Malcolm's Table

Chef Malcolm Lee of the first Michelin-star Peranakan restaurant, Candlenut, shares three of his favourite recipes.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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Chef Malcolm Lee of the first Michelin-star Peranakan restaurant, Candlenut, shares three of his favourite recipes.

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" At landlenut I strive to recreate a dining experience reminiscent of Peranakan banguets of yesteryears"

Chef’s Tip: It’s easier to knot the dried lily buds before soaking as they’ll be less likely to rip. Knotting prevents the buds from fraying during cooking.

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Chap Chye

Prep 1 hour | Cook 1 hour | Serves 4

10 g dried lily buds (kim chiam), knotted ,15 g wood ear fungus, 25 g black mushrooms ,5 g glass noodles (tang hoon), 15 g dried vellow bean curd skin (tau kee), snipped into small pieces, 1 piece sweet bean curd sheet (tiam tau kee), cut into strips, 90 g pork belly, sliced, 1 tbsp fermented soy bean paste (tau cheo) ,15 g garlic, chopped ,1 tsp dark soy sauce ,1 tsp light soy sauce ,100 g cabbage leaves, cut into 5-cm squares ,100 g prawns, 200 ml water ,2 tbsps vegetable oil, plus oil for deep-frying.

1. Soak the dried lily buds, wood ear fungus and black mushrooms in individual bowls of hot water. When softened, drain the water.

2. R emove mushroom stems, squeeze out excess water and slice into strips.

3. Snip away the hard portion on the underside of the black fungus. Then cut the rest of the fungus into smaller pieces.

4. Snip away the hard end of the lily buds.

5. Soak tang hoon in water till softened. Use cold water to prevent tang hoon from being too soft.

6. F ill a wok with oil. When hot, deep-fry tau kee and tiam tau kee gently till golden brown.

7. B oil water in small pot. When boiling, put in pork belly to blanch for 5 mins. Remove to cool, then slice to 1-cm strips. Set aside.

8. Peel the prawns, devein and reserve the shells. Pan roast the shells till fragrant. Add the water and simmer on low for about 30 mins. Strain and set prawn stock aside.

9. Put a large pot over medium heat. Add oil and stir-fry garlic till fragrant, add in the mushrooms and pork belly, and fry for another minute. Add in the tau cheo and fry for another minute. Add in the prawn stock and the rest of the ingredients, except for the prawns and cabbage. Simmer for 20 mins.

10. A dd in the cabbage and simmer for a further 10 mins, then add in the prawns to cook for another 2 mins. Add salt and sugar to taste. Serve with steamed rice.

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" I just love the flavours of ayam buah keluak - I could eat it every day with just white rice "

Ayam Buah Keluak

Prep 1 hour (plus 3 days nut soaking) | Cook 1 hour | Serves 4-6

1 kg chicken pieces or chicken leg, 15 Indonesian black nuts or buah keluak, 50 g tamarind pulp, dissolved in, 250 ml water, then strained ,2 tbsps vegetable oil.


100 g shallots, 35 g garlic ,8 g galangal, peeled and finely chopped ,20 g turmeric, peeled and finely chopped ,18 g candlenut ,20 g dried chilli, soaked in hot water to soften, 12 g belacan ,15 g lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped.

1. To prepare the black nuts, soak for at least 3 days, scrubbing the nuts, and changing the water every day.

2. A fter the third day, remove nuts from water. To remove meat, hold nut on a dishtowel and rest on a stable chopping board. Using a small hammer with a pointed tip, crack open at top where the nut is smooth.

3. R emove the meat of the nut and push through a fine sieve to get a firm smooth paste. Reserve 150 g of the black nut paste for the gravy. Stuff the rest of the black nut paste back into the nuts.

4. RE MPAH Blend all the rempah ingredients to a smooth consistency.

5. Heat oil in wok. Saute rempah over medium heat till fragrant, about 20 mins. You’ll see the rempah turning darker and drier, and oil starting to separate.

6. A dd in the black nut paste and tamarind water, and simmer for 10 mins.

7. A dd in chicken pieces, making sure they’re well coated with the rempah, stuffed black nuts and enough tamarind water to cover the meat. Bring to boil then simmer for about 30 mins, till meat is tender. Season with salt and sugar. Serve with steamed rice.

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" This is a dish many love, and it's really very easy to do "

Babi Pongteh

Prep 30 mins | Cook 1½ hours | Serve 4-6

1 kg pork belly, cut in 2.5-cm cubes, 200 g shallots ,40 g garlic ,2 tbsps fermented soy bean paste (tau cheo) ,1 tbsp coriander powder, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, ½ tsp salt Flat-leaf parsley, sliced red and green chillies, for garnishing.

1. B lend the shallots and garlic till a smooth consistency.

2. In a wok, fry the shallot-garlic mixture over medium heat till fragrant.

3. A dd in the tau cheo and the coriander powder and stir-fry for 1 min, then add in the pork pieces and stir-fry for another 1 min.

4. A dd enough water to immerse half of the pork, sugar, salt and dark soy sauce and simmer on low heat for 1 hour till the pork is tender. Garnish with slices of red and green chillies and flat-leaf parsley. Serve with steamed rice.

Candlenut is at 17A Dempsey Road, Tel: 1800 3042 288. Visit

Recipes: Malcolm Lee / Photos: Andy Wong, assisted by Andrew Frederic.