Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Blue Ginger Restaurant: Peranakan Cuisine

Last weekend, my mum brought my aunts and I to 'Blue Ginger' Restaurant at Tanjong Pagar Road for dinner.  From what I saw along the way there in the cab, the stretch of Tanjong Pagar Road is home to many restaurants (Korean restaurants in particular) offering a wide variety of culinary delights.  There were also quite a number of bridal boutiques in the same area.
The term Peranakan refers to descendants of the early Chinese immigrants of the 15th to 17th century who settled in Singapore or surrounding areas like Malaysia, Indonesia and inter-marry with the local Malay population.  The term 'Baba' refers to the male Straits-Chinese descendants while 'Nyonya' (commonly spelt as nonya) refers to the female Straits-Chinese descendants. 
Peranakan or Nonya cuisine is a result from the unique fusion of both the Chinese and Malay style of cooking.
According to their website:
"Our name, the Blue Ginger, was derived from a key ingredient in Peranakan (Straits Chinese) Cooking known as Nam Kiong in Cantonese, or Galangal in Malay.  Aptly named, the restaurant aims to capture the true essence of the Straits-Chinese cuisine and culture"
My mum had already made reservations a few days before prior to our visit as the restaurant is always packed to the brimmed.  According to her, it was hard to find a seat for walk-in diners if reservations were not made.  We reached 10mins earlier before our scheduled reservation at 6.30pm and waited outside.  As soon as the restaurant was opened for business, we went in.
Opening Hours
Wooden stairway.  They have 3 stories in total
Upon entering, we were told to go through another door located just behind the main one inside the restaurant and proceed up to 2nd level, where we were told to sit 'outside' at the balcony area.  In my heart I was like "Omg, out in the open?" but I soon quickly realised that the worry was unfounded because the balcony area is like a 'segregation' away from the main dining area where bigger tables were catered to a bigger crowd.  In this balcony area, there only 3 4-sitter tables.
Air-conditioned. Phew~ =)
We took the table at the corner.  Once I was sitted, I began to take pictures of the surrounding area.  The balcony view overlooks a Korean restaurant opposite the road on the right side as well as the Tanjong Pagar Plaza (adjacent left) and the HDB flat and Condominum behind the Plaza.
The wall next to our table.
Behind me
Instead of looking through the menu and decide what I want to order, I was more concerned with taking pictures of the restaurant.  Gave my mum and aunts to decide since they probably have more experienced in ordering Nonya dishes.  I trust that they would factor in my picky eating habits while ordering.
I could not sit still and began to wonder outside to the main dining area looking at the deco.  Took a photo on the sly and could not contain that picture taking habit since I had the intention in my mind to blog about this place (my mum was raving about this restaurant being even better than the other nonya restayrant we went last year)
So after the waiter was done taking down their orders and came out to the counter, I actually asked for permission to take pictures of the restaurant in which he oblige.  I had no idea where that courage to ask "Is it ok if I take pictures of the restaurant" came about but I was already prepared to not take any if the request was denied.
Since I was given the 'OK' I began slowly walking around observing and taking a few pictures of the 2nd level.  All pictures were taken with my Samsung Galaxy Note 1 and without any touch ups so pardon the photo quality.
That's the drinks (and maybe payment) counter on the right.  No idea where the door on the left leads to.  Did not ask since I was the only one outside with 3 other staff.  Damn shy la.
I really love the light bulbs.  Looks very pretty when lit.
Balcony separated with wooden glass door.
At where I was standing in the above picture, there were 2 or was it 1 2-sitter table.  That I could not remember.  From what I observed it seems the 1st level was more for smaller groups like 1 - 3 and maybe 4 person per table, then for 2nd level, it is for a larger group of 4 to 10 per table.  Their 3rd level was reserved for private functions.

Appetizers and sambal balachan
After taking photos, I went back to my seat.  The dinner crowd started to came in as the table on the other end was occupied less than 10mins of our arrival.  Drinks and acar (pickled mixed vegetables) was brought to us and shortly after our dishes were served. 
For every dish we only ordered 1 serving.  I was pretty amazed as all dishes if not majority came together.  It took less than 15mins before every thing was served.  I wonder if its because we were the first few customers or was some of the dishes already prepared before hand.  We did not start to eat until I was done taking pictures of every dish.
*oops* but hey, my mum and aunts told me to anyway....
Chap Chye @ S$11.00
This is mixed vegetables with tanghoon (something similar to cellophane noodles) cooked in Peranakan style using a rich prawn broth.  They also have dried prawn bits in them.  Taste quite nice, I love it.
Ayam Panggang @ S$12.50
For a picky eater like me who does not eat anything with bones, this is just perfect.  It is actually de-boned chicken thigh and drumstick grilled and coated with thick gravy which is a blend of coconut milk and various spices.  There are traces of fatty meat and chicken skin which I am not a fan of.  However, I do admit that it taste not bad and actually had a few slices of it.  Then again, I am more of a breast meat lover but for thigh meat or drumstick lovers, you might actually love this.
Ayam Buah Keluak @ S$17.00
This looks intimidating.  It is a braised chicken dish flavoured with turmeric, ginger, lemongrass cooked with Indonesian black nuts.  I did not eat this but my mum and both aunts loved it.  They kind of enjoy scrapping the insides of the black nuts and eating it.  However, they mentioned that some people may not like the taste of the nuts.  Since they enjoyed it so much I would think it taste great for those who knows how to appreciate it.
Juhu Kangkong @ S$11.00
Typical stir fried sambal kangkong dish but with added cuttlefish.  It is a bit spicy for those who cannot take chilli but not me.  I love this dish just simple because I love to eat kangkong and sambal chilli.  HAHAH!
Otak @ S$3.80
I am sure every Singaporean knows what otak is.  It is generally fish and prawn paste mix with a blend of spices including ginger, turmeric and chilli giving it its distinctive red-ish brown colour.  The texture of this otak is however different from the otak I normally eat outside.  Upon tasting it, I immediately thought of fishballs because of the similar springy texture.
Ikan Masak Assam Gulai @ S$21.00
This is assam fish just that instead of seeing the fish head like we normally do in Chinese restaurants, this is cooked using fish slices.  I do not normally eat fish outside because of its skin and bones but I actually ate this, so this is perfect for me (just had to only remove fish skin if any since there was no bones).  The spicy, sweet and sour tamarind gravy is very appetizing to go with the rice.  There is also a mix of vegetables including lady's finger, bringal and tomato.  I would love to order this again the next time I visit.
Our table
Our table was filled with dishes and yet we order another plate of Nonya Spring rolls.  It was deep fried to a crisp!  I loved it.  It was served with a plate of what looks like those sweet and sour thai chilli sauce but I did not eat with it.  Ate the spring rolls by itself. =) 
Nonya Roll @ S$8.50
All cleared
We cleared every single dish that we had ordered and my mum and aunts went on to order their desserts.  I did not had any as I restrict excess sugar in my diet. 

Gula Melaka (with honey sea coconut) and Chendol @ S$4.50 each
Satisfied with our meal, we called for the bill.  After miscellaneous charges, GST and service charges, the total bill came up to S$127.45 (works out to about $32 per person).  My mum who footed the bill was quite surprised as she commented knowing that it would be this cheap (she was prepared to spend at least S$250 for the dinner), she would have ordered more dishes. HAHAHA~ 
We then left the restaurant with a filled and happy tummy!  The dining area at 2nd level as well as the 1st level was very packed by the time we left.  Since the food was served so quickly for us, our dinner was done just slightly over an hour. LOL!

The above 2 pictures were taken just outside the restaurant.  For those intend to take a bus to the area.  There were also ample carpark around the area and it is also accessible by train. 

The train station would be at Tanjong Pagar.  Exit through Exit A to the left after going up the escalator.  Cross the zebra crossing over to the stretch of pedestrian path and walk towards "Tanjong Pagar Wet Market" (TPWM).  Facing TPWM (opposite road), without crossing to the opposite site, turn to your right and walk towards Orchid Hotel till you see this bus stop. 

Along the way, there will be a Jap restaurant, a bridal shop and a Korean Ramen & Soju eatery.  If you see this 3 shops along the way, you should be in the right direction and would soon see a spa/massage place at the corner of the start of the row of shop houses.  Just few steps more and you would find this "The Blue Ginger Restaurant".

It is recommended to go in a group so you could order more dishes to try but please do remember to make a reservation before going.  Hope you have an enjoyable meal like we did.


If you would like to give it a try, please refer to the following details:

Shop Name: The Blue Ginger
Address: 97 Tanjong Pagar Road Singapore 088518
Tel: +65 6222 3928 Fax: +65 6222 3860
Catering Enquiry: +65 6224 4028 (as per printed on their receipt)
Reservation/Enquiry:  By Tel / By Fax
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun - Lunch 12:00pm - 3:00pm (last order 2:15pm) - Dinner 6:30pm - 11:00pm (last order 9:45pm)
Payment Mode: By cash/card
Website: http://www.theblueginger.com/
(Menu on their website in PDF format, prices are not indicated)
Nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar Station (Exit A)


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