Nasi Ulam at Chendol Melaka on Jalan Tua Kong, off Upper East Coast Road

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It is said that Peranakan cuisine is designed as a system of control by the matriarchs: the food is as delicious as it is tedious to prepare. The former is a trump card to manage errant husbands and the latter to keep daughter-in-laws busy under an iron fist. This power play also gives rise to a very discerning palate.

Katong is well-known, among other things, for its concentration of Peranakan, but where do the Peranakan ladies gather for lunch?

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Well, most of the time they gather at Chendol Melaka run by Daisy Tan and her partner on Jalan Tua Kong. It is in a very small coffee shop called Soy Eu Tua (“Small yet Big”).

Daisy started out selling Chendol, a sweet dessert featuring Coconut milk and Gula Melaka and Peranakan Curry Chicken.

I like Daisy’s Chendol because it is a minimalist Chendol that focuses on the Gula Melaka and coconut milk. The coconut milk is light yet surprisingly tasty and perfectly complements the Gula Melaka which has depth without being too sweet. It is a refreshing change from the complicated syrupy sweet chendol from your usual hawker stalls.

Often overlooked is the Peranakan Chicken Curry. The curry is more liquid and much lighter but spicier than the earthy Indian version but it makes for good dipping with the baguette. The chicken shreds satisfactorily with a spoon. Daisy said that the hard-boiled egg is characteristic of a Peranakan Chicken Curry. It was so good that we ordered a second helping.

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However, what everyone is raving about is her Nasi Ulam which she started selling about a year ago. As the name implies, it’s a rice salad (Ulam) made up of a lot of ingredients like hand-shredded Ikan Tengiri (Spanish Mackerel), Kaffir Lime leaves, toasted coconut flakes and other herbs and spices. This is Peranakan cuisine at its most minimalist and most tedious. But the end result is a taste explosion in every mouthful.

Unfortunately I’ve had seriously awesome Nasi Ulam made by a Peranakan Matriarch and Daisy’s does not come close. However, I don’t think you can find Nasi Ulam being sold elsewhere because of the tediousness. So Daisy’s Nasi Ulam is the best you can buy this side of Singapore and only a limited quantity is made every day.

Daisy’s Nasi Ulam comes with a small dot of sambal chili. This chili comes with a warning that should be heeded seriously by non-Peranakans: when you bite into it, it bites back.

Some may comment that Daisy’s Nasi Ulam is expensive but I would invite them to try making Nasi Ulam on their own. Besides, the Nasi Ulam sells out by lunch time.

Word of advice: if you do the Nasi Ulam takeaway, don’t let it sit in the container for too long because the coconut inside will ferment very quickly with the warm rice and turn everything sour.

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The Nonya Kueh at her stall is made by someone else and Daisy, being an avid golfer, closes shop as soon as everything sells out (around 2-3pm). So it’s best to catch her in the mornings, especially if you want the Nasi Ulam.

The Soy Eu Tua Coffee Shop also houses a noodle shop and their Bak Chor Mee is worth taking a look at.

Chendol Melaka is inside the Soy Eu Tua Coffee Shop, 15 Upper East Coast Road (Jalan Tua Kong), 10am-5pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 9am-5pm (Saturdays and Sundays). Closed Mondays.


Posted on 25th Oct 2013 in Food and Drink, Peranakan, Singapore

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