You know how it's been said that the prevalence of foreigners in a restaurant is a sure sign that the food there is watered down or unauthentic? This generalization certainly didn't hold true when we recently dined at The Blue Ginger, a popular Peranakan restaurant at the very-centrally-located-but-with-nightmarish-parking-woes Tanjong Pagar Road.While there were foreigners aplenty dining alongside us, we thought the cuisine was very authentic.
The Blue Ginger is one of few names that come to mind whenever Peranakan food is mentioned in Singapore. They're consistently featured on most "Best Eats" lists, because they serve up food that even a finicky matriarch would have little to complain about. While they aren't as cheap as Ivins, or have portions as big as Ivins, their ambience is decidedly more upscale than Ivins' casual style. You do pay a little extra for the nicer ambience, but we still thought that our dinner was very reasonably priced.
A small note is that reservations for dinner are a must (unless you plan to eat dinner at 9.30pm), as the small-ish restaurant is perpetually a full-house every night.
We started off with some Kueh Pie Tee ($7), crisp savoury buttery cups filled with stewed shredded bamboo shoots and turnip, and garnished with half a boiled prawn and a kickass sambal. This was delicious, I could have eaten several portions of this on its own for a full meal.
Babi Pong Tay ($9.90) is the Fiance's favourite Peranakan dish (he's Baba on his Dad's side), and The Blue Ginger's rendition didn't disappoint. Fatty and decadent pork belly was stewed with preserved bean paste and flavoured with cinnamon bark till it was melt-worthy. The only teensy tiny gripe we had about this dish was that the green chillis should have been allowed to infuse their heat into the dish for a little dimension, instead of simply being used as a garnish.
The Ayam Panggang "Blue Ginger" ($11.50), a house specialty was understandably a hit as well. Tender boneless chicken was first grilled to a smoky sweetish finish and then slathered in a thick, ginger-and-lemongrass-spiced coconut milk paste. This was a nice balance of sweet, spicy, salty and sourish flavours.
The Chap Chye Masak Titek ($9.50) here was one of the best versions of this mixed veggie dish I've had in a long long time. Cabbage, clear vermicelli, black fungus and sweet bean cake were stewed till soft, but not soggy, in a sufficiently rich prawn stock, preserved bean paste and sambal for some heat. This was rich, flavoursome and thoroughly satisfying.
For dessert, we had the very refreshing and classic Peranakan dessert of Chendol ($4), red beans and pandan-flavoured jelly in freshly squeezed coconut milk sweetened with gula melaka, cane sugar that's known for its caramel-like sweetness. For those who don't know, it tastes like burnt caramel. We loved this for its icy coolness and nuanced sweetness.
The green jelly was slippery, plump and totally slurpworthy.
We also sampled the other classically Peranakan dessert of Sago Gula Melaka ($4) with tiny iridescent pearl sago beads and honey sea coconut strips in coconut milk-infused shaved ice and a liberal drizzling of gula melaka. This was really quite the same taste, albeit a little sweeter because gula melaka features more in this dessert, but with different ingredients.
The complimentary Achar appetizer to whet our tastebuds. Good but fairly ordinary.
The Blue Ginger
97 Tanjong Pagar Road
Tel: 6222 3928
Open daily from 12noon to 2.15pm for lunch and 6.30pm to 10pm for dinner