Q: A close friend has just returned from Singapore and reports that the meals eaten there — combining Malay and Chinese ingredients and called Peranakan cuisine — are among the best she’s ever consumed. Any place in L.A. to experience this?
—Mark Zuckerman, Century City
A: I love the Peranakan cooking in Singapore and Penang — which is actually hard to find even there, outside of the homes of wealthy people. It is an amazingly labor-intensive cuisine, flavored with baroquely complicated fresh-spice mixtures, fragrant citrus leaves, lots of pork and coconut and fermented shrimp paste, and more pounding and mincing than anybody with an actual business wants to be involved with. The classic Peranakan dish of chicken cooked with tar-black stuffed candlenuts is unbelievably delicious.
Unfortunately, the food is impossible to find in the U.S. Nonya, in Old Town Pasadena, is supposedly devoted to the cuisine, but doesn’t have a single authentic (or even tasty) dish. Litz, in Monterey Park, has some Singapore-style dishes, although the food is pretty basic. A good Malaysian restaurant — the Penang-tinged Little Malaysia in El Monte, Kuala Lumpur in Pasadena and Yazmin in Alhambra, all run by Straits Chinese — will have a few great local dishes. Or call the Indonesian restaurant Susie’s Deli and ask if it happens to be running ayam pangang klaten as a special. It’s not, strictly speaking, a Peranakan dish, but it hits some of the same funky notes. Susie’s Deli, 12238 Artesia Blvd., Artesia, (562) 860-7272.
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