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Cheap & Good

Babas Peranakan serves fresh and tasty Nonya favourites

The stall may be tucked away in a quiet corner of Chinatown hawker centre, but the yummy Peranakan fare has been drawing queues for the past seven years.

Owner Edwin Tan, 58, has been dishing up Nonya fare with passion at his stall, Babas Peranakan, six days a week.

At the age of 12, he was already whipping up Nonya fare using recipes by his Peranakan mother and grandmother.

It was no surprise that he followed his heart and became a chef, working in hotels such as Shangri-La and Dynasty for about 20 years. He struck out on his own and set up the Chinatown stall after turning 51.

While the selection at Babas Peranakan may not be varied, regulars return time and again for his excellent curries.

  • BABAS PERANAKAN

  • 02-225 Chinatown Hawker Centre, 335 Smith Street

    Open: 10am to 1.30pm, closed on Wednesday

    Rating: 4/5

At a recent lunch I had with a friend, I paid $13 for satay ayam curry (two drumsticks), ayam goreng (one drumstick), onion omelette and sayur lemak (vegetable curry).

The satay ayam curry ($3 for one serving) was redolent of the fragrance of fresh lemongrass and limau purut (lime leaves). The chicken was tender and the gravy, not too runny, was good for spooning over white rice.

Mr Tan cooks the dishes in smaller portions so the food is always fresh. The ayam goreng ($3) came straight out of the wok bubbling with hot oil and was crispy. The chicken is marinated with ingredients including chilli and curry powder, shallots and ginger for five hours before being fried till crispy.

The onion omelette, fried with onion, bits of spring onion and chilli, was cheap and good. A generous portion for two came up to $1.

I could not give sayur lemak ($1 a serving) a miss since so many people seemed to be ordering it. The cabbage, with slices of fried taupok (fried beancurd puff), was cooked till tender, but with some bite. The gravy, made with chicken bone stock, was tasty.

Mr Tan also has normal "light" chicken curry ($3), as he calls it.

I had tried it on another day. It was delicious as there was no overwhelming curry powder smell. He says he refrains from using too much turmeric or chilli powder and the lovely curry taste comes through naturally.

I also tried hae cho, or deep-fried prawn, as it says on the menu in front of the stall. The fish paste with small prawns, which came in rectangular parcels ($2 for three), was well done.

However, there seemed to be no trays provided the few times I was there, so be prepared to cart your order away plate by plate as it is self-service.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2016, with the headline 'Cheap & Good Nonya flair'. Print Edition | Subscribe