Chilli Padi, Joo Chiat, Singapore

Located among the picturesque shophouses of Joo Chiat, Chilli Padi  is an unassuming looking little restaurant, serving outstanding Peranaken food. A culture born out of intermarriages between Chinese traders and Malay women during the 15th and 16th century, its food is a highly appealing combination of the two and Chilli Padi is one of the best places I have found to enjoy these interesting dishes. Bowls of tangy, spicy achar are on all the tables and we set about choosing several dishes (most items are available in small or large portion sizes) to share amongst us. Otak otak, a spiced mackerel mixture baked in banana leaves was a great start as were the kueh pie tees with their sweet stewed turnip and shrimp filling. We followed this with Assam Pedas, a flavour packed tangy tamarind based fish curry with tomatoes and Okra and a more typically Chinese style dish of pork strips tossed in a sweet honey sauce which was incredibly moreish if not a little sickly. Whilst Beef Rendang is more commonly seen, we opted to try the chicken version in its thick coconut marinade which was an interesting variation on the dish although i think you lose something in not having the meat braised as it is in the beef version. Less successful was a BBQ squid and petai, the squid had seemingly been boiled before BBQ’ing and the texture was not appealing, being somewhat tough and chewy and a little bland despite the generous chilli coating. On the advice of the waitress we tried the black betel rice with cashew nuts which we probably would never have thought to order without being prompted and I’m glad we did as it was a great accompaniment to the meal, even as a stand alone dish it would have been a success. We decided to share a sago gulu melaka for dessert however the reaction of the first person at our table to try it meant we ended up ordering a second one within seconds of it being served. The sago was served with a syrupy palm sugar and was so sweet  we all suffered from a sugar high afterwards but it was sinfully good if not an occasional treat. Chilli Padi is a real no frills restaurant, simply decorated with plastic tables cloths but with food and service this good you certainly don’t miss a more refined atmosphere.

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