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It was my father’s birthday, of course I had to take him out for good food. He requested Peranakan food and PeraMakan naturally came to mind. We’d eaten at the now-defunct restaurant in Joo Chiat and were crestfallen to find that it’d disappeared. Only much later did I find out from a friend that it’d reappeared at Keppel Club. Said friend raved about the food and especially the durian pengat. I’m not a durian fan, but Dad is. We were all set.

We started of with something not normally associated with Peranakan food, a salad. The jantung pisang kerabu was a salad of banana flowers, green mango and cucumber topped with cooked prawns, a light sambal belachan sauce and covered with a generous dollop of thick coconut cream. The sambal belachan was accented with lime juice and ginger flower, making it a surprisingly light-tasting dish. Goes without saying that the prawny tangy crunchy salad was a hit with the whole family.


Next up was probably the star of the show: ayam buah keluak. I’m not sure why but the dish came with four pieces of chicken and only two nuts. I was pretty surprised when later I passed by a table of two and saw at least three nuts in their dish. I certainly hope it’s because the other table somehow requested for extra nuts and not because of inconsistency because I’m such a buah keluak fan! The dish was very well made, with tender chicken and very thick black and flavourful sauce. The best part was obviously the buah keluak,which was scraped out of the shell and stuffed back in.


The deeply smoky, earthy nuts were so ambrosial I scraped out every tiniest bit and even licked as much of the insides clean as I could while at the same time avoiding an embarrassing trip to the dentist or worse!


Now the dish I remember best of the old PeraMakan was the amazingly well made sambal terung. The brinjal was perfectly grilled till the skin turned a beautiful deep glossy purple. It was smothered with slightly sweet tomatoey sambal and topped with yummy prawns. Just like the ayam buah keluak, I could probably gobble down a whole dish of it all on my own.


Next up was the only dud of the evening. It was a special: pomfret in assam nanas. The fish wasn’t particularly fresh and the flavours seemed rather watered down. A downer next to everything else on the table.


The last main was almost an epiphany. You’d think otak otak would be a quotidian type of dish, but this one is the Platonic ideal of otak otak. The grilled dish looked almost like a lasagne, it was so well browned on the top. But bite into the coconut and seafood cake and taste the unctuousness of coconut. Couple this with perfectly cooked fish, prawn and sotong as well as uber-complementary spices and, well, you’re in otak heaven!


Then came the desserts. I can’t personally vouch for the durian pengat, but considering how quickly it disappeared into my Dad’s stomach (yes, Dad’s usually queasy about dessert, no less rich ones), it must’ve been pretty darn good!


I had the sago gula melaka and the gula melaka! It was so thick and rich and oozy I fell in love with it instantly. The only downer was that the sago was presented in the usual moulded jelly lump rather than separate pearls. I much prefer the little sago bits to be, well, in bits than in one slightly chewy lump. It was the fly in the ointment, but what lovely ointment that gula melaka was.


DC had chendol which was very excellent too, again thanks to the superlative gula melaka and nicely cooked red beans.


Mum had the apom balik filled with kaya. I quite liked the coconut-pandan fragrance of the pancake but felt that the kaya was a tad overpowered, I felt that the kaya could have been more flavourful, either with caramel flavour from slow-cooking the kaya longer or from more pandan flavour. That aside, it was a well executed dish and a nice sweet bite to round off the very excellent meal.


Level 3, Keppel Club
10 Bukit Chermin Road
Tel: 63772829

Quick Eats: Ice Cream Gallery

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Ice Cream Gallery is a great place for cheap and good ice cream. The friendly staff are very generous with samples, so much so that if you’re super not-shy, you could probably try all the flavours in the shop before making the decision on what to settle for. It’s especially famous for the D24 durian flavour. I haven’t tried it because durian and me don’t mix.

My favourite teh halia flavour isn’t often in stock. This time I settled for the red bean and gula melaka flavour. I think it used to be called chendol flavour. It’s pretty good. The ice cream is smooth and sweet with plenty of caramelised coconut flavour. The red beans were soft and mushy, giving a grainy counterpoint to the rich cream. Yum!


KK couldn’t resist the caramel macadamia and lychee flavours. Both were decent, though I felt that macadamia just isn’t fragrant enough to work well in ice cream.


Ice Cream Gallery
20 Eastwood Road
Eastwood Centre, #01-13
Tel: 6246 2926


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Let me just set the record straight. One of my greatest shortcomings as a food fanatic is that I don’t eat durian. I know, I’m remorseful and shamefaced, but I just cannot bring myself to it.

However, a friend of mine does, and she loves durian so much she ordered the Durian Double-Boiled Milk and Egg White at Ji De Chi with extra durian. In her defence, she’d been durian-deprived for a while. The server did a double-take and told her that the dish already had durian in it. To that Durian Queen firmly told her that yes, she wanted the durian-flavoured dessert with extra durian. And so this arrived.


In her own words, Durian Queen said the extra durian topping looked like turd. But she tried a bite and suddenly claimed that she was having a durian-gasm. Digging further into the, er, white stuff that was durian flavoured, she found hidden depths of more durian badassness goodness.


I’m sorry for being remiss in reporting the flavour and texture of the dish, suffice to say the non-durian-eaters at the table just gaped in awe at Durian Queen smacking her lips, probably having multiple durian-gasms. At the end of it all, she scraped her bowl clean of the last morsel and licked her spoon off too. ‘Nuff said really.

Ji De Chi
8 Liang Seah Street #01-03

[edited: Mon 23 Feb 2009, 12.41 pm]