Mention Peranakan cuisine and the word “comfort” comes to mind – tables filled to the brim with mom or grandma’s best dishes for the whole family gathered round.
House of Peranakan Group definitely had this vision in mind when they opened their fourth Tok Panjang Cafe branch along East Coast Road, judging by the homely interior and various knick knacks scattered around the dining tables.
The place was relatively quiet and empty when I arrived, almost like your forgotten quaint neighbourhood eatery in a time overtaken by fancy cafes with hipster tableware. But as the evening progressed, the crowd swelled and Tok Panjang transformed into a lively bistro, almost like your typical family reunion!
Tok Panjang – which stands for “a long table of food” in Baba Malay – splits their menu into Classic Bites, Noodles, Nasi Lemak Sets, Rice Sets, and Desserts.
For starters, we had the classic Ngoh Hiang ($5.50). Fried till crisp, and stuffed with minced meat, prawns, water chestnuts, carrots, turnips and onion, this was a great start to our meal.
The Tauhu Goreng ($7.90) had great crunch, no thanks to the home-made roasted peanut sambal sauce with beansprouts and cucumber that it was slathered in. Loved the slightly sweet and spicy aftertaste of the sauce!
I was pretty excited for Bob’s Pork Belly Bun ($8 for 2 pcs) which I had heard rave reviews about, but it fell short. The bun was incredibly soft and fluffy, but the pork belly was dry and hard. The Kueh Pie Tee ($6.50/4pcs) fared better.
Laksa lovers, listen up – Tok Panjang’s Asam Laksa ($8.90) is one of the few to be served with fat chunks of kembong fish! The Asam broth was a delightful mix of tamarind, shallots, galangal, belachan, lemongrass and red chillis, while the generous chunks of fish meat, rojak flower, mint leaf, grated pineapple, cucumber, onions and hae kou helped give the dish its sweet and spicy kick. I could hardly stop myself from fishing for those chunks of fish meat!
For something more substantial, Tok Panjang offers a variety of nasi lemak and rice sets.
Side dishes for the Nasi Lemak set ($11.90) include Babi Assam (belly pork braised in spices and beanpaste), Long Beans Sambal (long beans sautéed in coconut milk and titek sambal), Assam Baby Squid (sautéed in tamarind, plum sauce and onions) , Chicken Wings, and Sambal Telor (eggs sautéed in sambal sauce).
My favourites were the baby squid – so sweet and crunchy! I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the Sambal Telor had a molten center.
For the Peranakan Rice Set ($11.90), diners can choose from Babi Pongteh (stewed pork in garlic and beanpaste), Beef Rendang, and Ikan Garam Assam (red snapper in tangy gravy with brinjals and lady’s fingers). Served with Nonya Chap Chye (braised mixed vegetables in beanpaste) and Itek Tim (salted vegetables and duck) Soup. Yum!
My favourites from that night were definitely the desserts. Specifically, the Durian Chendol ($6.50) – the bitter aftertaste from that generous dollop of durian was da bomb!
If you’re in the area and in the mood for authentic Peranakan cuisine, you should definitely check out Tok Panjang. Thanks for hosting us!
Address: 392 East Coast Road
Opening hours: 9am – 9pm (closed on Monday)
Contact: 9663 3392