Food specials week of April 19th
Babi assam is perhaps the most thoroughly Peranakan dish I know, in that it’s the most complete blending of Chinese and Malay ingredients and techniques. It starts with a straightforward rempah of shallots, chili, belacan, and candlenuts. The paste is sweated, cubes of pork belly are added, and then the pork is stewed with tamarind, asam gelugur (a dried fruit used as a souring agent), salted soybeans, and two kinds of preserved mustard greens. Right before serving, some fresh mustard greens are wilted in the stew. The final dish layers sourness, heat, and fermented flavors. The pork and its fat serve as foundation and foil.
Babi assam is so complex and so complete that it’s almost a one dish meal, but it would be sacrilegious to sit down to dinner with only one dish on the table. So this week it’s accompanied by two classic vegetable dishes, one Chinese and one Malay.
The Chinese name for silk gourds (丝瓜) sounds considerably better than the English name of Angled Luffa. These things are like dinosaur cucumbers – bigger, meaner, rougher. We peel off their rough exteriors and then stew them into silken, delicious submission with eggs and dried shrimp.
Kangkong masak lemak is as homey as it gets to a Singaporean. You’ll see this on Chinese and Thai menus as “hollow-stem vegetable,” a dark, leafy green cooked with a rempah and coconut milk to enhance its earthy sweetness.
For dessert, kueh sarlat is one of the country’s most iconic kueh – the bottom is glutinous rice, distinctly marbled in blue and white, and the top is a silken pandan custard that’s reminiscent of, but not actually, our famous kaya jam.
Contains shellfish, soy, eggs, gluten. No dairy. Dinner for 2 is $50.