Nonya food - buffet style

Fifo Food Review > Chilli Padi Nonya Cafe

Nonya food - buffet style

Review Rating


It may be a no frills eat-all-you-can buffet at only $10.80 but that doesn't mean substandard food. On the contrary, the quality of the spread of Peranakan food at the Joo Chiat Chilli Pady Nonya Restaurant easily rivals the more expensive buffets in town. 


Eating at this branch of the esteemed Joo Chiat Chilli Pady Nonya Restaurant feels just like visiting a favourite aunt for a get together. The rattan furniture and porcelain wares adorning the room , as well as the black and white photographs on the wall, all give an authentic homely atmosphere to the place. Though variety isn't a strength here, the range still sufficiently allows you enjoy the wholesome goodness of quality Peranakan cuisine.


The selection of Peranakan dishes highlights the style of the Straits Chinese - it's looks really simple but there's a complexity in the taste that takes time to appreciate. Take the gado-gado for instance, which you may choose to have for starters; you mix your own salad from the selection of beansprouts, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, ketupat along with bean-cakes. Add to that a generous dallop of the peanut sauce and the result is a wonderful sensory explosion. Munching on the crisp peanuts against the soft body of tofu, the savoury gravy with the sweetness of the sprouts, it is definitely worth taking time to slowly appreciate the chemical reactions in your mouth.  


The Peranakan's interpretation of Mee Siam is vastly different from what you'd know if you're new to their cuisine. Having a slight sourish taste, a wider range of spices is invested in the dish and the result benefits the customer - the fragrance from the mix of spices and the texture of the gravy is a smorsgabord.


Digging into the main courses, it's difficult to resist the temptation to keep stuffing yourself. The peranakan chicken curry is a definite must try: spices and herbs are woven wonderfully together to give the curry more complexity in terms taste and smell. It's hard to lay a finger on extactly whether the curry is sweet, salty or sour because you taste hints of everything.


The pork stew was similar in approach-a tangy spin on a usually savoury dish- though I thought that the meat was too fatty. I presumed that it was to enhance the flavour of the dish and the chefs meant for the aroma of the meat to permeate in the broth, albeit overdoing it. It'd be perfect if the meat were leaner. 


It perhaps doesn't help that the belachan goes superbly well with the rice, and this is the only buffet where the rule of not eating rice can be broken. Don't worry if you can't take too much spice. The food here looks spicier than it really is. 


That is, in fact my only gripe - the belachan isn't hot enough. I never once felt the need for water, even when I was consuming the belachan-stuffed fish. That was I thought, also the most inconvenient item on the menu to consume. Poorly scaled and extremely bony, it didn't really matter that the fish was well cooked and the belachan enhanced the otherwise tasteless meat. Too much effort was needed to eat such a small fish.


You'll be rewarded if you leave some room for dessert. There is a wide assortment of the renowned nonya kuehs to end your meal. Mostly tapioca based, these chewy pastries provide the perfect balance to the saltiness of all the belachan and mains. Sweet tooths will surely be satisfied if they drizzle some sweet sauce, which draws out the frangrance from the tapioca, the over their kuehs. 


And even if you're bursting from all the food by dessert time, I'm sure you'd still be thankful for the chengting, especially if you are not used to the level of spiciness.  The level of sweetness can also be controlled by the amount of sugary melon strips added to the soup. 


What this place proves is that good food doesn't have to be expensive in Singapore. And that sometimes, a simple bowl of rice and belachan gives equal gastronomical satisfaction as an elaborate feast. 


About jaesonli

I'm the 'e' in my moniker - the quirk in a common name.


I like sampling strange, random things and experiences. And meeting eccentric folks, instead of boringly bland people.



Chilli Padi Nonya Cafe

  • Peranakan Cuisine
  • 470 North Bridge Road #01-02 North Bridge Commercial Complex S(188735)
  • Tel: 63397745
  • Opens: Mon - Sun 11am - 2.30pm, 3pm - 5.30pm, 6pm - 9.30pm
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