Blue Ginger, Tanjong Pagar
I've never been a huge fan of Peranakan (Malaysian Chinese) food, but Blue Ginger (97 Tanjong Pagar Road, 6222-3928) is a nice place to bring visitors to get a unique taste that they can't really get elsewhere. I was decently impressed today as the food wasn't as sweet as I remembered it - instead, it had a good spicy kick to it. Being the big fan of eggplant that I am, I loved the Sambal Terong Goreng ("Deep fried eggplant ladened with fresh chilli paste and sweet soya sauce") thanks to its salty spicy toppings. Bakwan Kepeting ("A traditional recipe of minced pork and crabmeat shaped into meatballs accompanied with fine slices of bamboo shoots" in a soup) also struck a chord with me - a clean light taste yet still savory. The little pickles for the starter (kinda like tsukemono but spicy) similarly motivated me to grab more.
One interesting dish was the Ayam Buah Keluak ("Braised chicken flavoured with turmeric, galangal and lemongrass cooked with Indonesian black nuts") - these nuts looked a bit like hazelnuts, and you're supposed to scoop out the black insides to accompany your rice. They were mildly bitter and looked a bit odd, but it was better than I thought it would be (it tasted a bit like Chinese black bean sauce).
Still, there are a number of Peranakan dishes that I'm still not a huge fan of. I never really liked the fishy taste of Otak Otak ("Prepared in our kitchen, our homemade fishcake recipe will tantalize your taste buds with turmeric and lime leaves enriched with galangal, chilli, candlenuts and shrimp paste" wrapped in leaves). The ginger and spices in Beef Rendang are also common in other localized dishes (like Burger King's Rendang burger) - a bit of a turn off for me. The Ngo Heong ("Homemade rolls of minced pork and prawns seasoned with five spice powder wrapped and fried to crispy golden brown") and Kueh Pie Tee ("Shredded bamboo shoots and turnips garnished with shrimp in pie tee cups") were decent, but not something I'd come back for. Still, today's meal impressed me more than I would have thought. Next time we bring an out-of-towner to this place, we've gotta get the soup and eggplant.