Hi, I'm Lu!

A PhD Student at University of Chicago who loves discovering the world and trying new eats! Hope you enjoy!

Candlenut: Peranakan in Singapore

Candlenut: Peranakan in Singapore

Jackfruit and pomelo topped with shaved foie gras
Jackfruit and pomelo topped with shaved foie gras

Andrew and I were very excited when my Airbnb hosts suggested that we meet up at a fine dining version of a Peranakan restaurant before we left Singapore.  When we entered Candlenut across from the Dorsett Hotel entrance, we were greeted with modern decor and the head chef, Malcolm, who came out with an amuse bouche of jackfruit and pomelo topped with shaved foie gras.  It was a delightful contrast of light and heavy, which prepared us for a delectable meal of home recipes.

Kueh Pie Tee - crispy cups ("top hats") with braised turnips, pork belly and prawns
Kueh Pie Tee - crispy cups ("top hats") with braised turnips, pork belly and prawns

Our very first dish was like a build-your-own canapé.  We stuffed the little freshly made crispy cups with the braised mix of turnips, pork belly and prawns.  When I popped it into my mouth, it was a beautiful combination of savory and sweet.  After stuffing the cups, there was still some of the filling left over so I couldn't help but scoop it up and finish it up!

Hamachi with cucumber and lemongrass salad and wasabi puree
Hamachi with cucumber and lemongrass salad and wasabi puree

Complements of the chef, this hamachi was some of the freshest I've ever had.  Neatly cut, it was a perfect seafood starter to go with the lemongrass salad.  What I love about this place is that they use the freshest ingredients, and everything is made from scratch.  Plus, you don't have to worry about MSG or preservatives!

Candlenut Satay - grilled spiced marinated chicken thigh and pork belly served with rich homemade pineapple peanut sauce, cucumbers and red onions
Candlenut Satay - grilled spiced marinated chicken thigh and pork belly served with rich homemade pineapple peanut sauce, cucumbers and red onions

Loved this satay, although it was a little bit light on the peanut sauce.  The meats were super juicy, though!

Rendang - French duck breast over a dry aromatic coconut curry with kaffir lime leaves and roasted coconut
Rendang - French duck breast over a dry aromatic coconut curry with kaffir lime leaves and roasted coconut
Yeye's Kari - 4th generation recipe from the chef's great grandfather, where yeye means grandfather - white coconut curry of chicken with green chili padi, green peppercorns, kaffir lime leaf
Yeye's Kari - 4th generation recipe from the chef's great grandfather, where yeye means grandfather - white coconut curry of chicken with green chili padi, green peppercorns, kaffir lime leaf

What beautiful coconut curries - the menu description was correct by calling the rendang aromatic because the flavors were popping in this dish!  And Yeye's kari had a delightful spicy kick to it, but if you see anything that looks like green beans, don't eat them - they are EXTREMELY spicy chilis.  I learned the hard way...

Crispy pork belly with mustard greens, sambal chincalok
Crispy pork belly with mustard greens, sambal chincalok

Officially the best dish I had at Candlenut.  There's really nothing better than fried pork belly!

Ngoh Hiang - crispy beancurd roll stuffed with minced pork and prawns, water chestnuts, mushrooms
Ngoh Hiang - crispy beancurd roll stuffed with minced pork and prawns, water chestnuts, mushrooms

Mmm I adored the sweetness and saltiness added to the contrast in textures.  This is definitely a dish I'd order over and over again!  I'd like this recipe, please!

48 hour braised baby back ribs in an Indonesian sauce
48 hour braised baby back ribs in an Indonesian sauce

With meat falling off the bone, these were definitely braised for that 48 hours!  Plus, these were REAL baby back ribs.  How can I tell?  These ribs were actually unfused at one end, indicating that the hog they used was a true juvenile.  But maybe I just never really noticed the lack of fusion in baby back ribs before.

Buah Keluak - Peranakan signature, buah keluak (black nuts) are scrubbed and soaked for 5 days min; Candlenut style - black gold filling extracted by chefs to form thick and rich buah keluak gravy over F1 Ranger Valley Wagyu beef rib
Buah Keluak - Peranakan signature, buah keluak (black nuts) are scrubbed and soaked for 5 days min; Candlenut style - black gold filling extracted by chefs to form thick and rich buah keluak gravy over F1 Ranger Valley Wagyu beef rib

This sauce is a Peranakan signature sauce.  Keluak is actually a plant that produces fruits and seeds that contain high levels of hydrogen cyanide, aka they are very poisonous.  But after boiling and fermentation, the seeds turn from white to black and can be ground up into a thick, black gravy for flavoring Peranakan dishes.  Well, it's certainly prepared properly at Candlenut, although I'm not completely decided on what I think about the sauce.

Chap chye - braised cabbage with mushrooms, sweet and dried bean curd, pork belly and black fungus in rich prawn stock gravy
Chap chye - braised cabbage with mushrooms, sweet and dried bean curd, pork belly and black fungus in rich prawn stock gravy

Well, we realized that we had ordered A LOT of meat and realized we still needed to look at the healthier part of the menu... so we chose this chap chye.  With pork belly and prawn stock gravy, I'm not sure how healthy this was, but it was downright appetizing!

Sambal Kacang Petai - stir fried stinky petai beans with tamarind and chili sambal and crispy shallots over prawns
Sambal Kacang Petai - stir fried stinky petai beans with tamarind and chili sambal and crispy shallots over prawns

Stinky petai beans are really an acquired taste, but the shrimp certainly were not!  That chili sambal really spiced up those perfectly cooked prawns!

Top left: Chendol cream - signature coconut custard, gula melaka sauce with pandan jelly Top right: Durian soup - creamy durian ice cream with feuilletine, fresh durian puree Middle right: Mango ice Bottom: Banana caramel pudding - steamed banana cake, caramelized banana, ginger crumble with gula melaka ice cream
Top left: Chendol cream - signature coconut custard, gula melaka sauce with pandan jelly Top right: Durian soup - creamy durian ice cream with feuilletine, fresh durian puree Middle right: Mango ice Bottom: Banana caramel pudding - steamed banana cake, caramelized banana, ginger crumble with gula melaka ice cream

After all those dishes, we couldn't help but order all the desserts!  My favorite was the Chendol cream, which had a very smooth texture.  As for the mango ice, make sure you eat the mango with the ice; as a pair, it is phenomenal but on its own, the ice is a bit funny.  The banana caramel pudding is also pretty nice, but it's a little heavy for wrapping up our giant dinner.  And durian is durian.  Only get it if you enjoy that unbearable taste!

Tips:

  1. Make a reservation!  This place is gaining more popularity by the minute - Chef Malcolm is becoming a star chef in the Singaporean dining scene, and I can certainly see why!
  2. Order the crispy pork belly - you can't really afford to pass up on this dish!
The Boarding House

The Boarding House

Strings Ramen

Strings Ramen