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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Peranakan Place, Auburn

Ayam buah keluak Nonya dish at Peranakan Place, Auburn

Relax, there’s no hydrogen cyanide left in the buah keluak seed by the time it ends up in your meal here. The seed is found inside the "football fruit" of the keluak tree native to the swamps of southeast Asia – and thanks to that volatile acid, is highly poisonous. So why is it on the menu at this Auburn eatery?

Buah keluak seeds at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Buah keluak seeds

Here's why: they first boil down the seeds before burying them in ash for forty days. This allows them to ferment, and converts the flesh from a pale creamy colour to a midnight shade of black. Those seeds are the centrepiece of ayam buah keluak, a dark and spicy chicken stew fragrant with tamarind, turmeric and galangal.

Ayam buah keluak ($29.90) is a mainstay of Peranakan cuisine. And those seeds are unlike anything you will ever taste. You’ll get a crab picker to scrape out the meat from within the partially cracked seed. The flesh is ominously black, nutty and medicinal – with an unmistakeable bitterness.

Peranakan traditional metal tiffin at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Peranakan mortar and pestle and traditional metal tiffin

You can try it for yourself at Peranakan Place, Sydney’s only restaurant dedicated to Peranakan cuisine. There’s not much signage out the front but the interiors are new and sparkling, filled with Peranakan trinkets and a smiling host who’s eager to explain everything.

Like, for instance, what is Peranakan food? It’s the distinct strain of Malay Chinese cuisine which evolved in the 15th and 16th centuries in Malaysia and Singapore when Chinese immigrants integrated their food with that of the locals. Also known as Nonya food – nonya means aunty in Peranakan – the cuisine fuses Chinese ingredients with Malaysian spices. That means a little coconut milk here, a feisty wad of shrimp paste there.

Shrimp paste fried chicken wings at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Shrimp paste fried chicken wings $6.90 for four

There are plenty of less intimidating dishes on the menu, too. The shrimp paste fried chicken wings are boosted by a salty prawn intensity that makes you lust after more.

Nonya pie tee top hats at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Pie tee top hats $9.90 for four

Pie tee is another classic Peranakan dish. Little top hats of deep-fried pastry get turned upside and filled with cooked turnip shreds, prawn and coriander.

Babi ponteh pork belly and trotters at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Babi pongteh pork belly and trotters $16.90
with coconut rice $3

Splurge on the coconut rice and have it with babi pongteh, a comforting stew of gelatinous pork trotters cooked with chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms.

Kang kong water spinach with belacan at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Kang kong water spinach with belacan $13.90

Achar pickled vegetables at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Achar pickled vegetables $4

Durian with sticky rice and coconut cream at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Durian with sticky rice and coconut cream $8.80

Durian with sticky rice and coconut cream at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Durian and sticky rice

Go hard on the durian custard for desserts, either served in a choux pastry puff or drizzled over sticky rice.

Pulot hitam black sticky rice and coconut cream at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Pulot hitam black sticky rice with coconut cream $6.90

It’s also worth checking out the pulot hitam, a rice pudding made with chewy black rice sweetened with palm sugar and decorated with coconut cream.

Teh terik and lime soda drinks at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Teh tarik pulled tea and lime soda drinks

Original Peranakan hand-painted tiles at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Original Peranakan hand-painted tiles

Nonya cuisine at Peranakan Place, Auburn
Nonya cuisine at Peranakan Place

Peranakan Place, Auburn

Peranakan Place Nonya Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Peranakan Place
139 Parramatta Road, Auburn, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9737 8989

Opening hours:
Wednesday to Sunday 11.30am-2.30pm; 5.30pm-10pm

This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of Time Out Sydney in my monthly Food & Drink column Eat This! [Read online

Read more of my Time Out Sydney reviews
14 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 5/17/2015 12:00:00 am


  • At 5/17/2015 9:31 am, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    The Peranakan in me is champing to visit this place! I don't know how you do it Helen but I love all these little treasures you find and blog to the rest of us! Thank you! :)

  • At 5/17/2015 7:28 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    I love Nonya food!!! Kang kong and belacan combo is the best!! Omgz the pork belly & trotts dish too! Awesome find Helen.

  • At 5/17/2015 8:00 pm, Anonymous Felicia @ Next Stop: Food said…

    Kang kong with belacan yum! The chicken wings looks really good too

  • At 5/18/2015 6:48 pm, Blogger Chrys said…

    Tiffin carrier and Peranakan tiles... lovely!

  • At 5/19/2015 9:08 am, Blogger Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said…

    I know I usually look at the food, which does look good, but I adore the gorgeous tiles, so intricate :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  • At 5/19/2015 9:19 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysauceopan said…

    Dear Helen,

    I know I would be ordering 2 plates of the fried chicken.

  • At 5/19/2015 3:40 pm, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    Well that's a cuisine I clearly no little about! I do love the sound of it and the fried chicken looks very good. There's such a wealth of these sorts of ethnic restaurants in Auburn and they're all very reasonably priced xx

  • At 5/19/2015 11:43 pm, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    Mmm...would really wanna try their sticky rice. Filipino sticky rice and other rice cakes taste really good. We're sure these ones are, too!!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

  • At 5/21/2015 8:32 am, Blogger Roo Food said…

    I want to go back to Malaysia! I love Pie tee and the chicken wings...can't pass up kang kong either...great find!

  • At 5/22/2015 11:00 am, Anonymous Elliesbelly said…

    I love the look and sound of that pork belly yum.. and durian sticky rice is so good but I get a bit worried that its too sweet sometimes but this one looks like it has a good amount of coconut cream to balance the sweetness :)

  • At 5/23/2015 4:55 pm, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    Looking good. Looking REAL good! Am wanting that pork belly & trotter dish!

  • At 5/25/2015 10:06 am, Anonymous Maureen | Orgasmic Chef said…

    Anything that starts out with 'aunty' food sounds wonderful. Those buah keluak seeds are really intriguing and make me wonder who figured out if they did all that they wouldn't be poisonous any longer? Who'd test that?? :)

  • At 6/10/2015 12:39 am, Anonymous sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    After reading the first couple of paras about ayam buah keluak there was really no need to read the rest of the post. You had me, I must visit, I must try.

    Okay I did read it all, but just saying :)

  • At 6/19/2015 9:00 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    I love nyonya food! What a great find!!!

    The mortar and pestle and little tiffin are so cute, and make me homesick! I gotta find a tiffin like that to decorate my lounge room! :)

    xox Sarah


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