Getting to know Peranakan cuisine was something both of us were looking forward to and for the same two reasons. First, we were really hungry, and second, because of the growing affection towards this cuisine. We had been flirting with Peranakan dishes for some time, but here we got the opportunity to really travel back in time and have a taste of history. Little Kitchen review is our first Peranakan restaurant review. Here you can read our first part with cool stories about this Peranakan family. Of you already did, enjoy Little Kitchen Review.
The time machine started working the minute we entered the old building where this “restaurant” is. At the same time, we had the pleasure to meet Baba, who runs this family restaurant and makes sure his grandmother’s recipes stay alive. Not only do they cook as their grandmother used to, but the ingredients are either from local suppliers or made in-house.
The homemade nutmeg drink they spoil us with, gave us a hunch as to what we were going to experience. It was made from scratch from the grandmother’s recipes and we were happy for every refill we got. That drink was so delicious that we couldn’t wait for the 8 courses meal to start. Their desire to make their guests happy is the reason why all the dishes are brought to the table at the same time. This way everyone can take whatever they want at any moment.
A Real Feast
The table was full of dishes and every single thing we tried was simply amazing. Almost every dish looked very simple, but there was always a lot of complex flavors, working in great harmony.
Acar Awak was a very tasty mix of pickled vegetables in a spicy sauce. The pickles weren’t that sour as we thought they may have been. These pickled vegetables were just gently blanched but well marinated in the intense spice sauce. Giving the vegetable time to soak in a spice paste overnight lets the Asian favors infiltrate it. Just before they brought it to the table they sprinkled some peanuts and sesame seeds on top.
Nasi Uslam, or Herbed Rice, is the house’s pride. At first, it might appear easy, but when you look closer and notice very thin slices of herbs you know that a lot of thought and effort was put in the preparation of this rice dish. To cook the rice to the right consistency, you have to be very precise. You must make sure that the rice doesn’t stick together, a few more steps are needed.
The key is that the rice and herbs mix together perfectly in order to make an aesthetic and tasteful appetizer. The herbs used in this dish were all freshly picked from the house garden and later were rolled together for easier cutting. I was glad to have the opportunity to smell the abundant herbs and finish one plate by myself. Here you can check how good I was in this precise cutting. The herb roll contained ten different herbs and the combination of laksa and kaffir lime leaves with rice was absolutely delicious.
Another surprisingly tasty dish was the Capitan Chicken, which was enriched with 15 spices. Despite the dried and fresh chilies, it is a balanced dish where coconut milk and other spices ease the heat. The fresh herbs gave very intense flavors to the gravy and still, you knew the chicken was there. An interesting thing to know is that this dish was designed for western taste and to us it was sort of comfort food.
Jiu Hu Char, or fried shredded cuttlefish and vegetables, was another where the Nyonyas made an effort for the guests. Back in the day, Noynyas didn’t have machines in the kitchen to help them with shredding. The ideal texture of shredded bites had to be done in peace, and clever Nyonyas made it the day before to allow the flavors of the cuttlefish to develop. Maybe there are fewer ingredients in this recipe to ensure that the taste varies from one household to the other?
On the table, we had Fish Pickle, or Acar Hu, as is it originally called. The fried fish and seasonings made for a lovely combination. It was delicious especially in the company of Asam Hem or Tamarind Fried Prawns, marinated in tamarind pulp and dark soy sauce. We had the pleasure to taste the Pai Tee for the second time, only to discover that we like them even more than we thought.
To finish the feast, we were served three traditional desserts. The first one was Ang Ku Kueh, known also by the name Red Tortoise Cake. This dish is pretty chewy, as it is made of soft sticky rice wrapped around a bean and peanut filling. We also had the Black glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and it was different than Vivi first expected. Before she tried the sauce, she was convinced that it would be sweet; as it turns out, it was salty but it went beautifully with the black rice. The last dessert was the pandan yellow. Desserts aren’t exactly for our spoiled taste, hungry for some real French stuff. But these weren’t bad at all. It is traditional and we respect that!
It is difficult for us to pinpoint what made our lasting impression about this place because everything was a little different from what we had imagined. Maybe starting with Baba, who was very kind to us and offered us all these mouthwatering dishes. The former glory of golden Peranakan times was most visible in the kitchen, where the big pots and other kitchen equipment were resting. On our way to the family garden, we had the opportunity to greet the Nyonya. JJ’s grandmother who inspired her grandson for bringing the original Peranakan cuisine into the modern era.
All the dishes that we had the pleasure to taste surpassed our expectations and we would wholeheartedly recommend anyone to experience what we did. The boutique and intimate type of restaurant ensure that you’ll have the custom-made experience, where you can discuss every single dish before you even taste it.
Little Kitchen Review Card
- ATMOSPHERE – 9/109/10
- SERVICE – 8.5/108.5/10
- PRESENTATION – 9.3/109.3/10
- FOOD – 9.5/109.5/10
- DRINKS – 6.5/106.5/10
- VALUE – 9.4/109.4/10
Price and Location
For an eight-course meal, you will pay about 30 USD per pax. For easy navigation, here is a link to the location of Little Kitchen Penang.