The Dining Room at Sheraton Towers, with guest chef Shermay Lee
If you’re craving for boldly flavoured authentic Nonya food, make your way to Sheraton Towers on the weekends of April 7 to 29. Sixth-generation Nyonya, Shermay Lee, will be presenting her authentic Peranakan creations at The Dining Room’s buffet dinner spread on those evenings. Le Cordon Bleu-trained Shermay will be collaborating with Sheraton Towers’ executive chef Eric Cheam and his culinary team to rustle up the traditional feast based on Shermay and her late grandmother’s original recipes
“Being in the kitchen with my grandma. I was only five years old, so too young to learn the technical rudiments of cooking although I wish I had. But I absorbed and felt her passion and enthusiasm for cooking. She was industrious. She could cook many dishes and in large volumes from a simple small domestic kitchen, preparing tiffin carriers (tingkats) for extended family to swing by and collect it after work. It was like a food takeaway service; but more so, it was an act of love,” says Shermay.
The Peranakan spread showcases more than 20 meticulously prepared heritage dishes. Highlights include tangy udang nanas pedas comprising fresh prawns and pineapples laced with a spicy gravy, and succulent char siew roasted with Shermay’s specially concocted meat marinade. Her version of Nyonya chap chai is laden with cabbage, Chinese mushroom, glass noodles, pork belly and dried tofu skin simmered in a robust stock. “The foundation of a good chap chai is a substantial amount of good rempah, in terms of quality and flavour balance, then pork belly is added for rich meaty flavour, and raw prawn meat for sweet seafood flavour. Each vegetable has to be added in stages so that each ingredient has the correct cooking timing to control the texture and doneness. Finally, mung bean noodles (tunghoon) are added at the very last, gentley stirred in so that it won’t break up and remains in long strands. This is a dish that is often overcooked and overlooked, usually served as a poor man’s version, a thoughtless mushy vegetable stew. The Peranakans elevated by using better and more ingredients, also using a rempah-pork-prawn stock base,” shares Shermay.
Shermay’s boldly flavoured buah keluak made with chicken thigh, pork ribs and buah keluak nuts requires three days of preparation. This is her grandmother’s rendition to include both chicken and pork ribs. ‘”I keep true to her traditional hand-written recipe. I think because pork is richer in flavour that chicken, but too much pork might be simply too much. The mix of both makes the dish taste more interesting, have more depth and dimension,” she says. “I think ayam buah keluak is an iconic Peranakan dish and for good reason. There are many ways to prepare it although there are key elements which make it a good ayam buah keluak. Some recipes require the buah keluak paste to be filled with lard (pork fat), again for mouth-feel richness, and prawn meat for sweetness, it then takes on different texture. In keeping with my grandma’s original recipe which must be at least three generations or 50 years old, I only add sugar and salt for flavour. The paste is finely pounded by hand so that it is rich, smooth, woodsy and earthy – I often think of it as Asian truffle paste. When it is smeared on white rice, it is absolutely divine for buah keluak aficionados.”
At the DIY station, diners can make their own Nyonya rojak from an assortment of bite-sized fruits and vegetables, perfumed with a sprinkling of shredded pink ginger bud, as well as popiah and kueh pie tee. Complete the meal with an array of sweet treats such as traditional Peranakan kuehs, bandung rose jelly and chendol coconut ice cream at the DIY station.
Unlimited servings of assorted Keropok and Shermay’s signature sauces such as the cilicuka (Peranakan chilli sauce) with varying levels of spiciness and sambal hijau are available as accompaniments.
The weekend dinner buffet will also include its usual fresh seafood on ice as well as local favourites like bak kut teh and chicken rice.
Peranakan Dinner Buffet
Sat and Sun, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29 April 2018
7pm to 10pm
Price: $68 per person
Tel: 6839 5621
The Clifford Pier at The Fullerton Bay Hotel, with guest chef Philip Chia
Guest chef Philip Chia returns to The Clifford Pier at The Fullerton Bay Hotel to whip up a hearty Peranakan feast from now to April 13. Philip, who is also a cookbook author, cooks for private dining events and Peranakan food promotions. “When I was between the ages of six and 14 years old, my nanny, Madam Lim Lian Neo imparted her Peranakan cooking techniques and recipes to me and sparked my life-long passion for the craft. After my nanny passed away, I continued to learn about Peranakan food and culture from my “Makko” or my father’s eldest sister and have since appeared in cooking and baking shows to promote Peranakan food,” says Philip.
One of the unique Nonya dishes served during this special promotion include babi tohay – braised pork belly slow-cooked with fermented shrimp and red rice yeast. “This recipe was taught by a close family friend, the late Mr Lee Eng Liang. Subsequent, this recipe was further refined by family friends, Mr Tan Kim Guan and auntie Mrs Rosie Gwee – who opened my eyes to the variety of ways I could prepare the Tohay Paste. What makes it extra laborious is that the shrimp have to be fermented for up to a week before they are mixed with brandy and ang kat (red rice yeast) for marinating the pork,” says Philip. For the heritage menu, he’s also whipping up his version of gulai kambing (thick lamb curry with a Thai-Penang influence), and itek sio, a succulent duck braised in a thick tamarind and roasted coriander sauce.
And there is of course the quintessential ayam buah keluak. “There are many versions of ayam buah keluak by many Peranakan households, each with their own family spin to the recipe. For me, a specific proportion of each spice in the spice blend for this dish is essential to bringing out the best in each individual flavour profile, thus creating a robust and punchy-tasting dish,” shares Philip. He adds, “Staying true to traditional preparation techniques for Peranakan spice blends remains very important to my interpretation of Peranakan food and I hope these techniques will continue to be passed down through generations. At the moment, I am training a young but mature Western-trained chef who is of Peranakan descent and is keen in learning the craft of true Peranakan Cuisine. His name is Dominic Chow.”
For desserts, you’ll get to savour nonya kueh, pulut hitam with longan and coconut ice cream, or the richly flavoured durian pengat ice cream topped with fresh durian purée.
Mon to Fri, Set lunch: 12pm to 2.30pm two-course set lunch at $35 per person, three-course set lunch at $39 per person. Set dinner 6.30pm to 10pm four-course set dinner at $68 per person. (There are also a la carte dishes priced from $16).
Sat and Sun: 6.30pm to 10pm heritage buffet dinner at $68 per person
Tel: 6877 8911 / 8912. www.fullertonhotels.com