Last week I had the opportunity to accompany one of the Capella Singapore Personal Assistants on a trip to the Peranakan museum as part of the new Peranakan Experience that we have created for guests who would like to explore the local Singapore culture.
Part of the tour took us to the Peranakan Museum, which showcased decades of age-old Peranakan culture and history. For those unfamiliar, the Peranakan culture evolved from the early Chinese and Malay settlers in colonial Singapore and Malaysia who intermarried resulting in an exotic blend of cultures.
One thing I found particularly interesting was the strong matriarchal tendencies among the Peranakan. While the men were the sole breadwinners for the family, the women, known as Nonyas, stayed home and ran the household. As a result, one of the unique traits of Nonya women is that they are skilled in the culinary arts and crafts that distinguish the culture. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to experience both these luxuries.
Following our tour of the Peranakan Museum, we headed to a near by Peranakan restaurant. The cuisine, while employing many traditional Chinese preparations, is extremely unique in its flavor profile. We tried everything from a Fish Head Curry (not nearly as mad as the name suggests!) to Kueh Pie Tee, which featured shredded bamboo shoots and shrimp inside mini pie shells. The flavors were exotic and bold and the dishes beautifully presented.
From there we headed to a shop run by a Peranakan woman, who still creates the traditional beaded shoes as well as selling beautiful kebayas. Like the food the clothing was also brightly colored and rich in ornate detail. We were told that some of the shoes could take several months to make as each bead was sewn on individually. The same held true for the blouses and sarongs, as even the most “casual” kebaya was intricately decked out in skilled embroidery. Truly an art form!
The Peranakan culture is truly a significant part of the Singapore culture and something you really must experience for your self. The next time you are at Capella Singapore be sure to ask your Personal Assistant for the Peranakan Experience. I am sure you will love to learn about the history, culture and food just as much as I did!