[Singapore] Portuguese-Eurasian food at Mary's Kafe by Mary Gomes

Mary Gomes, the best-selling author of “The Eurasian Cookbook”, is back and now operating her eponymously-named cafe at Bendemeer Centre. My first taste of Mary Gomes’ cooking was back in 2007 when she ran Mary’s Kafe at the Singapore Council for Women’s Organisation (SCWO) on Waterloo Street. Mary Gomes already had quite a reputation before then whipping up Eurasian fare on Sundays at St Joseph’s Church in town. She’d subsequently moved to Queen Street where she operated from 2009 till 2017.

Mary’s new place at Bendemeer Centre is a bright, casual eatery. Besides her sister who was her long-time assistant, Mary now has her daughter, Michelle, to help as well. Her usual spread of Eurasian fare are on offer, though some are rotated around and available only on certain days of the week.

I never miss Mary’s pang susi buns whenever I’m at her cafe. Singaporeans who grew up in the 1950s/60s will remember this retro baked good: buns made from the addition ot steamed sweet potatoes into the dough, making the baked end-product denser. The buns come with a spiced meat filling. One hardly finds pang susi commercially in Singapore anymore - it pretty much went extinct around the same time as Crab Rangoon and Prawn Cocktails.
But at Mary’s Kafe, you can rekindle your childhood taste memories. :joy:

Mary’s ever-versatile and offers non-Eurasian fare like the Nyonya kueh pai tee (crisp, pastry cups filled with stewed jicama & eggs), and a very delectable mee Siam (Mary’s rendition actually tasted better than the ones served in many Nyonya restaurants).

We tried 3 of Mary’s curries this time:

  1. Pork Curry Asam - the use of tamarind (“asam”) juice introduced a sharp tang which undercuts the richness of the pork in this curry.

  2. Beef Rendang - the Javanese and Malays make the best rendang. Mary’s rendition is more stew-like compared to the dry curries that are Javanese/Malay rendang. But knowing Mary, the tastes were spot-on.

  3. Chicken Curry - this is the Eurasian take on chicken curry, less spicy than I expected, but went perfectly with steamed white rice.

We also ordered one of Mary’s daily specials, her own unique take on Peranakan/Baba-Nyonya Ikan Chuan-chuan. This dish usually entailed frying a whole fish, or pieces of fish, then braising the cooked fish in a fermented soybean paste/taucheo-flavoured gravy, with ginger, scallions and red chilis. Mary’s version involves batter-fried fish fillets, topped with a spicy chili-taucheo paste.

Mary also bakes sone very good cakes - my fave is her Eurasian sugee cake, a rich, buttery semolina cake with loads of crushed almonds for added flavour. We also ordered a moist, rich slice of chocolate sponge cake which is one of the best anywhere on the island.

As always, one always end up over-eating whilst at Mary’s Kafe.

Mary’s Kafe
20 Bendemeer Road
Singapore 339914
Tel: +65 9852 0348
Operating hours: 9am to 5pm, Mon-Fri, Closed Sat & Sun.


Tomorrow: Thursday, Feb 24, will be the last day of operation for Mary’s Kafe at Bendemeer Centre. The lease is up for this property and, at this juncture, Mary Gomes (who turns 74 this year) has not yet identified a new location for her much-loved cafe.

With the pandemic having an adverse effect on many businesses in Singapore, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that Mary Gomes might decide to resume her business after taking a break for the moment.

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