[Singapore] Nyonya Dinner at Dulukala Peranakan Restaurant

It’s been 7 years since I first discovered Dulukala Peranakan restaurant on the 4th floor of Beauty World Centre in Upper Bukit Timah, and it’s still one of the better places to have a taste of Southern-style Nyonya food - the type we get in Singapore and Malacca, not the Northern-style Nyonya which one finds in Penang. Dulukala seems more settled now, and presents its renditions of popular Nyonya staples with more confidence, asserting its own taste preferences and identity here & there.

  1. Babi Pongteh - the version here is one of my faves, with the coriander and “taucheo” perfectly-balanced, yet not too overwhelming like in a couple of places I’d tried in Katong:

  1. Bakwan Kepiting (pork-crab meatball soup). The version here is one of the best I’d had in town, but still lagged behind the versions at Ivins (Binjai Park) and Guan Hoe Soon (Joo Chiat Place).

  1. Ayam Buah Keluak - this quintessential Southern-Nyonya dish is the yardstick by which good Nyonya restaurants in Malacca and Singapore are measured by (this dish doesn’t exist in Penang’s Nyonya repertoire where “Curry Kapitan” is held in similar esteem). The gold standard for Ayam Buah Keluak in Singapore is held, in my opinion, by Peranakan Inn & Lounge on East Coast Road in Katong. PeraMakan at Keppel Club also does a wonderful rendition, but Dulukala’s lighter version is up there with them in terms of spicing. Generous nuts, with their insides removed, mixed with the truffle-like nut flesh plus minced pork and a special Nyonya blend of spices (belacan-galangal-chillis), they were delish. The spicy gravy was redolent of the tamarind, lemongrass, galangal, nutty candlenut and that familiar Nyonya blend of spices which I loved:

  1. Tauyu Sotong (squid in black ink sauce). This is a new dish here, and which I’d not seen in any other Nyonya restaurant in Singapore. It’s tasty nonetheless, and pleased my squid-loving friend/dinner companion quite a bit:

  1. Sambal Tumis Pomfret. Familiar dish, but done using black pomfret, which is a bit unusual for me - I guess the restaurant used a more expensive fish to justify charging higher prices. Okay-tasting, but the only dish here which I thought tasted pretty average compared to other Nyonya restaurants in town:

  1. Okra with sambal “hae bee” - our obligatory vegetable dish: this one was lightly-poached okra topped with a sambal made from dried shrimps and chillis. It was well-executed.

Dulukala is oftentimes overlooked when one talks about Nyonya food in Singapore - its location in a rather old, neighbourhood shopping centre which has seen better times since its hey-days 4 decades back probably contributed to that. It lacked the polish and newness of Candlenut in Outram Park, it’s not in a more upmarket neighbourhood like Ivins (which is just 10 minutes’ drive down the road, but seems a world away), it’s not in a Peranakan neighbourhood like Guan Hoe Soon or Peranakan Inn & Lounge. But, it’s really good - its home-cooked flavours really hit the spot for me, who’s a True-Blue Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese) and who grew up on Southern Nyonya cooking.

Address: Dulukala Peranakan Restaurant, 144 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, #04-04 Beauty World Centre, Singapore 588177. Tel: +65 6465 2036

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

― Jonathan Gold