign fathers. They also sometimes call themselves Baba Nonya, Baba referring to the gentlemen and Nonya the ladies. If you'd like to learn more about Peranakan culture, you can visit the Peranakan museum, which allows you to explore and learn about the culture through the many artifacts on display in the setting of a colonial style building from 1912.

Alex and Heath took us to a Nonya Peranakan Restaurant so we could taste the traditional home-style cuisine which is a unique blend of Malay, Chinese and other cuisines. The food at Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant was of course absolutely delicious. My favorite dishes were two-fold: The first was the "Top Hats" appetizer, which came with six crunchy pastry shells filled with sautéed turnips and topped with lettuce, a prawn, and a tasty sweet and sour sauce. The second was a dish called Beef Rendang. The beef was cooked in coconut milk and was so tender it was falling apart. We also tried some very nice desserts, and I really liked the Sour Sop Kachang, which was Sour Sop (a type of fruit) over ice shavings.

"Top Hats"

Clockwise from lower left: a spicy fish cake wrapped in cabbage, a chicken dish, beef rendang, and squid with beans

The desserts: The one in the top right corner is Sour Sop Kachang, below that is Sego Gula Melaka (similar to tapioca pearls, but made from the sego palm and topped with palm sugar), and I can't remember the one Sophie got in the top left corner but it was quite colorful! 

In the evening we went to Tim's going away gathering, which of course took place at his favorite hangout: the pedestrian bridge in Clarke Quay. 

While waiting for more people to turn up, Sophie and I noticed a strange guy sitting near us who kept looking over our way. Before we could warn Tim and the others, it was too late. He had already engaged Tim in conversation. Sensing an introduction on the horizon, Sophie and I promptly decided not to give Mr Creepy our real names, as if that would make him go away any faster. It didn't work, and he ended up drinking a lot of our beer and tried to hit on us by talking about how big his muscles were and bragging how easy it was to smoke marijuana without getting in trouble. Thank you, but I'd rather not end up in jail. 

I'm not quite sure what Tim's doing.

"Everybody on your knees!" we suddenly hear somebody shout. Ready to drop down and surrender my wallet thinking a highway robbery was taking place, I was relieved to discover it was only a local pub crawl on their way to a night of self-obliteration. Everyone in the group had to get on their knees and take a shot of a pink Bacardi liquor before the pub crawl could resume. Sensing the opportunity to be in the spotlight AND get free alcohol, I instantly joined the queue, pretending to be part of the crawl. I didn't fool anyone and lots of people started shouting, especially when they saw Julius join as well. It was a fun photo-op, and because of my craziness, the guy let me stay and gave me the last shot afterall! 

Joining the pub crawl queue
Okay, so we maybe we didn't end up passing out and waking up the next day somewhere in Clarke Quay with dried Mee Goreng stuck to our faces, but we had a pretty good time and we hope Tim managed to catch his flight the next day thanks to the Red Bull we gave him as a going-away present. God knows he probably needed it. 

1 comment:

  1. Aw Kelly I miss you! This was a great post!! I like that bit of forshadowing what was to come via the label on the Vitamin Water. And I can imagine you two trying to ignore the weirdo and then trying to join that Pub Crawl queue. Hope the last two months are even better than the first!