[Singapore] Baba Chews at Hotel Indigo, Katong Square

The 5-month-old Baba Chews, housed within the former Joo Chiat Police Station building, brings Nyonya cuisine to a whole new level in the very heart of Peranakan/Baba-Nyonya culture - the Katong district of Singapore. Here, Nyonya cuisine - perhaps the most indigenous of all of Singapore’s variety of multi-ethnic cuisines - is given a make-over, updated but with careful attention to the basic fundamentals of the cuisine. The Babas and Nyonyas, Singapore’s hybrid Straits-born Chinese, are well-known for their conservative attitudes, especially in their complex, labour-intensive cuisine.

I was here to try Baba Chew’s much-touted Katong laksa - a local version of Nyonya laksa which was purportedly popularised by Janggut, a legendary itinerant street vendor back in 1940s Singapore. Katong laksa has since grown into a national brand-name of sorts.

Disappointingly, the Chews Laksa Cocktail was not available on the day I was there, as one important ingredient - the laksa-infused whipped cream, was not available. So I settled for the Katong Sling, the restaurant’s take on the Singapore Sling. Theirs consisted of Beefeater Gin, Cointreau, Peter Heering, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice and a house-made “Katong Sling mix”.

Finally, the piece de resistance - the Nyonya laksa, upon which Katong laksa was based upon.

How was it - well, first of all, the portion is huge, perhaps twice larger than the average bowl served at nearby Katong laksa stalwarts : Janggut at Roxy Square next door, or 328 Laksa across the road. But the luxe version here was packed with fresh prawns, quails’ eggs, tofu puffs and clams - to justify its higher price, I guess.

Flavour-wise, I wished the spices were stronger. This was a bit too mild, almost a Katong laksa 101 to introduce to foreigners who may balk at the spice level which Singaporeans are used to.

If I come back, I’m going to try the restaurant’s more inventive menu items, e.g. chili crabcakes or foie gras mantou buns.

Address
Baba Chews Bar and Eatery
86 East Coast Road, #01-01 Katong Square
Singapore 428788
Operating hours: 6:30am–midnight, daily
Tel: +65 6723 2025

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Your photos here, are gorgeous!

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Thanks. It’s the place. Absolutely stunning.

Back to Baba Chew’s today - the Chew’s Laksa cocktail which I missed during my visit last month is available this time. It consisted of Bacardi white, Malibu, pineapple juice, coconut cream, Gula Melaka syrup & laksa-infused whipped cream. Not sure I liked it, though - tasted like chilled laksa soup.

Even the two much talked-about modern-Singapore creations did not fare very well at all:

  1. The foie gras tau kwa pau tasted exactly as I thought it would - an absolute clash of flavours and textures: soft foie gras lobes do not pair well with soft tau kwa (bean curd), whereas the viscuous “lor chap” was too bland to counter the foie gras’ earthy flavours. Worse, they had julienned cucumber and a sprinkling of crushed peanuts as topping - further confusing the mix. Some hard-boiled & halved quail’s eggs, which did nothing to improve the dish, were thrown in. It was a mish-mash dish which simply failed to impress.

  2. Chilli crab cake with “man tou” chips fared slightly better. The chilli crab gravy was spot-on, but the crab cake had too much additives than crabmeat. Good but not memorable.

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The place and the food looks so promising. Seems like it is better to go to the hole in wall places and for non fusion food!

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Too true. I popped down to Arnold’s at City Plaza, Geylang Serai, afterwards for some “proper” food - best fried chicken in Singapore, bar none :smiley:

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Back at Baba Chew’s last weekend. Tried two more items on their menu, and both were pretty good.

  1. Buah keluak burger: beef patty smothered with the truffle-like “buah keluak” sauce. Genius!

  2. Nyonya fried rice - very substantial: the rice was spiked with spicy sambal belachan, and accompanied by some very good turmeric-marinated grilled chicken, fried egg sunny-side up, achar (Nyonya-style pickles) and “krepek belinjo” (Indonesian bitter-nut crackers).

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold