I love Anthony Bourdain, and if I were to set sail on things the man’s touched then I’d float away a happy, fat, well-fed woman. So when A
invited me to try Guan Chua’s Nyonya Supper Club
, I grabbed the opportunity and bagged a seat at his dining table.
Long story short, Guan (aka The Boy Who Ate The World)
is one of those former banker dudes who gave up the day job in pursuit of an unequivocal passion for food. He trained at Cordon Bleu and then appeared on Channel 4’s The Taste
under the tutelage of Mr Kitchen Confidential himself.
Team Bourdain all the way.
Growing up in South East Asia, my taste palate is used to (and often tends to crave for) bold flavours. My childhood consisted of dishes based on sauces and gravy built from flavour profiles of soy, fermented shrimp paste, rice wine vinegar, exotic aromatics and a whole lot of chilli. Because of this, I was really excited to have Nyonya food as in some ways, this type of cuisine takes me back home.
But I was a bit nervous too, as it was my first ever Supper Club.
A prayer before I pressed the buzzer: May I not embarrass myself and ramble about random weird things that pop out of my mouth when I’m a) shy; b) nervous; c) hangry; and d) all of the above.
Guan and his partner Jo let me into their home with such warmth so I immediately relaxed. Also, there were familiar faces at the dining table, and even the not-so-familiar ones were rather friendly-looking.
Yee sang was on the menu which was nice. It was just a few weeks after Chinese New Year and I missed out on the celebrations. This is essentially a traditional Chinese prosperity salad made with raw fish and veg.
Topped with fried wonton skin for an added crunch!
We shouted “lo hei!” as we collectively mixed the salad and tossed as high as we can. May prosperity, health and wealth kiss us and our bellies forever in abundance.
The salad itself was a light and refreshing start. The plum dressing was spot on and the crunchy texture of the veggies was something I enjoyed. Luckily, Guan posted the recipe on his blog
so we can revive this at home.
First of the starters wer the lemongrass and belacan wings. At this point, I was still a bit shy sitting next to people I didn’t know quite well and didn’t want to come across as greedy… so I only had a couple. Which I regret because I can still remember how juicy and succulent they were, and how I found the subtlety of lemongrass refreshing.
Next were the fried assam prawns. I liked how the flavour of tamarind didn’t overpower the natural sweetness of the shellfish. As one for texture, I liked that the prawn heads were crunchy enough to be eaten. I know that may sound a bit “EWWWWW” for some people but go try it first and you might just surprise yourself.
The first main to arrive was the dating pongteh or beef flank braised in fermented soya bean paste. The flavour was one I enjoyed growing up so this went down a treat. There’s a certain sweetness that plays well with the beef and the mushrooms (which I definitely had more than my fair share of). A good first main.
But I was ready for something with a bit of a kick.
When the ikan masak nanas arrived, I wasn’t too sure. One, I don’t like mackerel and two, I don’t like fruit in my savouries – especially pineapple. But one up for trying everything, a spoonful of this just blew me away. The mackerel was flavoursome but not overpoweringly fishy and the pineapple added a nice cooler to the chopped chilli. Admittedly, I would’ve liked a bit more heat but overall this was a beautiful dish.
At this point, everyone at the table was rather friendly and merry so I felt guiltless scooping up more than enough of my share. Definitely the highlight of the night for me.
A side of sambal belacan veggie medley also graced the table and I thoroughly enjoyed it because… it was crunchy! I hate overcooked legumes so this was a dish up my alley. The shrimp paste wasn’t overpowering and the dish itself was very good in its simplicity.
Our first dessert was a horlicks parfait
. Topped with a caramelised banana and adorned with Nestum crumble (a wheat/rice cereal popular in South East Asia), I loved this light and well balanced parfait. It also took me back to my childhood when my nanny would attempt to get me to sleep for arvo siesta by giving me milky, malty drinks (or sometimes, Ovaltine). It must be a South East Asian thing, because Tamsin
has the same memory!
We were pretty spoilt that night as Guan served off-the-menu Paris Brest buns with gulam melaka chantilly cream which I thought encapsulated Guan’s cooking style perfectly: a taste of honest South East Asia refined by techniques from Cordon Bleu. These were delightful and I hope they make a permanent appearance on his menu.
Finally, freshly baked pandan madeleines were served. These bite-sized bad boys stamped a good end to the meal and we were lucky to have been served plenty enough to take home.
It was such a great night and the atmosphere was rather nice. Granted, I knew most people ’round the dining table but it was also good meeting new people who were welcomed to the world of food bloggers (haha!). Guan and Jo were great hosts, often contributing to the conversation but letting guests interact amongst themselves organically. It was a great Supper Club experience and the food definitely was well worth returning for.
If that’s not enough to convince you, hear it from Malaysian food experts Tamsin and Angela!
You can learn more about Guan’s Nyonya Supper Club here. His events are quite popular so you better click, click, click and check his announcements on Twitter and on Instagram.
Have you been to any London Supper Clubs? Which one’s your favourite?