Peranakan cuisine, or food originated from the Straits-born Chinese in Malaysia, is not something that is commonly found in Sydney. So when we found out that there’s a restaurant that specialises in Peranakan food, we made it a point to visit it one weekend. Located along Parramatta Road, Peranakan Place serves nyonya cuisine influenced by the Chinese, Indonesian, Thai and Malay community.
Locating the place wasn’t difficult, but the same couldn’t be said about finding a car park. There was no street parking available so we had to drive around twice to finally locate an open air car park somewhere behind the restaurant. Since we were early, we were also one of the first few patrons for lunch.
We started with the Ngoh Hiang, which is similar to Loh Bak in Penang. This came with only 4 pieces of minced pork, prawns and water chestnuts wrapped in bean curd skin before being deep fried. Although I loved the crispy skin of the bean curd, I found the filling to be a tad mushy and bland. Perhaps that’s why it was served together with the chilli sauce on the side.
It’s rare to find Yong Tau Foo on the menu so when we saw it, we thought we absolutely had to give it a try. However, what came to the table was different from our expectation. We were expecting a variety of stuffed bean curd items (soup or fried), stuffed bean curd skin rolls, stuffed chillies and the like. But there was only one stuffed chilli and a couple of stuffed bean curds, with a few fish balls and crab sticks(?!) tossed in a dark, peppery gravy. Perhaps this was the Peranakan style of Yong Tau Foo, but it certainly wasn’t hitting my craving spot!
Lastly, we also had the Babi Pongteh, which, I believe, is a true blue Peranakan dish. It’s really a stew dish of braised pork belly, pork trotters, water chestnuts and shitake mushrooms in a fermented soy bean sauce. We have had a few versions of Babi Pongteh back in Malaysia and this, again, did not match up to our expectations. The gravy was watery, almost diluted, resulting in a somewhat bland taste, and the pork pieces were not cooked long enough. They were supposed to fall off the bone easily with a melt-in-your-mouth texture but did not, which was a disappointment as I ordered this dish mainly for Little J.
Overall, we had a pretty average dining experience in terms of food, even though the service was good. Perhaps we didn’t order the ‘right’ items or perhaps we went on a bad day, but whilst it’s good to know that we have more and more options of Malaysian food in Sydney, the hunt for authentic Peranakan food is still on.