Friday, July 27, 2007


My family used to go to Peranakan restaurant, Guan Hoe Soon, once in a while, but at some point, our visits tapered off. I now live in the west and hadn't been there for at least ten years, till the other night. ES and HM decided we needed a mid-week treat, and since KKN, she who is useless with spicy food, was not in town, we took advantage of her absence and decided on Peranakan food. Now, there had been a write-up on Guan Hoe Soon in a recent edition of the Sunday Times, so we thought we'd take a drive out yonder and continue our exploration of Joo Chiat.

HM had in fact pestered me to make a reservation but I refused. You wait till we get there, I told her, and you'll see why I would feel silly making a reservation. True enough, when we got there, it was just as I had expected it to be. The decor was still refreshingly old school i.e. no decor to speak of. The place was at most one-third filled, with tables of uncles and aunties (a sign of good food!) The only thing out of the ordinary was a table occupied by a ang mo family. Even so, these days, with 'pats movin' into the 'burbs, it was at best a minor anomaly. A reservation? Pshaw. Little did I know that, in a while, I would have to eat my words.

We sat down and browsed through the menu. Since we don't often do Peranakan, we opted for the classics. As we settled down to wait for our food, customers started streaming in. And then the trickle turned into a torrent, and lo and behold, the place was packed. I guess we were just lucky that we strolled in early enough, if 7.30 p.m. can be considered early (I guess Katongites eat late). Fortunately we didn't have long to wait. The food arrived soon enough.

achar (spicy pickled cucumber)

nonya chap chye (sauteed mixed vegetables)

otah otah (fish cake)

bakwan kerpiting (pork and crabmeat patty) soup

ayam buah keluak (chicken with... aye, what do you call those things?!)

babi pongteh (pork stew)

The food was delicious and comfortingly homecooked, although it was a tad milder than we had expected. (It was so not spicy even KKN could have eaten there...) Of course we couldn't eat at a Peranakan restaurant without checking out the desserts.

my pulot hitam (glutinous rice porridge)

HM's sago gula melaka (sago with palm sugar)

ES' chendol (green jelly with red beans and coconut milk)

The desserts were satisfying but not spectacular. For example, the shaved ice could have been finer.

Still, at $53 for the whole meal, we were left lamenting the apparent dirth of such small but good eateries in the western half of the island where we live.



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