Cheap & Good

Eurasian home cooking: Popo & Nana's Delights (Maxwell Road Food Centre)

From left: Popo & Nana's Nonya Ayam Masak Merak, Nonya Pork Rib Buah Keluak and Beef Smore served with rice and chap chye.
From left: Popo & Nana's Nonya Ayam Masak Merak, Nonya Pork Rib Buah Keluak and Beef Smore served with rice and chap chye.PHOTO: KENNETH GOH

Eurasian dishes are hard to find here. The low-profile east-meets- west cuisine does not feature much outside of home kitchens. I struggle to think of places that serve Eurasian food beyond Mary's Kafe in Queen Street and Quentin's Restaurant in Ceylon Road.

Imagine my delight when I spot Popo & Nana's Delights stall in Maxwell Road Food Centre recently. It serves Eurasian and Peranakan dishes, which are cooked by owner Grace Chin, 55. The former housewife has been cooking these classic dishes for her family for 30 years, and decided to open a stall to sell them with the encouragement of her three children, who are in their 20s.

The stall is named after two women who ignited Ms Chin's passion for cooking. Popo refers to her late Indonesian paternal grandmother, who was Peranakan, and Nana refers to her late Eurasian mother.

She says: "I want diners to have a taste of wholesome and home- cooked Eurasian food."

The stall offers four dishes daily, which are rotated among a repertoire of 20 dishes, all of them priced at $6. The menu is posted on the stall's Facebook page before 11am daily.

  • POPO & NANA'S DELIGHTS

  • 01-70 Maxwell Road Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street

    Open: 11am to 3pm, weekdays; open on selected Saturdays, closed on Sunday

    Info: Go to www.facebook.com/ popoandnanas

    Rating: 4 stars

Popular Eurasian fare include beef ball stew, Eurasian Smore and Shepherd's Pie. The buah keluak with chicken or pork and babi assam are favourites on the Peranakan menu.

Beef Smore is a comforting stew of tender beef which has been braised for three hours. The result is a rich stock that is enriched by tomatoes, carrots and potatoes, and hints of cinnamon and cloves. The Shepherd's Pie is one of the more generous versions that I have had. The hefty pie has equal proportions of minced chicken and greens, and creamy mashed potato.

Look out for the chef's specials such as the Eurasian Cabbage Roll, which is available once every fortnight. It is a savoury blend of minced pork and luncheon meat enveloped in a huge cabbage leaf, which is soaked in a creamy chicken broth that is lightly spiced with cloves and peppercorns.

Of the Peranakan dishes, I like the Nonya Ayam Masak Merak most. Its bright red hue is not as scary as it looks. The thick tomato, garlic and onion paste is surprisingly sweet and there is a judicious dose of chilli to lift the dish. The Nonya Pork Rib Buah Keluak has a sour tang, and an eruption of umami flavour explodes in the mouth with generous flecks of buah keluak paste. To "break the monotony" of offering Eurasian and Peranakan food, Ms Chin also offers some western dishes, including smoked duck and beef ball pasta, also priced at $6.

Adhering to home-style cooking means that she has to prepare the rempah or spice pastes and ingredients at the stall from 6am every day. Portions are limited and are sold out by 3pm.

Despite the pounding from the nearby construction site of the upcoming Maxwell MRT Station, digging into Ms Chin's dishes transports me to a home kitchen on a still and serene afternoon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'Eurasian home cooking'. Print Edition | Subscribe