Yusheng? Hot pots? Dumplings? Nay, says Damian D’Silva. Nay.
That’s not to say that the head honcho at Folklore, the restaurant on Beach Road that does traditional Singaporean cuisine, is abandoning the classics for his Chinese New Year feast. The celebrity chef is instead choosing to highlight the lavish, celebratory delicacies of his maternal Peranakan family.
Starting February 4, Folklore will be presenting a Peranakan Lunar New Year blowout that’ll take D’Silva’s usual repertoire — based on paying homage to his cultural roots — and amp it up to fit the celebratory nature of holiday feasts. This year, the chef wants to share his nostalgia for his familial feast with his patrons, by introducing dishes that are rarely ever seen on dinner tables for reunion dinners held in households here.
The bonding begins with the Do-It-Yourself Popiah Set ($60), which is exactly what its title says. Basically an open-faced popiah package, patrons get to build their own gourmet spring rolls complete with all the ingredients they need to make one. We’re talking homemade popiah skins, sautéed bamboo shoots and jicama, poached prawns, blended chilies, omelette, steamed crab meat and more. It might make you get really full, though, especially if you — like us — are making giant burritos instead of going the classy route with a standard sized popiah.
The unorthodox banquet continues with leafy greens. Lots of it. The Peranakan Prawn Salad ($20) is said to be a festive must-have in any Peranakan household, signifying wealth and luck via dozens of poached prawns atop a bed of cucumber slices and Chinese lettuce leaves.
The Sayur Beremi ($16) is also a cold dish, and is served with a savory, snappy broth (made out of prawn stock, chilies, and tamarind) to complement the foundation of portulaca oleracea (locals of the older generation would or would not know it by its Malay name sayur beremi). The vegetable naturally has a delicately bitter note, but here, that soft bitterness is cut through with chili and poached prawns — combining to produce fresh, clear tastes that somehow manage to be both refreshing and full of umami.
You might have tried mee siam many, many times — but look, you’ve probably never experienced the greatness of Chef D’Silva’s Peranakan Mee Siam ($16). This version consists of a much thicker gravy than usual, and no assam (tamarind) used in it. And, the al dente rice vermicelli noodles take on a bolder sweet and sour relish, thanks to the addition of fresh lime juice and sugar.
A dish traditionally eaten by Chef D’Silva’s family on the second day of Chinese New Year, the Garang Assam ($34) is a downright delight. The origin story: It’s a spicy-sour stew made using the leftover fish eaten on the first day of Chinese New Year. What Folklore serves, of course, ain’t leftovers. Fillets of Red Emperor Snapper is cooked in the thick spicy paste and tamarind pulp, resulting in an addictive gravy that one can’t stop dipping the accompanying crisp you tiao in.
The climax arrives in the very toothsome Sayur Kailo with Pork Ribs ($32). Sayur Kailo is none other than moringa pods (or better known as “drumstick”), the fibrous rods of tender seeds commonly used in South Indian recipes. The bean pods make a savory companion to the pork ribs, both of which are delicate when braised within the rich, coconut milk-fused gravy.
That’s a lot of richness to handle — but if you’re a bit of a mealtime masochist, then you can finish off the meal with Folklore’s platter of traditional Peranakan kuehs ($14). Classics such as the Kueh Salat (pandan pudding with glutinous rice cake), Ang Ku Kueh (sticky glutinous rice flour skin wrapped around a sweet filling), Kueh Talam Keladi (yam cake) make an appearance to end the feast on a highly sweet note.
Folklore is at 700 Beach Road, Destination Singapore Beach Road, Level 2
Open daily 12pm-2:30pm; 6pm-9:30pm
MRT: Nicoll Highway