sug­gests some of Sin­ga­pore’s best haunts for Per­anakan food and cul­ture

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

As soon as I walk into Rumah Bebe bou­tique in the for­mer Per­anakan heart­land of Ka­tong, I know it’s danger­ous. This her­itage shop groans with beau­ti­ful crock­ery, or­na­ments, art­work, rows of del­i­cate ke­bayas and jew­ellery.

I snap up a lovely pair of mar­c­a­site ear­rings edged with pieces of jade; my sis­ter buys a pretty red ke­baya. The owner, Bebe Seet, is not here to­day but she smiles down on us from her por­trait on the wall, which shows her wear­ing a ke­baya and sewing beaded slip­pers, a favourite ac­ces­sory of Per­anakan women.

Built in 1928, Rumah Bebe is a na­tional land­mark and serves as a keeper of Per­anakan tra­di­tions. Seet con­ducts cook­ing and bead­ing classes and tours of the shop ex­plain­ing the or­nate gold-gilded wooden screens, colour­ful glazed tiles and the bridal cham­ber. 113 East Coast Rd, Ka­tong; www.rumah­bebe.com.

A short stroll down East Coast Road from Rumah Bebe is Ka­tong An­tique House, owned by Peter Wee, a fourth-gen­er­a­tion Per­anakan and vice-pres­i­dent of the 1700-strong Per­anakan As­so­ci­a­tion. It’s an­other trea­sure trove of art, crock­ery, fur­ni­ture and cloth­ing. 208 East Coast Rd, Ka­tong; +65 6345 8544.

Ka­tong and nearby Joo Chiat hang on to Per­anakan tra­di­tions and both sub­urbs are dot­ted with lit­tle eater­ies and bak­eries as well as many charm­ing two-storey shop­houses painted in pinks, blues and other pretty hues.

The prize for en­durance goes to those nonyas who made the 1sq m table­cloth out of no fewer than 1 mil­lion beads, fea­tur­ing a sul­phur-crested cock­a­too among other birds. Pretty girlie things are on sale down­stairs in the mu­seum store, which is next door to a Per­anakan restau­rant, True Blue, which serves a mean ayam buah

Clas­sic shop­house: The Blue Gin­ger restau­rant

Per­anakan or nonya cui­sine blends Chi­nese in­gre­di­ents with Malay herbs and spices such as chilli, shal­lots and le­mon­grass, can­dlenuts, turmeric and bela­can (prawn paste).

Eater­ies in­clude for hand­made wafer-thin poh piah (spring roll) skins on grid­dles and yummy spring rolls. 95 Joo Chiat Rd.

a few blocks from Rumah Bebe, is the place to buy nonya chang (dumplings), pineap­ple tarts and Pan­dan cake. 139 East Coast Rd; www.glo­ryca­ter­ing.com.sg.

A Per­anakan stal­wart is restau­rant. It opened in 1953 and con­tin­ues to serve sig­na­ture dishes such as ayam buah keluak and otak otak (fish, co­conut milk, chilli paste and galan­gal wrapped in ba­nana leaf). 214 Joo Chiat Rd; www.guan­hoe­soon.com.

One of the most ac­claimed Per­anakan restau­rants in Sin­ga­pore is in a clas­sic shop­house build­ing in Chi­na­town. Its en­tic­ing menu fea­tures nonya fish-head curry of red snap­per with ladies fin­gers and egg­plant. 97 Tan­jong Pa­gar Rd; www.the­blueg­in­ger.com. keluak (braised chicken with turmeric, galan­gal and le­mon­grass with In­done­sian black nuts).

All of which makes this fas­ci­nat­ing at­trac­tion a one-stop cul­tural shop.

www.per­anakan­mu­seum.sg

Sin­ga­pore

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