It is not often that restaurant catering involves cyanide – hydrogen cyanide to be precise – the very same substance of course carried by James Bond in his emergency suicide pill. In this particular case it fortunately involves its careful removal during the production of one of the region’s most famous dishes, Ayam Buak Keluak – chicken with black nuts.
The Keluak is actually a tree found in the mangrove swamps of Indonesia and Malaysia that produces the large and poisonous ‘football fruit’. Inside there are dozens of prized nuts, which once treated carefully provide the delicious black nuts at the heart of the famous dish, a speciality at True Blue Cuisine which prides itself on producing the very best of traditional local style ‘Peranakan’ cuisine.
The preparation of the black nut is a laborious and time consuming affair that firstly requires soaking of the nuts for at least three, and up to ten days, whilst scrubbing them and changing the water daily. The nut is cracked open with a small chisel hammer, the kernel removed and ground to a paste before being seasoned with True Blue‘s secret blend of spices. Stuffed back in to the nut the whole is then added to a spicy sauce with chunks of chicken, then gently stewed before being served with steamed rice.
The result is quite exquisite. The flavour of the nut is hard to describe – rich, smooth and spicy – perfectly offset by the texture of the chicken, tangy sauce and fragrant rice. Don’t leave Singapore without trying this one.
There are plenty more local specialities of course. Perhaps try Udang Kuah Nanair – prawns cooked in a spicy pineapple gravy a delicious sweet and sour dish best with rice, Kachang Lendir cha Titek – the creamy okra in candlenut sauce or the Sotong Hitam – similar to Gong Bao Chicken, slightly sweet and hearty.
We of course had to end the meal with the quintessential southeast Asian dessert, Chendol. Once sold on pushcarts that plied the city streets, ingredients include a sweet green worm-like noodle, grated ice, palm sugar and coconut cream. Delicious! Add some durian fruit if you dare – pungent and distinctively flavoured it is an acquired taste and the local’s favourite.
True Blue have also brought Peranakan history in to the delightful traditional dining room. You will find vintage crockery place settings, historic furniture, original photos, hand-embroidered kebayas and vintage jewellery. Around you is the scent of bunga rampay – a sweet smelling potpourri made up of shredded pandan leaves and flower petals topped with safflower oil used in most Peranakan homes.
The restaurant is fittingly located next door to the excellent Peranakan Museum, and should you have the opportunity to browse its fascinating collections you can end the visit with a traditional tea and small local meal in the miniscule True Blue Pantry in the same building.
True Blue Cuisine, 47/49 Armenian Street, Singapore. Tel +65 6440 0449.
Images by CELLOPHANELAND*.
CELLOPHANELAND* was a guest of True Blue.