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Introduction to Peranakan Indian Cuisine by Chitty Melaka Association Singapore & Allspice Institute

This evening was my introduction to Chitty Melaka Peranakan Indian cuisine. 

The marvellous dinner organised by the Peranakan Indian (Chitty Melaka) Association Singapore, Allspice Institute and Dempsey Project was in conjunction with the soft launch of the world's first Peranakan Indian cook book.

Heritage Food of the Peranakan Indians: In the Chitty Melaka Kitchen is a labour of love showcasing 100 of the community's favourite recipes from everyday staples to festive specials.

Clarence Ling, founder and principal of Allspice Institute played a leading role in conceiving and bringing this important historic document of the Peranakan Indian community to fruition.

Co-edited by Jasmine Tan (above) and Rowena Row, the book is a collaborative effort combining the talents of editors, photographers, chefs, home cooks, from the Peranakan Indian community and Allspice Institute. Most of the recipes are painstakingly transcribed from Baba patois narrated by nenek (grandmas), the stewards of the community's culinary heritage.

Baba Ponno Kalastree, President of the Peranakan Indian (Chitty Melaka) Association.

The history and culture of Peranakan Indians are carefully weaved into the book along with the treasured heirloom recipes.

Indian traders from India's Coromandel Coast had been coming to the Malay archipelago to trade since the first century. These traders followed the monsoons to the Malay archipelago. In the days of sail, they had to wait for the wind to change to take them back to India. During the six month wait, the traders mingled with locals, resulting in interracial marriages.

Chitty Melaka Peranakan Indians are descendants of traders who settled down in the Malacca Sultanate which was founded in 1403.

The community's footprint spread from Melaka to Singapore and today throughout the world. However, no matter where they are in the world, Peranakan Indians meet over a meal of their unique culinary heritage which blends the flavours and aromas of all its component communities.

The Dempsey Project started us off with a welcome drink of jibet with soda. I enjoyed the sweet ginger drink's fizz and zing, and asked for a second 🤭 inadvertently influencing the whole table to make the same request 😬 I hope I didn't spark a minor logistics crisis in the kitchen 😅

Appetizer platter. I should say appetizing platter.

Rojak petis. Cut fruits, vegetables and crushed nuts tossed in a umami savoury sweet sauce served on a betel leaf. The umami savoury and sweet flavours tasted very similar to the rojak that I am familiar with.

Gragok goreng, krill and vegetables fritter. I love this blend of umami, savoury and sweet as well as combination of crisp, spongy and soft textures.

Eating the fritter with a freshly made bright tasting zesty chili vinegar dip makes a good thing even better.

Nasi minyak or literally oil rice is an understatement. The basmati rice grains were light, fluffy and rich with flavours and aromas from spices and saffron.

Nasi minyak is accompanied by terong pachidi which is a spicy brinjal compote.

Urap kulit timun geragok. Crisp julienned cucumber, onion, coconut flesh and krill.

A tasty meal on its own, the nasi minyak was served with five main courses 😁😋

Sambal belimbing udang. Succulent prawns basking in a tangy tart tasting mini starfruit sambal.

Lauk pindang, ikan tenggeri. Thick tender chunks of mackerel fish in a rich curry of spice and lemongrass infused coconut milk.

Kola urundai. Soft mutton meatballs and dhal bathed and soaking in curry.

It's not for everyone because the mutton gaminess was a little assertive. Just nice for me lo, I happily took three 🤭😋🕺

Chattinard style chicken curry with south Indian spices.

Sambal belimbing udang got two of my favourite things, belimbing and shelled succulent prawns 😁 The mini starfruit added a pronounced tangy zest complementing the sweet umami from the plump crunchy prawns. Forgot to count how many I ate 🤭

Dessert time! Most looked pretty familiar.

Pulut tekan. Coconut milk infused glutinous rice tinted with butterfly pea flower and stacked with egg custard.

White and ruby red stack of layers of steamed sago. A favourite of many childhoods.

Kueh bongkong. First time I am tasting this soft sweet dessert which came wrapped in a little banana leaf parcel.

It's rice flour batter sweetened with palm sugar, coconut milk, tinted with butterfly pea flower, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed.

Kueh bongkong is unique to the Chitty Melaka community.

Pengat pisang. Banana sliced, smothered in creamy gula Melaka (palm sugar) sauce.

Enjoyed tonight's feast a lot and now I am inspired to find out more about our Peranakan Indian community and their unique cuisine.

Congratulations Peranakan Indian (Chitty Melaka) Association Singapore and Allspice Institute for the coming launch of Heritage Food of the Peranakan Indians: In the Chitty Melaka Kitchen.

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Written by Tony Boey on 26 Oct 2023

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