A cookbook author, a food consultant, and a custodian of Peranakan culinary heritage, Chef Philip Chia’s dedication to preserving the craft and cuisine is remarkable.
The affable ’84 SHATEC alumnus welcomed us into his modest home studio for an afternoon of eye-opening demos and a taste of the quintessential Peranakan dish: Ayam Buah Keluak, a tender braised chicken cooked with blended spice paste (rempah) and the Indonesian Buah Keluak nut.
His expertise showed in the way he swiftly cracked ready Buah Keluak nuts: the source of the dish’s complex flavour, smooth and moreish with full-bodied notes similar to that of dark cocoa or truffle.
Chef Philip also prepared Rempah Garang Asem, a traditional spice mix widely used in Peranakan households. With his batu lesung (mortar and pestle – kitchen aids he has used since age 6), he pounded the spices with rhythm. These were distinctive beats mastered byBibiks (elderly women) of yesteryear who firmly listened whether their daughters-in-law were working diligently in the kitchen.
Read on for Chef Philip’s step-by-step guide and his pro-tips to preparing the Buah Keluak nut (poisonous when unprocessed!) and rempah.