Eva's, the Peranakan Restaurant
No chilli but it's still hot
By Wong Ah Yoke, 20 February 2005
Until two weeks ago, I had always thought that Peranakans comprised just descendants of mixed Malay-Chinese marriages in Singapore and Malaysia.
EVA'S CHOICE : Ayam Chap Goh Meh (top), a chicken curry with turmeric-yellow gravy with no chilli, and the bakwan kepiting (below), are both winners.
Then, through a conversation with a colleague about acar, or pickled vegetables, I discovered that there is a small community of Indian Peranakans in Malacca called chettis as well.
Last week, I was introduced to a dish by Indonesian 'Peranakans' or Chinese-Indonesians.
Called ayam Chap Goh Meh, it is found in Eva's, a Peranakan eatery off Upper Thomson Road - near the Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 junction - that opened in November.
Eva's menu comprises mainly familiar nonya dishes such as ayam buah keluak, beef rendang, chap chye and bakwan kepiting. But the ayam Chap Goh Meh or Chap Goh Meh chicken ($6.50) stands out as a novelty.
Apparently, the dish got its name because it is commonly cooked in Indonesian Peranakan households on Chap Goh Meh, the 15th day of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar.
The day, which also signals the end of the Chinese New Year festivities, falls on Wednesday so that would be a most appropriate time to discover the dish.
Described as a kind of chicken curry, ayam Chap Goh Meh looks and tastes more like ayam kurma. The gravy, which is thickened with coconut milk, is bright yellow from the turmeric in the spice paste and does not contain chilli.
That, however, does not mean it is bland. In fact, it is delicious and goes wonderfully with white rice. The chicken itself is very tender.
Generally, the cooking here, even in the case of spicy dishes like beef rendang, is more about a harmonious blending of flavours than being chilli hot. But those who need fire in their meal can ask for the restaurant's sambal belacan, a no-holds-barred condiment meant to pacify such cravings.
Speaking of beef rendang ($6.50), the version here is excellent. Not only are the spices balanced perfectly, the beef is very tender and moist.
The bakwan kepiting ($13.60) is another winner.
Each bowl of the flavourful soup contains four plump pork balls. Made from minced fatty pork and chopped-up bamboo shoot, they are delicious even if not very good for the heart.
I also like the okra sambal ($4.50). It is not steamed the way most Peranakan restaurants here do it, but stir-fried. Again, great for taste, not so good for the ticker.
For dessert, check out the chendol ($2.50) and pulot hitam ($2.50). Both are above average, especially the chendol, which is flavoured by excellent gula melaka.
The gula melaka sago ($2.50), however, is a letdown. The sago is overcooked and looks a soggy mess.
EVA'S, THE PERANAKAN RESTAURANT
12, Jalan Leban
Opening hours: 11am to 3pm, 6 to 9.30pm
Price: Affordable, at less than $30 per person