Food Tasting at Orchard Hotel for Straits Chinese Cuisine (Baba Theatre Kitchen) by Executive Chef Paul

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I was recently invited to try out Orchard Hotel’s newly themed Straits Chinese Cuisine – Baba Theatre Kitchen by Executive Chef Paul at Orchard Cafe, Level 1.

A little brief history on Baba Nyonya :

Baba Nyonya (Peranakan, the term used popularly for descendants of early Chinese immigrants to the Nusantara region, including both the British Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca and Penang, and the Dutch controlled island of Java among other areas, who have partially adopted Malay customs in an effort to be assimilated into the local communities.

The word of Peranakan, is also used commonly to describe Indonesia Chinese. In both BM & Bahasa Indonesia, Peranakan” means descendant. Baba refer to the male descendants and Nyonya the female. Most Peranakanare of Hokkein ancestry, although a fair denomination of them are of the Teocheww or Cantonese descent. The language of the Peranakan, Baba Malay (Bahasa Melayu Baba), is a dialect of the Malay Language which contains many Hokkein works.

The Nyonya Baba were partially assimilated into the Malay culture, especially in food, dress and language used, while retaining some of the Chinese traditions and culture, like religion, name, folk medicine and festival celebrations, thereby creating a new kind of mixed culture of their country of origin with local, among those, like “Nyonya cuisine “ has developed the spices of Malay cuisine. 

Regardless of the history and origins of Nyonya food, making Nyonya food is no simple affair. The unique and highly flavorful cuisine requires abundant amount of time, patience, and skills. A true Nyonya would spend hours and hours pounding her rempah (spices) with batu giling (a flat slab of stone to grind the spices) to cook up authentic Nyonya dishes such as Perut Ikan(pickled fish stomach with vegetables stew), Salted Fish Pineapple Curry(Gulai Kiam Hu Kut in Hokkien), and other scrumptious Nyonya concoctions.

In recent years, there has been an increased interest and urgency to preserve the unique Nyonya culture and Nyonya cuisine as the population decreases. 

I felt privileged and am thankful for this opportunity to try out the Baba Nyonya cuisine which I do not often frequent.

Moreover, these delicious food were whipped up by Chef Paul himself!

A little more on Chef Paul :

Pursuing his dreams from the age of 14, Chef Paul brings with him over 30 years of hotel kitchen management and F&B operations experience. His professional accolades include being an integral part of a two Michelin star Hong Kong restaurant, on the panel of Chef consultants of First and Business Class for Cathay Pacific Airlines, and recognized as part of the 19 Great Chefs in Hong Kong by Heep Hong Society in 2010. Not forgetting that Chef Paul is the creator of the popular Durian Pengat that we have grown to love!

Courage, Passion, Confidence and Determination, Chef Paul has it all. Take a trip down to discover his Long Table full of Straits Chinese delights straight from his Baba Kitchen today! “I am a Peranakan and as such, Straits-Chinese cooking is part of my heritage. I love the rich, unique Asian flavours and am especially proud to introduce authentic dishes to both local and overseas guests.” said Chef Paul

So, in conjunction with the ‘Baba’ theme in mind, the setting was decorated the Baba style, embossed with colour-coordinated prints and style as well as china and utensils used by Baba-Nyonya too 🙂

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Now, time for food pictures! 🙂

Of course, we were served with traditional Baba Nyonya food, which comprises of both Malay and Chinese culture and flavours.

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I was very impressed with the creativity the management has put in to create a different style and look altogether, using an empty pineapple body as a ‘holder’ for the satays.

The chicken satay was tender and flavourful, unlike the usual ones filled mostly with fats, and was also accompanied by the unforgettable curry sauce, onion pieces, cucumber and ketupat (Malay rice dumpling) cubes.

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Moving on to the next section was the Kueh Pie Tee dish which is often seen amongst the Baba Cuisine.

How can anyone give this delicious dish a miss?

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The fun in eating the Kueh Pie Tee is that you can customse your own!

The essential ingredients in a Kueh Pie Tie dish consist of :

1. Prawn bits

2. Sweet sauce

3. Peanut grains

4. Chopped hard boiled egg bits

5. Chilli

6. Parsley

7. Shredded turnip with mushroom and carrot bits

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There were also rice dishes for those who need to have rice in their meals.

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Those who love spicy food shouldn’t miss this dish below.

Assam Promfret.

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Atlantic Pomfret and Brinjal with Tumeric and Peppercorn Gravy
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Close-up :Alantic Pomfret and Brinjal with Tumeric and Peppercorn Gravy

In whipping up a good dish, other than its taste and appearance, another important factor would be the quality of the fish in relation to the thickness of the slabs/pieces.

We were served thick slabs of fresh promfret fish which allowed me to appreciate the sincerity of the Chefs and the management of the hotel, who genuinely want us to enjoy our food in the best context.

That is not all!

The next dish below is the actually the highlight of the night amongst the whole Baba Nyonya cuisine. Everyone (other bloggers), bf (went as my +1) and myself were raving about how scrumptious this Rendang dish was!

The meat was extremely tender, containing no fats, flavoured in the perfect sauce.

I’m not exactly a beef fan but this dish kept me going back for more and I was savouring every bit of it despite the bursting tight dress I wore to a meeting before the dinner, so this Rendang is TO DIE FOR!!!

God.. I can just have this for Bfast, Lunch and Dinner! It’s really just so so good! 😀

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Slow-cooked Australian Beef Cheek Rendang with Nonya Spices

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Close up – Slow-cooked Australian Beef Cheek Rendang with Nonya Spices

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Braised Pork Belly with Fermented Beans

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Traditional Ayam Buah Keluak, Braised Chicken with Indonesian Black Nuts

Chap chai was also served as one of the traditional Baba Nyonya dish which I personally believe that it helps to mellow down the wild spices and strong flavours of the other dishes.

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Laksa has been one of the common food dishes we have seen around in Singapore, but do you know that it originates from the Baba Nyonya culture?

Chef Paul has taken it up to further heights with his versatility and creativity through its very own customisation of the laksa dish, by adding fresh genuine crab meat and

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Nonya Laksa with Boston Lobster &
Candlenut Pesto

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Nonya Chicken Salad

I can’t live without soup, so when we were served with this Meatball soup, I knew I had to finish every drop, by just judging at the juicy meatballs at one look. It certainly didn’t disappoint me.

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Braised Pork Dumpling Soup with Fresh Crabmeat, Bamboo Shoots and Mushrooms

There were other condiments that play a vital role in the Baba Nyonya cuisine such as the one below, Azar.

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Apart from the main dishes, Baba Nyonya cuisine also carries delicious kuehs (cakes) that are not to be missed!

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Chempedak Binchang Kueh

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Close-up : Chempedak Binchang Kueh

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Yuzu Apple Cheesecake

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And here’s a picture of us (Karen and Melva) with Chef Paul who is extremely friendly and humorous, which made us felt very much at home.

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Straits Chinese and Asian Buffet is served daily at Orchard Cafe:

Buffet Lunch 12:00pm – 02:30pm
Adult : $46.00, Child : $23.00
Buffet Dinner 06.00pm – 10:00pm
Adult : $64.00, Child : $32.00
Sunday Brunch 12:00pm – 3:30pm
Adult : $68.00, Child : $34.00
For reservations and information, please call 6739 6565 or email orchardcafe.ohs@
millenniumhotels.com. All prices are subject to service charge and prevailing government taxes.

Thank you Shaun and Orchard Hotel for the awesome food tasting session 🙂