Baba Wins – Saving Heritage Peranakan Dishes That Were Once Extinct
Baba Wins was not always a winner. The managing director, Winston, used to be in the travel business until his unfortunate encounter with a stroke which left him bedridden. After a miraculous recovery, Winston was driven to leave the travel industry and entered the F&B world where he first started Chewy Junior with his wife, Felicia, over at Buona Vista. The business fell through after accruing heavy financial losses.
And so the duo began heading towards a new direction: Peranakan cuisine, which was inspired by Winston’s mother. Slowly, both Winston and Felicia inherited his mother’s recipes that have had over 80 years of history. As Felicia gradually mastered the Peranakan recipes inherited by Winston’s mother, the couple soon revamped their business to what it is known today – Baba Wins’ Peranakan Cuisine, which is mused after Winston’s name. “The business was truly born out of a crisis”, Winston reveals. After operating at Buona Vista for over 2 to 3 years, Winston and his wife decided to expand their humble restaurant. This was the impetus for moving into Tiong Bahru plaza, where the shop can now comfortably house more than 40 persons.
Any Baba or Nyonya would recognize the traditional version of the Ayam Buah Keluak, where you were able to dig into whole buah keluak nuts that can be found within the dish. Baba Wins’ rendition of Ayam Buah Keluak ($14) instead extracts the pulp of the famed nuts and blends it with the gravy to create an earthy, rich gravy. The gravy of the Ayam Buah Keluak subtly resembles the taste of black bean paste that goes remarkably well with a bowl of rice. The chicken was simmered till tender and soft. “You’ll get more buah keluak this way, and it marinates the chicken better”, contends Winston.
I love anything that has to do with chinchalok, so we definitely had to get the Chinchalok Omelette ($10) which was a pan-fried omelette with chinchalok and chopped long beans. I couldn’t really discern the taste of the fermented shrimps, but adding a dose of their homemade chili made it more yummy.
Winston recommended the Sambal Brinjal with Crispy Grago ($11), which was well received by many including former journalist Sylvia Tan. The fried brinjal retains a meaty, spongy texture with a subtle spicy kick. The eggplant was also topped with tiny shrimps, which added a flavourful crisp.
Baba Wins’ Sambal Seafood with Long Beans ($14) delivers a plate of long beans, which are stir fried with prawns and squid in a sambal sauce. The long beans are well cooked through and have a crunchy bite. This is definitely a dish I’ll order again when I’m back here!
Peranakan cuisine is always rich on the palettes, so go on and sip on a cup of Dried Longan & Red Date ($3.00). The Lemongrass ($3.00) is also a refreshing alternative, which is worth a try.
“We brought back dishes that are thought to be extinct”, exclaims Winston. You must sample their monthly signature specials, the Sambal Buah Keluak ($18.00) and Otak Jantan ($20.00), which are actually near-extinct Peranakan recipes that are passed down from Winston’s beloved mother. Do order 2 days in advance if you desire a taste of these signature dishes. Baba Wins revives truly heritage Peranakan dishes that can now be shared by all.
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.