chilli padi nonya catering

really rather decent nonya offerings from the catering arm of this popular home-grown chain of restaurants – and really, what better way to come back from a patriotic holiday than with a cuisine as local as it comes?

let’s do a bit of history – and then move onto the food.


the peranakan, or nonya, culture is that of the indigenous straits chinese in southeast asia – and its food the beautiful union of chinese, malay and indonesian influences. it’s a colorful culture, full of strong flavors and bright colors, but also one that we’re struggling to hold onto – intricate traditions and an already-small population of nonyas make it tough to preserve in modern times.

if you haven’t had it, the cooking style is rather a cross between chinese and malay: spiced spicy food with long cooking times and elaborate techniques. most of the time, it’s a blurred distinction between nonya, indonesian and malay cuisine – defined mostly by slight changes in spicing, and not one I can recognize easily. but let’s talk this meal.

these are items available off their catering arm (and also at the restaurant, actually), and a pretty darn good spread in all. I often dislike catered food – it’s all soggy or dried out by the time you get to it, and it’s often something-or-another in a gloppy sauce – but nonya food works very well for catering. the prevalence of stews stand up well to the constant heat of the food warmers – flavors just keep intensifying – and many dishes are meant to be pre-prepared and served up at room temperature anyway.

we started off with otak served on banana leaves, a coconut-milk-rich spicy fish paste – I did like the coconuttiness of it (though it made it a tad rich) and it wasn’t too spicy or dry. the ngoh hiang was also a pretty decent rendition, a thick roll of chicken wrapped in a beancurd skin and fried – though not the best I’ve had.

the mains came quickly – itek sio and ayam panggang. the first I’ve never had before – and really liked – slightly sweet stewed duck fragrant with five spice and braised in tamarind. the sauce was delicious with rice, and the meat incredibly tender; possibly my favorite dish in the meal.

ayam panggang is grilled chicken – and I believe this was dark leg meat cooked rather expertly with the skin on. not dry, flavorful and slightly spicy – this was very good too.

there were two fish dishes – this one a curry assam pedas with soft fish slices in a curry-type gravy tempered with tamarind, rather rich but undeniably tasty; and the other some battered fish slices in a sweet and sour sauce which wasn’t bad, but not recommend – there was a bit too much batter around the fish, liable to go soggy at your buffet table (especially when engulfed with sauce).

the rather strong-tasting food was tempered by a plate of kampong fried mee siam – rather a plain sort of fried rice noodles, but a good choice for being greaseless and appealing at room-temperature.

and lastly, the stews. ayam buah keluak and beef rendang are popular dishes – and rather common ones, but these were quite satisfying. the buah keluak is a tedious dish to prepare – you need to soak the black nuts for a couple of days, scoop out the flesh to pound with spices, and then restuff the shells before stewing with chicken – resulting in a rather indescribable flavor that’s divisive the way marmite is. but the chicken here was fall-apart tender, and really very tasty – and you can always wimp out as I did and have the chicken without the nut.

the rendang was a good coconutty version (I say that a lot in this post), one of the better ones I’ve had. it was rich, but without that unappealing layer of red oil you get on so many renditions – and the stringy meat was well soft. great with rice.

we finished with dessert – not from the catering arm, but from the restaurant, and I don’t think these were great. the soy pudding I had is that modern creamer-and-jelly-powder confection (which I don’t appreciate), and the chendol just about so-so – the chempedak was also clearly a packaged paste.

it strikes me that you’d do well with peranakan food as a rather less-obvious choice for a buffet, and the food was surprisingly good, undeniably a step up from most of what you’d get out a food-warmer.

Chilli Padi Nonya Catering (also known as Chilli Api Catering)
Blk 3015, Bedok North St. 5
#06-15 Shimei East Kitchen
Singapore 486350
website here

p.s. I see on their website that they do confinement meal preparations too – so perhaps that might be a good option if you’re preggers and have a hankering for a nonya meal without all the work.

thanks to hungrygowhere and chilli padi for the invite!

11 thoughts on “chilli padi nonya catering

    • you should! rendang is such an interesting dish – it doesn’t logically make sense to want to cook beef till it’s slightly stringy, but it’s so delicious.

    • nonya food sounds like a very tasty confinement option – doubt my mother will let me live it down if I chose this over her cooking though!

      I always wonder about the presence of MSG and all that nasty stuff in commercially produced food..

      • don’t worry. she was very particular abt MSG and stuff like that in her food because she was breastfeeding and she said tt there was none of the bad stuff so there’s that! :)

  1. Pingback: chilli padi nonya restaurant, paya lebar | andmorefood

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