When a friend who’s been staying in the United States for years said she was craving for Peranakan food, there was only one place we considered bringing her to – Guan Hoe Soon at Joo Chiat Place. Sure there’s other Peranakan outlets that ain’t half bad but for true blue Peranakan authenticity, nothing beats this old-timer which has been around since 1953.
Of course, just like when having a seafood dinner, we ordered the usual Peranakan favourites such as Ayam Buah Keluak (gravied chicken with black Pangium edule nuts and mixed spices), Nonya Chap Chye (stewed cabbages and black fungus), Otak-Otak (grilled fish cake) and Ngoh Hiang (five-spice pork rolls in beancurd skin), all of which did not fail us in our expectations. So much so that we wanted to order an extra portion of each as it didn’t take us long to realise that medium servings were not enough to satisfy a gang of 13! (Yes, they managed to squeeze us ‘skinny ladies’ all at a big table…)
But then again, we did order a host of other dishes too, one soul reminded us. There was Sotong Sambal (squids in chilli paste) which was decent; Sambal Kangkong (water spinach in chilli paste) which was gone in a flash; and Bakwan Kepiting Soup, a clear hot soup with pork and crab balls, that was surprisingly tasty and crunchy. Then instead of the usual popular Assam Curry Fish Head, we went for the Ikan A.Nanas Pedas, which when it arrived, was basically pomfret fish curry. This item had mixed reviews – half of us think it was bland and “fishy”, the rest thought it was the best thing they ever had, so much so they ordered another serving! As one said aside, “If pomfret was cooked in curry, it means it’s not that fresh…” Oh well, to each her own, I guess….
One item I’m glad I ordered is the off-menu Babi Panggang (barbequed pork, pictured above) which was supposedly only available during weekends. Since we were there on a Friday, I took a chance to ask if it is available and voila, it was and it was a thrill to get a chance to try it as it was truly delightfully delicious, down to its crispy skin.
Lastly, sweet desserts the likes of Chendol, Gula Melaka and Bobo Chacha helped us end the multi-course meal on a sweet note. All in all, it cost us about $32 per person. Our dishes were mainly medium offerings priced between $14 and $20 (enough for 6-8, definitely not for 10-12 which requires a large) and small servings priced between $8 to $10 (about 3-4 people). And of cos, needless to say that majority of the items go much better with white rice than simply on its own. One thing that’s certain, glad our faith in Guan Hoe Soon remains intact. Long may it last!
Note: The place is small so make a reservation ahead whether or not if you have a big party. Also, take note that the restaurant closes by 9.30pm so start early (evening session begins at 6pm) if you do not want to rush through your dinner.